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SAMPLE CAJUN FARE AS BALLFIELD GOES BAYOU

SHARE SAMPLE CAJUN FARE AS BALLFIELD GOES BAYOU

It's not exactly a Betty Crocker recipe: Take a slab of Louisiana alligator, saute it slowly in butter and garlic, and then serve over a bed of rice.

Then again, Betty Crocker might not have recognized authentic Cajun cooking if it had jumped out of the pan and snapped at her.Across the nation, Cajun cooking is hot (pun intended), and Utahns will have the chance Saturday, June 11, to savor the Cajun creations of seven award-winning chefs who will bring their specialties to Festival New Orleans at Franklin Quest Field.

In addition to crawfish and beignets, the all-day festival will feature two stages with continuous performances by six Louisiana bands, and vendors will be hawking Louisiana arts and crafts. There will also be Mardi Gras parades (complete with bead necklaces, of course), along with face painting and dancing.

Festival New Orleans, which runs from noon to 8 p.m., is a spinoff of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which according to publicist Matthew Goldman drew 424,000 people this year. That kind of figure prompted festival organizers to take a mini-version of the festival on a 16-city tour.

"We know a lot of people have wanted to go (to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival) but haven't had the chance," Goldman says. "This (Festival New Orleans) allows them to get a taste of the festival atmosphere in their own cities."

Goldman admits some people might be reluctant to come out if they don't know the bands, "so we have kept the prices down ($12.50 for adults, $5 for children 12 and under) to entice them out. We know that once they get there they will be dancing and eating and smiling. It's a real festival atmosphere."

All of the eateries and musical acts to be featured at Festival New Orleans were or have been at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Most of the traveling festival activities are targeted specifically at families.

Musicians scheduled to perform at Franklin Quest Field include Buckwheat Zydeco, perhaps the premier zydeco performer anywhere; Katie Webster, whose New Orleans-style blues are legendary; Cajun rock 'n' roller Zachary Richard; John Delafose and the Eunice Playboys, a veteran dance band specializing in R&B and zydeco; Sunpie and the Louisiana Sunspots, a zydeco blues band featuring former pro football player Bruce Barnes; and the "hot jazz" of the Treme Brass Band.

But good Cajun music only goes so far without good Cajun food.

On tap for the Festival New Orleans: Pete Hilzim will be serving up Crawfish Monica, which is crawfish tails in a Cajun cream sauce served over Rotini pasta; Thomas Brousseau will be serving blackened catfish and Louisiana pecan pie; Ernest Jones will be stewing up authentic red beans and rice, and gumbo; Sam Felton will be serving shrimp creole; Mike Arnone will offer his famous chicken and sausage jambalaya; and Edmond Masson will serve up "sno-balls" and pralines.

And, of course, chef Tommy Smith will be cooking up Louisiana gator-tail, along with Cafe Du Monde's beignets and cafe au lait.

Cajun cooking is nothing short of addictive, Smith says, because of "the way we can blend and mix spices to come up with the taste we do. People are looking to add spice to their life, and we offer well-seasoned spicy foods. The Cajun thing might die someday, but it hasn't yet. In fact, it's getting stronger."

It's festivals like the one at Franklin Field that allow chefs and musicians to preserve the authentic Cajun culture, Smith said.

So slap on your dancing shoes and "le bon temps roulez, cher."

Tickets are available at all Smith'sTix outlets.