Sunday, March 10, 2013

Jambalaya with Creole Sauce

When my husband called to say he'd be bringing home some Cajun Kate's crawfish mac for dinner, my mind starting spinning twangy strains of a Hank Williams tune and my attention turned to Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen cookbook sitting on my shelf. Because what goes better with cajun food than more cajun food? It just so happened that I had all the fixings for jambalaya, so I consulted PP's section on the delicious rice dish. There were as many different ways to make jambalaya as there were recipes in the section, so after reading each one for guidance I struck off on my own, and am thrilled with the final result. I paired it with Prudhomme's recipe for "creole sauce", although it would be absolutely perfect on its own. Made for a great side with the fried mac (and will be a delicious lunch for the next few days!)

Jambalaya with Creole Sauce
Makes 5 servings


*3 tablespoons bacon fat or butter
*3 bay leaves
*1 teaspoon salt
*1/2 teaspoon cayenne
*1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
*1 teaspoon black pepper
*1 teaspoon dried oregano
*1 medium yellow onion, diced
*1 1/2 cups diced green bell pepper
*1 cup diced celery
*3 cloves garlic, minced
*1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and cut into bite-size pieces
*1 1/2 cups diced tasso (or other smoked ham)
*1/2 cup tomato puree
*1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
*1 1/3 cup chicken stock
*1 teaspoon chipotle Tabasco
*1 cup medium-size raw shrimp, shelled, de-veined and cut in half

Melt the fat in a large dutch oven over medium heat and stir the seasonings together; set aside. Combine the diced vegetables in a bowl and mix well; add two cups of the "trinity" to the pot and saute for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and the spice mixture in the last couple of minutes. Add the chicken, and saute for a few minutes before throwing in the tasso. Cook for another few minutes and then add the tomato puree, rice, stock and Tabasco. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a low simmer, cover and cook for about 25, 30 minutes. Uncover partially and continue to cook for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take the lid off altogether and bury the raw shrimp pieces in the mixture; cook another 6, 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the shrimp are done. At this point you can serve immediately, or leave it on the stove over very low heat for a while longer. Remember to take the bay leaves out before serving!

Creole Sauce

*3 tablespoons bacon fat or butter
*2 bay leaves
*1/2 teaspoon oregano
*1/2 teaspoon salt
*1 teaspoon black pepper
*1/2 teaspoon cayenne
*1/2 teaspoon paprika
*1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
*The rest of your chopped veg trinity (about 1 1/2 cups)
*3 cloves garlic, minced
*1 1/4 cups chicken stock
*1 cup tomato sauce (or puree)
*1 teaspoon Tabasco, or to taste

Melt the fat in a medium saucepan and mix the seasonings together. Add the vegetables and saute for 10 minutes, adding in the garlic and seasonings towards the end. Stir in the stock, tomato sauce, and Tabasco. Bring to a boil and then simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves and then blend partially with an immersion blender to thicken the sauce. Simmer until jambalaya is ready to serve. To assemble, ladle creole sauce into a shallow dish and then top with a portion of jambalaya. Dust with chopped parsley, if you wish.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Maple Popcorn

Thursday evenings are sacred. They mark the close of my workweek, and are mine exclusively: other household half works until nearly nine on Thursdays. After toiling at work and at the gym, I come home, curl up on the couch with the kits, light some candles, crack a fine craft beer and pop in a movie. To add more comfort to this gloriously leisurely and peaceful scene might verge into overkill, but there's always room for the extra indulgence of freshly popped, warmly buttered corn. Since an impending Montreal vacation has been factoring heavily into my daydreams, I pulled out some of the exquisite syrup stash I have stocked up from last time and dribbled it in with melting butter to dress the popcorn. It made for an excellent batch - buttery, sweet, salty, perfect to munch while moviewatching. Pop yourself up a bowl and enjoy!

Maple Popcorn
Makes about 8 cups

*3 scant tablespoons of high smoke point oil
*1/3 cup unpopped corn kernels
*1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon butter
*1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon high quality maple syrup (No Jemima piffle, c'mon)
*Salt to taste 

Heat the oil in a large pot over just north of medium heat. Meanwhile, melt the butter with maple syrup in a small saucepan or in the microwave. To test the oil, put a few kernels into the pot and cover; wait until you hear them pop, and then add the full third cup to the pot.  Cover and remove from the heat for about 30 seconds, shaking the pot to evenly distribute and oil the kernels. Return the pot to medium heat and continue shaking the pot by moving it back and forth on the burner while the kernels explode within, occasionally pausing to pop the edge of the lid up ever so slightly to let steam out. Once the popping slows to several seconds in between pops, remove the pot from the heat and pour it into a very large bowl. Add the maple butter, toss, and salt to taste.

My Thursday eve