Tasso is a local specialty in Louisiana, where it is often used in both Cajun and Creole cuisine. This spicy, peppery meat is made from pork shoulder that is cured and then slow-smoked. Tasso gets its unique flavor from a combination of traditional Cajun spices, such as cayenne, garlic, paprika and cumin. Although it can be eaten as is, tasso is most often used as a base to add flavor to other dishes. Substitute tasso in recipes that call for bacon, pancetta or salt pork.
True to its Louisiana roots, tasso is right at home in a number of traditional Cajun or Creole dishes. It is commonly used as a flavor base for Cajun-style jambalaya, a dish similar to Spanish paella. Rice, meat and vegetables are cooked together in a flavorful stock to create this regional specialty. Tasso often makes an appearance in gumbo, a stew-like dish that usually features either poultry or fish. Tasso can also be used to flavor the sauce that is served with shrimp and grits, another Louisiana staple.
You can stick with tradition and use tasso to make a Louisiana favorite, red beans and rice. But tasso complements beans so well, there's no reason to stop there. Black-eyed peas are a natural pairing for tasso, since both have deep roots in Southern cuisines. Try adding tasso to white beans, like navy, great northern or Cannellini. Make a culinary fusion by combining tasso with black beans, which are most commonly used in Latin American cuisine. Simply dice the tasso into 1/2-inch cubes and add it to your pot of beans as they simmer. Serve the beans over rice for a complete meal.
Add tasso to any vegetable dish that requires lengthy simmering, like collard greens, kale or green beans. The leftover cooking juices, known as "pot liquor," are delicious sopped up with a piece of crusty bread. You can also use tasso for more quick-cooking vegetables, like Brussels sprouts, chard or even spinach. Simply saute the diced tasso for a few minutes before adding your vegetables to the pan. Take a cue from traditional Louisiana cuisine and combine tasso with the Cajun "holy trinity," a combination of equal parts onion, celery and bell pepper. Tasso also pairs nicely with okra, another Louisiana staple.
Tasso is often used to create a silky cream sauce that can be poured over pasta, seafood or poultry. Try it alongside other Southern favorites like fried green tomatoes or biscuits. You can also forgo the cream and make a tasso "gravy" using chicken stock; this sauce is thinner than traditional gravy and is most often served with shrimp and grits.
Irena Eaves began writing professionally in 2005. She has been published on several websites including RedPlum, CollegeDegreeReport.com and AutoInsuranceTips.com. Eaves holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Boston University.