Cajun Party: Songs Of Summer Sweat

Beau Jocque i i

hide captionBeau Jocque.

courtesy of the artist
Beau Jocque

Beau Jocque.

courtesy of the artist

It's no secret that Cajun and zydeco music is all about sweat. So you can go to Louisiana for a summertime steambath — as I write this, the temperature in Lafayette is 93 degrees, with a heat index of 103 — or you can bring a bit of the heat to you. Here are five songs guaranteed to get your feet moving, at which point the sweating part will take care of itself. Which, in turn, is where the beer comes in.

For more entries in this summer's weekly It's Time to Party: Summer Songs series, click here.

Fricasse Aux Chevrettes (Shrimp Stew)

Serves 8-10, Depending On How Hungry They Are

The song "Je t'aime pas mieux" is all about not liking your current love as much as his or her predecessor, but if your current love were to make this delectable dish for you, you'd fall head-over-heels all over again. Yep, it's that good.

Here's what you'll need:

A bottle of your favorite olive oil
2 sticks of butter (optional, see Step 1 below)
All-purpose flour
3 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and de-veined; preferably fresh, but raw-frozen works fine
3 medium ripe tomatoes, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, minced
the "Holy Trinity" of Prairie-Cajun seasoning: salt, black pepper, and ground red or cayenne pepper
2 large yellow or sweet onions; chopped
3 bell peppers: one red, one yellow, one green; chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
green onions or onion tops, finely chopped, but not until you're ready to put it in (about 1 cup chopped)
Italian or flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, but not until your're ready to put it in (about 1 cup chopped)
water
a couple bottles of your favorite dark beer; I like Newcastle, Beck's Dark...
your favorite rice or pasta

Here's what you do:

1. First, you start with a roux. Roux is a paste, made from flour and oil or butter, used to thicken and flavor Cajun stews and gumbos. You can use a couple sticks of butter — or, for a healthier (and still tasty) option, you can use a cup and a half of olive oil. Begin by melting the butter or heating the olive oil in a skillet (preferably cast iron, or some thicker metal to ensure even heating) on medium heat until it is hot enough to fry; then sift flour (about 2 cups) into the hot liquid and stir continuously with a flat-edged utensil, like a wooden mixing spatula, to make sure nothing sticks. IMPORTANT: If the roux burns, it will be ruined, so watch your heat carefully and take your time. For this dish, we're making a "peanut-butter" roux, which is a lighter roux with a less bitter flavor for delicate things like seafood. So continue stirring the paste until it is the color of peanut butter or slightly darker.

If the paste seems too thick, add a little more oil or butter; if it seems too runny, you can add more flour, but once it cools, the flour will settle and you can pour off the excess oil.

2. Next, in a medium-sized cast-iron pot — or other roasting pot with lid — heat a half-cup of olive oil and sautee the onions, bell peppers, garlic and jalapenos until translucent. Keep the heat high during this step so that the vegetables are tempted to stick rather than cook down and give off water. When they start to stick, you can pour a glug or two (I'm lobbying to have "glug" added to the culinary dictionary as a valid quantity) to deglaze any sticky stuff, and also to help caramelize the veggies.

3. When the veggies are cooked, add tomatoes and enough water to fill the pot halfway. Once the water begins to boil, add roux gradually (it will take a few minutes to dissolve), and stir to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom. The sauce should be thicker, but not too thick, and you shouldn't be able to see through the liquid when you spoon some out.

4. Add seasoning until it tastes right to you. Roux can make a sauce want a good bit of salt, but it's all about it tasting right to you. Keep simmering while you season your shrimp.

5. Spread shrimp out in a single layer in a pan and season with the "Holy Trinity"; mix around. This will give the right amount of seasoning for the sauce once you add the shrimp.

6. Cut your green onions and parsley, and cook rice or pasta.

7. Bring the sauce to a good boil and add the shrimp, stir in, and cover. Once it starts to boil again, uncover and stir. Reduce heat to medium and add green onions and parsley, stir, and simmer for 10 or 15 minutes — or until shrimp are firm and tender, but not rubbery or chewy.

8. Serve over rice or pasta, garnish with green onions and parsley, and enjoy!

For more information on Linzay Young's cooking DVDs and pepper sauce, contact him at linzaycooks@gmail.com.

Cajun Party: Songs Of Summer Sweat

Beau Jocque art

Give Him Cornbread

  • Artist: Beau Jocque & the Zydeco Hi-Rollers
  • Album: Beau Jocque Boogie
  • Song: Give Him Cornbread

It's a thankless task to have to single out just one song from the late, great zydeco musician Beau Jocque, a powerhouse on the accordion and a giant on stage -- at least 6'6" and 270 pounds. (He was only in his 40s when he died of a heart attack.) Listen to the driving beat and bass line that propel "Give Him Cornbread," and it's hard not to shout along. The song is five minutes of good, sweaty dance music, punctuated by primal howls, growls and trills of delight.

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  • "Give Him Cornbread"
  • Album: Beau Jocque Boogie
  • Artist: Beau Jocque & the Zydeco Hi-Rollers
  • Label: Rounder
  • Released: 1993
 
Boozoo Chavis art

Dance All Night

  • Artist: Boozoo Chavis
  • Album: Johnnie Billy Goat
  • Song: Dance All Night

It's possible that the most fun I've ever had was at the Beau vs. Boo zydeco smackdown in 1994 at New Orleans' Mid City Lanes Rock 'n' Bowl -- part bowling alley, part music club. You could feel the dance floor heaving as the legendary Boozoo Chavis and his younger disciple, Beau Jocque, swapped wildly energetic sets. (The owner of the Rock 'n' Bowl, John Blancher, once told a reporter, "I put support beams underneath the dance floor for Beau Jocque. People danced harder when he played. It was almost hypnotic.") I can picture Boozoo Chavis up on stage in his white Stetson, with a white apron protecting his accordion from sweat, the floor packed with dancers stomping to his intense groove. I'm sure he played "Dance All Night," and I know for a fact that we did just that.

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  • "Dance All Night"
  • Album: Johnnie Billy Goat
  • Artist: Boozoo Chavis
  • Label: Rounder
  • Released: 2000
 
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Je T'aime Pas Mieux

  • Artist: Red Stick Ramblers
  • Album: My Suitcase Is Always Packed
  • Song: Je T'aime Pas Mieux

This Louisiana band has deep Cajun roots, but also flirts shamelessly with country, western swing, and honky-tonk. From the moment the twin fiddles scratch out the first beats, "Je t'aime pas mieux" takes off at a manic pace and doesn't let up. Red Stick Ramblers' members call this "a Cajun love song about quitting while you're ahead." I love the shrug of resignation in Linzay Young's lyrics: His lover talks about another man in her sleep, gives him nothing to eat in the morning and leaves her old underwear on the floor. It sounds a lot better in French, but here's the chorus: "I don't like you better than my last woman / But it's better than the times when I didn't have one." Words to live by.

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  • "Je T'aime Pas Mieux"
  • Album: My Suitcase Is Always Packed
  • Artist: Red Stick Ramblers
  • Label: Wel/Sugar Hill
  • Released: 2009
 
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Vie d'Un Vieux Garcon [Bachelor's Life]

  • Artist: Steve Riley
  • Album: Dominos
  • Song: Vie d'Un Vieux Garcon [Bachelor's Life]

This happy two-step was written by one of Cajun music's greats, D.L. Menard. The vocals of David Greely and Steve Riley intertwine beautifully around this song about a working guy who just wants to have some fun on Saturday night.

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  • "Vie d'Un Vieux Garcon [Bachelor's Life]"
  • Album: Dominos
  • Artist: Steve Riley
  • Label: Rounder
  • Released: 2005
 
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Missing out on a Date

  • Artist: Keith Frank
  • Album: Loved. Feared. Respected.
  • Song: Missing out on a Date

This is for when the party's winding down, your feet are aching and you don't think you can possibly dance to one more song. But sure you can, though, especially if it's Keith Frank's R&B-infused zydeco. I love that this song lets you hear his fingers pattering on the buttons of his accordion. "Missing Out on a Date" starts out with a snaky bass line, and then Keith cranks it up. "Gonna have some fun tonight," he sings, "'Til the morning sun be bright."

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  • "Missing out on a Date"
  • Album: Loved. Feared. Respected.
  • Artist: Keith Frank
  • Label: Soulwood
  • Released: 2008
 

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Beau Jocque Boogie

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  • Album: Beau Jocque Boogie
  • Artist: Beau Jocque & the Zydeco Hi-Rollers
  • Label: Rounder
  • Released: 1993
 

Johnnie Billy Goat

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  • Album: Johnnie Billy Goat
  • Artist: Boozoo Chavis
  • Label: Rounder
  • Released: 2000
 

Dominos

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  • Album: Dominos
  • Artist: Steve Riley
  • Label: Rounder
  • Released: 2005
 

Loved. Feared. Respected.

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  • Album: Loved. Feared. Respected.
  • Artist: Keith Frank
  • Label: Soulwood
  • Released: 2008
 

My Suitcase Is Always Packed

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  • Album: My Suitcase Is Always Packed
  • Artist: Red Stick Ramblers
  • Label: Wel/Sugar Hill
  • Released: 2009
 

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