What is the "Holy Trinity" of Cajun and Creole Cooking
The holy trinity of Cajun and Creole cooking is made up of onion, celery and bell pepper. This combination is the base of most savory dishes, more often than not added to roux as the beginning of stew, soup, sauce, jambalaya, sauce piquant or almost any other Cajun or Creole main dish. It's a Louisiana variant of a basic French mirepoix (which is usually made with onions, celery, and carrots).
A Sign of Importance and Respect
The importance of these three vegetables is indicated by the reference to the “holy trinity.” The mostly Catholic French Cajuns mean this allusion as a sign of the respect due to the place of onion, celery, and bell pepper in Cajun cookery. Garlic is sometimes added to the trinity, and green onions and parsley are generally sprinkled on top of a finished dish.
With these five vegetables, one has the makings of almost any savory Cajun entree. Other seasonings include pepper — often black, white, and cayenne — bay leaves, and dried green herbs such as thyme, basil, and oregano. The trinity vegetables are known as “seasoning vegetables,” meaning that they break down during the long, slow cooking process and season the rest of the ingredients. They are not intended to be the vegetable component of a meal.
A typical “trinity” includes 2 cups chopped onion, 1 1/2 cups of chopped celery, and 1 1/4 cups of chopped green bell pepper. In terms of how much to buy for this proportion, this amount is roughly equal to 2 medium onions, 2 stalks celery and 1 large green pepper. The vegetables are usually cooked in vegetable oil, to which flour is then added to make the roux before proceeding with the recipe.
The Trinity and Roux
Perhaps the most common usage is to add the trinity to a roux that has been cooked to the desired color.
Trinities in Other Cuisines
Even when a Cajun is cooking a dish that is not typically Cajun, such as spaghetti sauce, they generally use onion, celery and bell pepper. Using a combination of three major ingredients in any cuisine is not particular to Cajun cooking: Mexican cuisine uses rice, beans and chilies; the Greeks uses olive oil, lemon juice and garlic; Italian cuisines would be lost without tomatoes, garlic and basil and Chinese cookery often contains onions, soy sauce, and rice.
If you do a lot of Cajun cooking, you might want to chop up a large batch of onions, celery and bell pepper to use in dishes throughout the week.
The Trinity in the Pantry
And speaking of chopping up, do just that—chop the vegetables. Cajuns don’t worry about or specify mincing, dicing, finely chopping or coarsely chopping. They just chop the vegetables and put them in a pot with other common ingredients — yet, they continue to end up with some of the best-tasting dishes in the world! So keep onions, celery, bell pepper, green onions, parsley and garlic in your refrigerator or pantry, and you’ll never be without the makings of a fabulous Cajun meal!