Cajun style cooking marries Southern style cooking and creates a blended family of sorts; and so then the question becomes is this a matrimony made in culinary heaven or was it a hit or miss??
We started the night off at Red Rooster in Harlem, New York with cornbread, which is on the southern side of the tracks with its roots embedded in butter and sugar. A perfect symphony of goodness was created here with sweet kernel corn baked inside of the cornbread, impressively light although it had the appearance of pound cake, but what really set this cornbread ahead of the pack was the side of honey butter and tomato spread, yea thats right tomato spread. Apprehensive at first to place tomato on my cornbread I dove in and to my surprise, the tangy from the tomato and the sweetness from the cornbread produced a melodic flavor that work together in synergy.
So now its time to move on to deviled eggs, which sits in the middle of the southern and cajun world, and usually no matter side of the world they come from, I am never a deviled egg fan, not because I dont think people can cook deviled eggs, it is simply because, I dont like eggs, but because I am always a believer in palate change, here goes nothing. Now just imagine something so smooth, whipped to absolute perfection, with thyme, and chicken skin mayonnaise which I am sure is a Marcus Samuelson creation or at least and extraordinary modification to an old cajon/southern goodie that adds a a hint of smokiness and fatty juicy flavor that comes from rendered chicken skins. Now I know you cant quite imagine this flavor, but if you can imagine something blissful making an explosion in your mouth then you can imagine these deviled eggs.
Third up, a cajun style staple, an appetizer crab cake with blue lump crab. Now someone once said “everything you eat cant be delicious when you order food, there is always one thing you dont love as much as the other.” But I have to write I vehemently disagree with this concept…my theory is everything you order should be delicious and if you start off strong your middle should be great and your ending should be in absolute BOSS MODE..but these crab cakes didn’t rise to the occasion not even a little, they were flavorless, lump less, and uninspiring.
Moving on to the next one like Jay-Z, I move on to the collard greens, with the expectation that this slight nose dive will eventually turn up, but it didn’t, with tough greens and making myself tired by chewing, and my friend insisting that the greens needed pepper or hot sauce to improve the flavor, I cannot rightfully allocate this dish to the cajun side or the southern side, so in some respects it was a bastard child, because it simply didn’t fit in anywhere.
Now whenever a restaurant opts to have creole shrimp and grits with cheddar, and a spicy tomato sauce, it is my absolute duty to try it. Now when deconstructed this dish supersedes the highest level on the richter scale. The grits tasted like Marcus Samuelson cooked them himself just for me, they were rich, creamy, and buttery, no additives were required…perfection. The shrimp was lightly spicy, juicy, and packed with with flavor, the tomato sauce, was thick, hearty, and just for extravagant purposes cajun all the way. Now when all of these are together in the same plate, one would think distinctively tasteful, and it was, but what it wasn’t was distinctively delicious.
The food at Red Rooster in Harlem, New York is absolutely good, but not absolutely fantastic. There were a lot of bumps in the execution road, some dishes hit the ground running and some dishes hit a speed bump that may have been avoidable. Chefs oftentimes have the desire to take food to the next level, and as as well they should. But sometime the execution of a thing does not match the concept of a thing.
So should cajun and southern food be married, they absolutely should; but maturity teaches us that just because we may be able to make it together doesn’t mean we can thrive in all things together.