Seasoning Made Simple C’est Tout Dried Trinity Mix By Patrice Doucet
It all began with too many bell peppers in his garden. Dreux Barra couldn’t pawn them off to family and friends fast enough. Then, one day while in the kitchen of his Youngsville home making beef jerky, he got creative and decided to use the same process to dry the peppers. It worked. Then he grabbed a sack of onions from the pantry. And that’s when it occurred to Barra to make a dried seasoning version of the Cajun cooking base known as the “holy trinity” of onions, bell peppers and celery. At the time, in 2017, there was nothing else like it on the Internet. It took Barra (and his wife Monique) six months of experimenting with the dehydration process and mixing and tweaking recipes until he had what he thought was the perfect taste combination of onions, green bell peppers, celery - and a bit of green scallions. Cooking since he was 15, he still knew the real litmus test would be bringing a sampling to his mother. “She said it tasted good, but needed more color and suggested red bell peppers. So, I added a tablespoon in each container.” Barra says that what separates C’est Tout from other dried seasonings is that “it looks like you chopped it yourself when it rehydrates. Other dried versions, which have since come on the market, don’t have big chunks.” Using only the freshest vegetables, his dehydration process preserves the nutrients and flavor of each ingredient. The fact that it caramelizes much quicker than the fresh trinity, yet still retains all of the flavor is lagniappe. The directions couldn’t be easier: just add enough water or liquid to cover whatever amount of mix you use and it rehydrates in two minutes. Barra says melted butter, olive oil or broth can also be used. “When I’m making a gumbo, I add the seasoning while the roux is cooking down and then again when I add the meat,” instructs Barra, who describes himself as a “camp” cook. Although conceptualized from Cajun cooking, C’est Tout can be used on many other foods: roasted duck, chicken, hamburger steak and scrambled eggs. It can be mixed directly into ground meat where it rehydrates. “I had a customer who butterflied a venison backstrap, stuffed some C’est Tout inside, closed it up, wrapped it with bacon, and then broiled it,” says Barra. (That warrants a moment of silence.) In May, Barra introduced a new version of his dried seasoning with the addition of garlic, made with a whopping three tablespoons of California-grown garlic. “If my first product is the holy trinity, this is the pope,” he smiles. C’est Tout products can be purchased in 16 and 32-oz. containers or two and five-pound. bags. A 16-ounce container is equivalent to 32 ounces of the same fresh cut vegetables and a two-pound bag will render over 30 cups of the rehydrated Cajun trinity. While C’est Tout was recently certified as a small and emerging business, Barra, a global account manager for SECURITAS Security, still calls his weekend/after 5 p.m.-business a hobby. Yet, he’s produced over 6,000 containers since first introducing the product online and at Heleaux’s Grocery in 2017. Now, the “Certified Cajun” product is sold in over 50 stores in Louisiana as well as Florida and Mississippi. Of his sales on ThisIsCajun.com, Barra says 90 percent of the orders are placed outside of Louisiana. A growing number of local restaurants and chefs have also been won over by C’est Tout’s taste and the downtime it allows in the kitchen. In his quest to provide everyone with a tasty meal, Barra considers those who usually don’t put seasoning at the top of a list of essentials. Last month, he donated 50 pounds of the trinity mix for use in preparing meals for victims of Hurricane Laura. He also provides C’est Tout to The Hub Lafayette- Urban Ministries – where he also helps cook, feeding some 200 homeless every Monday night. Now on the cusp of an uncertain flu season and in the middle of a downturned economy, Barra is in the process of preparing his Christmas gift baskets that will be available online and at local farmers markets.