A Cajun-creole cookbook for every kitchen

There's a reason folks line up for hours to get a seat at a humble table at K-Paul's Restaurant in New Orleans. Now, thanks to the generosity of the owner-chef himself, there's less of a reason.

Paul Prudhomme has come out with this year's most awaited cookbook, ''Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen'' (Morrow, $19.95).

Part of it was the timing. Americans are discovering their own cuisine and are hungry for more. The other part is the great chef himself.

Mr. Prudhomme knows Cajun and creole cooking like Frank Perdue knows chickens. He willingly and enthusiastically shares his enormous knowledge.

He didn't have to decide to become a cook; his mother did that for him. In his family of 13 children, there were plenty of potatoes that needed peeling, and Paul, the youngest, was quickly put to work in the kitchen. We can all be grateful to his mother.

Mr. Prudhomme takes great care and attention to detail in guiding the reader through more than 300 pages of recipes that have made his reputation world famous. He assumes nothing.

Three full pages and four color pictures are devoted to making a ''simple'' roux. Seven photographs illustrate the cooking and handling of his famous blackened redfish.

He gives meticulous attention to seasonings. Ingredients are measured to the quarter teaspoon. No dash of this or that and no ''season to taste'' advice.

This may sound tedious, but it's an enormous help in defining this spicy and intricate cuisine.

Cajun and creole cooking - or Louisiana cooking, as he prefers to call it - has a language and flavor all its own. A glossary of foods from andouille to tasso and a thorough list of cooking ingredients are helpful. Substitutions of ingredients are suggested when possible.

You may be surprised at how often recipes call for margarine. Or at the chef's way of adding the same vegetable at different times in the same recipe.

But don't be surprised, after spending some time with this book, if you are using cayenne pepper and gumbo file powder as fearlessly as you handle salt and pepper.

If anyone can make a Cajun-creole cook out of you, Paul Prudhomme can. As he says in the introduction, ''The important thing is to have fun, to experiment and trust yourself. Remember, the measure of a good dish is that 'it makes you want to take another bite.' So - good cooking! Good eating!''

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