Laissez les bon temps rouler! The famous Cajun credo means, “let the good times roll!” That phrase really encapsulates the spirit of New Orleans, Louisiana, one of North America’s most festive cities. But you don’t have to stroll down Bourbon Street to still capture the essence of America’s most rollicking town. Just prepare this delicious Cajun Meatloaf Burgers recipe in your kitchen to feel the vibes of the famous Crescent City.
First, it’s a good idea to get some background on the history of this dynamic town.
Vive New Orleans!
Since 1699, French culture has influenced no region in the United States more than Louisiana and its biggest city, New Orleans. From food to architecture, celebrations and traditions, even the street names show a French influence. The area around New Orleans has melded French, African, Spanish, Caribbean and Portugués cultures to create Cajun and Créole. Together, all of these backgrounds helped to create a food culture that is unique and only found in one place: the Pelican State.
The King of Cakes
King Cake is a pastry for celebrating Christmas Epiphany, with a slightly sweet dough containing a filling of cinnamon, sugar, apples, pecan, praline and strawberry. Traditionally, you’re only to eat a King Cake during Mardi Gras, January 6 to Fat Tuesday, but some bakeries make King Cakes year-round. Inside every round cake is the traditional “baby”: a small plastic, porcelain or gold miniature baby representing baby Jesus. Today you will find a bean, coin, pecan or a pea in place of the small plastic baby. Tradition states that the one who receives a slice of King Cake with the baby in it is the recipient good luck, the winner is responsible for buying the King Cake next year and host the party.
Magical Monday Cuisine
No Monday supper is complete without the traditional pot of red beans and rice for dinner. Ask anyone who has lived in Louisiana and they will tell you red beans and rice is served on Mondays because that was washday. The women of the house would put a large pot of beans on the stove to simmer all day long. Since that pot of beans did not need a lot of stirring, the women could wash and hang all the laundry without the fear of burning dinner. Any ham bones leftover from the week before were added to the pot along with dried herbs or any salted or smoked meats.
Star Cajun Chef
One of the best examples of French-influenced cuisine in the New Orleans, Baton Rouge or Lafayette area would be Etouffee. With the crawfish season being November through late June, many traditional Christmas meals and early summer gatherings include this rich shellfish stew served over rice. If you were anything like me growing up, PBS (Public Broadcasting Station) was on all the time. Yes, Mr. Rogers, Captain Kangaroo and 3-2-1 Contact were fantastic, but my favorite show was Justin Wilson, the Louisiana native that made Cajun cooking a household name. He talked funny, cracked hilarious jokes, cooked and drank wine while creating dishes I had never heard of. His recipes took time, the meals did not come together in minutes; it was not fast food, it was flavorful food. Pots simmered and stewed. Ingredients like filé and okra were introduced to those outside of the deep south. We also learned that Creole was “city food’ and Cajun was “country food.” If there is one recipe Justin Wilson is famous for, it would be his crawfish etouffee. Here is the link to watch a classic Cajun dish come together with a bit of humor.
A Seasoned Mistake
One evening I was mixing up a batch of meatloaf burgers to grill and I accidentally grabbed the bottle of Cajun seasoning instead of my black pepper grill seasoning. As I was grilling the burgers, I smelled thyme, cayenne, oregano and garlic, not the usual ingredients for our burgers. Then I realized, I’d used the wrong seasoning. I hoped my family would like the mistake I had made. I mixed up a batch of remoulade sauce, breaded some thinly sliced onions in catfish fry mix, and fried them up. It was a complete success! The heat from the grill mixed all those delicious and flavorful spices. I replaced the usual mayo and mustard with a creamy remoulade sauce. Made with a combination of mayonnaise, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, spices and Louisiana hot sauce. Coating the thin-sliced onion in a catfish fry batter was perfect. The cornmeal and spices of the fried batter blended perfectly with the Cajun meatloaf burgers. Onion rings have to be my all-time favorite side with a burger, and beer-battered onions are my Achilles heel. The texture of those fried onions were light and crisp, and the color was perfectly golden.
Cooking mistakes can develop into a new weeknight dinner tradition. My family now prefers my Cajun spiced burgers over the black pepper burger. They know the flavors from all the Cajun and creole dishes I’ve prepared over the years, but this addition is going down in my cookbook as one of the best mistakes I’ve made in a long time.
Makes 6 burgers
2 pound 80/20 ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tbsp Worcestershire
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 tsp Cajun seasoning
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
Sauté veggies, onion, garlic, and bell pepper in a sauté pan with some olive oil for several minutes.
Add all the spices, Worcestershire sauce, and ketchup. Let this cook down for a few minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In a bowl, add the breadcrumbs and milk, stir well and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk the egg until combined. Add the beaten egg and the breadcrumbs to the ground beef, mix well to incorporate the ingredients.
Add in the cooled vegetable and spices to the ground beef, mix well. Form your burger patties and place on a baking sheet tray then place in the refrigerator until ready to use. May BE made a day in advance
Heat your bbq to medium-high, clean and oil the grill grates to prevent sticking.
Place the burgers on the hot grill and cook the first side for 7 minutes, avoid pressing down the meat patty that will release all the flavorful juices.
Turn the patty over and cook an additional 7 minutes, check temp with an instant-read thermometer, you are looking for an internal temperature of 160-165 degrees F.
Serve on your favorite bun with your favorite condiments.