real-cajunBy Donald Link
Clarkson Potter, $35.00, 255 pages

“Real Cajun food is rustic,” Donald Link writes in the opening pages of Real Cajun, “It does not require a lot of fancy ingredients or the latest gadgets.” It is this simplicity, coupled with a wide array of delicious recipes, that will appeal to readers craving authentic, down-home Southern cooking.

Indeed, Link, a James Beard Award-winning chef and restaurateur, has crafted a cookbook chockfull of mouth-watering main and side dishes that don’t require a vast amount of culinary expertise to assemble at home. Link has got all the basics covered, from crawfish etouffee to shrimp Creole, jambalaya, and a couple different versions of gumbo. In addition to these Louisiana classics, there are more inventive offerings, like a Crispy Soft-Shell Crab with Chili Glaze and Mint Coleslaw, plus all the fixins to go along with your Cajun-inspired meal-dirty rice, hushpuppies, black-eyed peas and nearly twenty others. Add in a few cocktail recipes and a scattering of desserts, and you’ve got a beautiful cookbook brimming with photos that will kick your salivary glands into overdrive and entice you to hone your Cajun cooking skills.

Interspersed with the recipes are tales from Link’s childhood, tasty tidbits that make the perfect accompaniment to these dishes. Real Cajun is stunningly authentic and perfectly captures the tasty essence of the Deep South.

Reviewed by Mark Petruska