Chef’s Corner: Chef Edwin Caba of CreoLa, A New Orleans Bistro
The peninsula is bursting with fantastic restaurants, most of which are dedicated to using local and fresh ingredients, just like what we carry at our store! Each Chef’s Corner will feature a local restaurant, chef & a recipe in the hopes that you’ll grow to love the chef’s passion for food, and their restaurant, as much as we do! Enjoy! — Carmelo Sigona
From his early days as Chef de Cuisine to his current role as owner and head chef for CreoLa, a New Orleans Bistro in San Carlos, Chef Edwin Caba has been dazzling the Peninsula with his zeal for Cajun/Creole cuisine.
I absolutely love this restaurant. It reminds me of the cooking from my mother’s side of the family. Coming from Sicily, the Franzella side settled in New Orleans. You can definitely taste the Cajun influence that has been blended with our Sicilian cooking.
With a menu featuring everything from jambalaya to the catfish Po’ Boy and a true-to-region atmosphere complete with live Jazz every Thursday night, CreoLa presents an authentic New Orleans dining experience. Though Chef Edwin flies in some key ingredients, such as seafood, direct from the Louisiana Gulf Coast and Bayou regions, he relies on the freshest local produce to bring patrons the absolute best and authentic taste of New Orleans. Edwin also proud to note that CreoLa’s menu is 80 percent gluten free!
“I source many of my fresh ingredients locally and know I can always count on Sigona’s to have what I need for my menu,” said Edwin. “We continually add new items or specials to our menu to keep it seasonal. Our relationships with local farmers and vendors, such as Sigona’s, allows us to easily understand what’s in season now so that we may create dishes made with the freshest, seasonal ingredients; some even picked that day.”
We spent an afternoon earlier this fall in the kitchen with Edwin, who attended the New England Culinary Institute in Mont Pelier, Vermont. During our visit, Edwin told us about his apprenticeships under top chefs in San Diego and San Francisco and explained it was during these apprenticeships that he discovered his passion and skill for Cajun/Creole cuisine, which was surprising considering his Dominican roots.
Edwin explained that he turned this passion to expertise through apprenticeships which led him to Northern California in 1996 to help open CreoLa as the Chef de Cuisine. Edwin became head chef and owner of CreoLa in 2000 and has since remained dedicated to the fusion of California/French cuisine.
Revisiting our time with Edwin makes me think of the fried green tomato dish he made during our visit to CreoLa last month…my mouth waters just thinking of it, and I simply can’t write anymore without sharing the delicious details! Edwin marinades the sliced green tomatoes a bath of secret herbs, oils and spices overnight, and then dusts them with a special cornmeal mix before they’re fried. Don’t think it stops there!
Before the dish is finished, Edwin dresses them in what you might call their Sunday best. He starts by balancing a Florida Rock Shrimp that has been dunked in remoulade sauce atop the fried tomatoes then drizzles house-made basil oil around the plate. As a finishing touch, Edwin adds a traditional sprinkle chopped egg for a true Creole dish. It’s absolutely fantastic.
I love to see Edwin’s dedication to seeking out the absolute best ingredients from local farmers and vendors. We could easily bring in produce that travels long distances before it reaches our store, just as a chef could settle for the least expensive ingredients, but knowing Edwin’s passion for perfection drives him to fly in catfish from Louisiana, you can be sure he’s not going to cut corners on other ingredients; especially when some of the best are grown less than 100 miles from CreoLa’s door.
Chef Edwin is armed arsenal of Creole cooking tips, tricks and recipes, many of which are kept under lock and key, but he graciously sent us back to the store with recipes CreoLa’s famous crab cakes and roasted tomato salsa that we’re excited to share with you. See below!
Recipes from Edwin Caba
Creola’s Crab Cakes
- 1 lb. Dungeness Crab meat, EXCESS MOISTURE REMOVED
- ¾ cup onions, diced small
- ¾ cup celery, diced small
- 1 ½ cups Mayonnaise
- 2 cups Panko Bread crumbs
- 1 TBL Creole seasonings (usually a blend of salt, garlic powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper and paprika)
- 1 TBL chopped parsley
- ¾ oz. lemon juice
- 1 TBL Creole mustard (a smooth or stone ground mustard flavored with herbs, peppercorns, citrus fruits, honey, champagne or sherry. Flavor can be hot to mild)
- 1 egg yolk
Mix all ingredients. Measure out to 4 ounce portions and form to 4 inch round cakes. Brown one side in a skillet, flip, and finish in a 425 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes.
Roasted Tomato Salsa
- 1 lb. Roma tomatoes, cut in half
- ¼ onion, cut into 4 pieces
- 1 clove whole garlic
- ¼ tsp ground cumin
- 1 TBL fresh cilantro, chopped
- 2 TBL olive oil
Toss all ingredients together and roast in a 450 degree oven for about 15-18 minutes, until the sides of the vegetables are lightly charred. Remove and place in a blender or Cuisinart, then add:
- ½ Chiplote pepper
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tsp Rice Wine vinegar
Add everything and puree until smooth finish with salt to taste. Stir in ¼ cup olive oil and then strain the mix through a fine mesh strainer. Enjoy!