3 authentic plate lunch recipes from the heart of Cajun Country

These family recipes are good for the soul and stomach

Excerpted from Allison Entrekin’s “The Lunch Ladies of Lafayette.”

Born in Acadiana (Louisiana’s historically French region) in the sixties, a plate lunch is a working person’s meal. Portions are large so as to keep hunger at bay until nightfall. It typically consists of a meat and several sides, including at least one smothered item. It always includes rice and gravy.

Lafayette is known as the capital of Acadiana, as well as a “plate lunch paradise.” The city is home to some forty-six restaurants serving plate lunches—almost one per square mile.

Here are family recipes from three of the women who own the restaurants featured in the piece. Read the full story here.

Brown gravy on a plate lunch from Laura’s II

Photo by Heather McClelland

Brown Gravy
Recipe courtesy of Madonna Broussard, Laura’s II, Lafayette, LA

2 tablespoons dark roux
½ cup trinity (onions, celery, and bell pepper, chopped)
3 pints and 1 cup water, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon red pepper
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Combine roux and trinity in a saucepan and saute until trinity is tender. Add 3 pints water, salt, and red pepper. Let boil on medium heat for 20 minutes. Liquid should be rich brown in color. In a mixing bowl, combine cornstarch and 1 cup water, then add to gravy to thicken. Pour over your white rice of choice and enjoy.

Smothered sausage and potatoes

Photo by Heather McClelland

Smothered Sausage and Potatoes
Courtesy of Lori Johnson Walls, Johnson’s Boucaniere, Lafayette, LA 

1 pound Johnson’s smoked sausage (or your favorite brand), cut into pieces
1 medium onion, diced
½ medium bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chicken broth
1 ½ pound red potatoes, peeled and cut into fairly large pieces
Cajun seasoning to taste
2 green onions, diced

Brown sausage in a Dutch oven. Once browned, add onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Allow the vegetables to cook and brown on medium heat, which will take approximately 15 minutes. Add broth, potatoes, and Cajun seasoning. (It might be necessary to add more broth or water to partially cover the potato mixture.) Cover and allow to cook for approximately 1 to 1 ½ hours on medium heat. Stir every 20 minutes and add water if the mixture gets too dry. Cook until the potatoes are soft and break up into the gravy. Finish with diced green onions and enjoy. You may serve it as is, or have it the Cajun way served over rice.

Crawfish Etouffee
Recipe courtesy of Lilly Mae Norbert, Norbert’s

1 stick butter
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup bell pepper, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 pounds crawfish tails

Saute onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic in butter. Season to taste. Add mushroom soup and cook for 10 minutes. Add crawfish and cook 10 to 15 minutes more. Serve over rice.

This article is from the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of Southbound.