The Cajun “holy trinity” is a blend of three aromatic ingredients: bell pepper, onion, and celery. These ingredients are typically sauteed in oil or butter. The aromatics release their aroma and flavor, which makes them a perfect base for a variety of dishes. The three ingredients have the capacity to create an identifiable background flavor profile without overwhelming the flavors that are supposed to be at the forefront. The smell of a simmering holy trinity is said to be one of the distinctive aspects of Cajun cuisine.
The Cajun holy trinity is sometimes made in large batches and stored in the freezer for later use.
Some history of the Cajun holy trinity
The Cajun holy trinity is a product of the Acadians, who were French-speaking immigrants deported from Canada. The word “Cajun” is actually Acadian as pronounced by English-speaking Louisianans. The Cajuns adapted French cooking techniques to suit the ingredients available in their new home. It is said that while the Creoles in New Orleans were able to find a variety of ingredients for their dishes due to goods coming in at the ports, the Cajuns were largely limited to what they could grow. The ingredients of the holy trinity are among those items.
The term “holy trinity” as used to indicate the mix of aromatics may not be a particularly old one as cooking terms go. It most likely originated with celebrity chef Paul Prudhomme. He coined it in the late 1970s or early 1980s as a way to indicate the importance of the ingredients to Cajun cooking.
Cajun holy trinity vs. Mirepoix
The Cajun holy trinity has its roots firmly in the Cajun people’s French origins. It is their version of the mirepoix, which is another sauteed trio of ingredients. Mirepoix is used as the base for classic French dishes. It consists of onion, celery, and carrots. The Cajuns replaced the carrots with bell peppers since those were easier to find in early Louisiana.
Mirepoix gets its name from the Duke of Mirepoix whose chef created the sauteed base. Both bases join a European tradition of similar aromatic foundations that includes the sofrito used in Latin America as well as in parts of Europe. Similar bases can be found in cuisine all over the world, including in Germany and parts of Africa.
How widely used is this holy trinity of Cajun cooking?
The Cajun holy trinity forms the basis of most of Louisiana’s best-known dishes. It is used to make etouffee, gumbo, as well as jambalaya. It is the key to dishes found all over the south including fricassee.
What other ingredients are used with the Cajun holy trinity?
As noted above, the Cajun holy trinity is simply the foundation of a dish. While it is the basis on which a dish is constructed, it is not usually the sole seasoning used in the typical Cajun recipe. Other popular accompaniments include garlic, which adds a savory depth to the typical trio of ingredients. The addition of heat is desirable in many dishes that contain the Cajun holy trinity and can come in the form of chili peppers or hot sauce. Herbs are also popular additions. The most common herbs used in conjunction with the Cajun holy trinity include oregano, basil, parsley, and bay leaf.