Shelley Johnson, executive director
Megan Hartman, senior marketing manager
Lake Charles/SWLA Convention & Visitors Bureau
337-436-9588 or 800-456-SWLA
Smoked Meats are a Staple to Pots in Southwest Louisiana
LAKE CHARLES, La. - In Southwest Louisiana there are two ingredients which are the base of most dishes cooked and synonymous with Creole and Cajun cuisine.
The trinity, a combination of onions, bell peppers and celery along with roux -- flour cooked with grease until a golden blonde or brown color - are the starting points for gumbos, stews and gravies.
But a special kind of meat is just as important to bayou country cuisine and is found in pots of red beans and rice, jambalaya, and even a deer sauce picante. These meats are prepared using a technique that is as old as the art of cooking itself.
Smoking meat for preservation was once a necessity before refrigeration. In the bayou areas of Louisiana, the technique was bolstered with the creation of smokehouses and the use of local woods like pecan.
"We smoke anything that doesn't smoke us. Pork chops, deer, beef and pork sausage, turkey wings, rabbit, chicken and even boudin," says Dwight Billedeaux, owner of Billedeaux's Cajun Kitchen located at 2633 Fruge St., in Lake Charles.
Billedeaux's family has been smoking meats for generations. As far as he is concerned, having a business that emphasizes a cooking style that is part of his heritage is as important as making a quality product.
"The smoking is part of the culture. People love it," he said.
Lane Sonnier, owner of Sonnier's Sausage and Boudin located at
1224 Simmons St., also in Lake Charles, explains that smoked meats are important because they enhance the one aspect of dining that is important to Southwest Louisiana food lovers.
"In everything we cook, we like all kinds of flavor with our food down here. The smoke accents the seasoning and makes a stronger flavor," he said.
Meats are smoked or seasoned with a variety of seasoning blends.
Sonnier uses salt, red pepper, brown sugar, black pepper, and garlic powder.
The seasoned meat is then put in a smoker made of cylinder blocks. Iron rods cross the insides of the structure where the meat is hung and smoked using wood for hours.
Timing and temperature control are two aspects of the process that make Billedeaux and Sonnier masters at their craft.
"Everything smokes differently. Sausage can go for four to six hours and other meats even longer," Billedeaux said.
When added to dishes like beans, gumbo, jambalaya and other area kitchen staples, the meat's flavors and seasonings are lively enough to stand on their own and curb the need to add more spices and herbs to the finished cooked product.
"All you end up doing is adding just enough because my smoked meats have enough seasoning and infuse flavor in whatever pot they are put in with other foods," Sonnier said.
Both men agree, the best product comes out of an old fashioned smoker.
"Oh yeah. Cylinder block with no electric smoking process. Just wood and the meat. I believe in them," Sonnier said.
And so do the customers who buy meats from these businesses and many others that dot the cities and country side through Southwest Louisiana.
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