Cool Kids Cook: Louisiana
By Kid Chef Eliana with Dianne de Las Casas
Illustrated by Soleil Lisette
Pelican Publishing Company (Gretna 2013)
Ten-year old Eliana has competed on the series Superchef Kids and has her own global, weekly radio show titled “Cool Kids Cook” on the VoiceAmerica Kids Network. She’s also been profiled as one of 13 Latinos in an exhibit at Southern Food and Beverage Museum. She’s also a featured young chef on the kids’ food website ZisBoomBah.com. Young Eliana gets around, having also cooked with Chef John Besh. She wants kids to know there’s more to food than chicken nuggets and French fries
In this attractively illustrated book, she shares her Louisiana repertoire with other kids. First, she sets out the recipes that lay the groundwork for Louisiana flavors, like Creole seasoning and “The Trinity,” a “recipe” for onions, bell pepper and celery (it’s chopped, not sautéed, in this recipe; the sautéing comes later). There are “Chef’s Note” sidebars throughout, like the one for roux (including pronunciations of foreign-named dishes like Muffuletta and Remoulade). There’s a Glossary of Cooking Terms, and illustrations of what the young chef needs to cook—like a saute’ pan and a food processor!
The book doesn’t sound much like it’s written by a kid, and the recipes seem a little strange to a native Louisianan—for example, the Red Beans and Rice recipe makes use of that roux to add to the beans. That’s not the way we roll, as a rule, in Louisiana, but it might get the flavors across if you don’t want to include a ham bone. Another editing oversight, perhaps, is the recipe for a Muffuletta, the Sicilian import to New Orleans sandwiches—it calls for “olive salad,” and mentions in the Chef’s Note that the olive salad is what makes a Muffuletta unique, but fails to include either a recipe for olive salad or a definition. That’s something that non-natives might need to make the recipe-either kids or their parents.
All in all, though, the book includes the usual suspect recipes for Louisiana fare, like Natchitoches meat pies, jambalaya, dirty rice, boudin balls, blackened redfish a la Paul Prudhomme, and pralines. The illustrations, by Eliana’s sister Soleil Lisette, are charming and attractive, and the photographs are illustrative (although in some cases misleading, as in the photograph accompanying the recipe for Chicken and Sausage Gumbo that includes tomatoes when the recipe doesn’t).
This book will no doubt please Kid Chef Eliana’s fans, and it teaches them a bit about Louisiana fare, but it’s a long way from authentic, and sometimes it’s downright confusing. For example, the recipe for Crab Cakes calls for “16 oz. crab leg, finely chopped.” What exactly does that mean? It’s not really a book for beginners in the kitchen because it leaves too much information out, but it does serve as an illustration of Louisiana’s greatest culinary hits. And there’s not a recipe for French fries or chicken fingers anywhere.