Jambalaya

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No historically important cook blog – such as mine – in the entire world – and on some parts of the 837 planets outside our solar system can be without a Jambalaya recipe. There are many myths and legends as to the derivation of the name. As is the case with most things here, there is always a larger than life story about it. There are certain elements that can be assumed.

It started out Spanish near the Mediterranean where it was a rice dish using the ingredients of local seafood, meats and spices (saffron). Jambalaya can be considered the grandchild of what is commonly referred to as Valencian paella or a rice casserole made in a paella or a pan. The French word poêle means a frying pan or a stove. The Latin word patella is a pan as well. I know this because I looked it up on the Internet. I, for one, believe everything I read on the Internet.

So let’s break down Jambalaya and remove all the myths and legends behind the derivation of the name. Knowing what we know, and going with what we know, “Jamba” is a Haitian Creole word which means jamba. It is also a Croation word meaning jamba. Jamba is all over the place. It jambas around. “Laya” is a Spanish word meaning laya. It is also a French word meaning laya. So when we merge these two important multicultural meanings together what we get is, and you guessed it – Jambalaya. I looked it up! Don’t doubt me on this.

There are two flavors of Jambalaya. One is with tomatoes, the other is without tomatoes. I’m making the one without tomatoes. Why? Pretty simple, really. Those people in New Orleans like to dump everything into a pot, add tomatoes, hot peppers, broth, grab a beer and call it a day. People like me who live near New Orleans in the rural regions, drink wine with our pinky-finger extended and cook this dish in stages because it is better that way. We brown the meat and cook the veggies gently. We don’t need hot peppers and tomatoes. Because, that’s the way we roll.

Down here, the one thing we all agree on when making Jambalaya is the rice, everything else is pretty much up for debate.

Simply, what you need to know is Jambalaya is a tasty meal, with or without tomatoes. And, if all we have to worry about is whether or not to use tomatoes in Jambalaya, we’re going to be just fine.

So, let us build a dish around 2 cups of rice. (Rule of thumb is one cup of rice to every pound of meat.)  This dish will serve 2 to 4.  I say 2 b/c we have some hearty eaters around here.  BTW, after I served this dish I had two more servings it was so good.  The third serving, a smaller serving, was pure binge tasting.

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The first decision is the meat. I use 1 pound of pork shoulder picnic roast, 1 stick of andouille sausage, 2 strips applewood smoked bacon and ½ pound of shrimp. I have deer sausage in the freezer and since this is deer season here, there is plenty of it around, but I won’t use it in this recipe today. Andouille is the local sausage of choice originating in France but later perfected as it is today by German immigrants. There was a very large in-migration of Germans into Louisiana in 1722 in case you didn’t know that.

The next decision is the vegetables. In this one I will use onions, green onions (scallions), green bell pepper, orange bell pepper, garlic and celery. To me, orange bell pepper is sweeter than red.

The seasoning profile will be sea salt, ground pepper, paprika, bay leaf, Worcestershire and Tabasco pepper sauce.

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Meat
1 Lb. pork shoulder picnic roast
1 stick Andouille (cut in slices)
½ Lb. shrimp tails
2 strips of apple-wood smoked bacon (chopped)

Veggies
½ green bell pepper (chopped)
½ orange bell pepper (chopped)
1 stalk celery (chopped)
1 small onion (chopped)
1 clove garlic (chopped)
3 green onions (chopped)

Seasoning/Oil/Fluid
Sea Salt and ground pepper
1 tsp. paprika
1 bay leaf
1 dash Worcestershire
1 dash Tabasco pepper sauce
1 TBSP olive oil

3 cups chicken stock
1 cup shrimp stock (from the tails)

2 cups long grain rice

Cooking:

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Chop the pork shoulder into small squares. Season with sea salt. Pour the olive oil in a Dutch oven and get the oil hot. Add the pork shoulder one hand full at a time and brown. The idea is to avoid putting too much of any ingredient in the pan and creating extra liquid. If there is too much liquid, the food won’t brown into what is referred to as a “fond” or a foundation. The meat and veggies will sweat. Not until we add the chicken stock will we begin to “deglaze” the fond.

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When the pork is browned add the bacon. Move the meat to one side of the pan and then add one handful of chopped onions and sauté.

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Move the onions to one side and add the rest of the veggies a handful at a time and sauté.

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Add the rice and stir for about 5 minutes so it can pick up the flavors in the pan .

Now add one cup of chicken stock and with a wooden spoon begin to deglaze the pan. I have a black cast iron pot so I try to make sure to scratch the bottom and hope I get most of it.

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Add the rest of the stock and the rest of the ingredients. Stir. Bring to a slight boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cover. Cook 45 to 60 minutes. Let rest and serve.  Apply Tabasco on top of serving.

100_5419As of 9/26/21

Maque Choux (Corn Vegetable Stew)

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This is a purely Cajun dish. But, up here in the Midwest there is wonderful sweet corn. In fact, the best sweet corn I ever ate. In my garden there are enough veggies and fresh herbs around to make a fresh Maque Choux (corn vegetable stew). The corn came from a farmer nearby.

Most recipes call for a meatless Maque Choux. I add a little sausage for flavor. My mother used to make it that way. Other recipes I’ve seen use andouille sausage, bacon or tasso (Cajun ham). You can spice this up all you want.  I’m not a big cayenne pepper fan.

I want the browned meat b/c I will use the meat “fond” for added flavor. As you know a “fond” is a French term that means “base” from remaining bits of meat. But, there are many versions that do not include meat as it is served as a side dish. I will serve this as a main dish.

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Ingredients:
10 oz. Turkey, Beef and Pork Kielbasa (Brown sausage in olive oil)
1 TBSP olive oil

6 uncooked fresh ears of corn – cut the corn using a sharp knife digging into the cob and getting the milk of the corn (There is no way you can do this without getting corn on the floor.)

Mirepoix Trinity (Used at first for the natural sugar and flavors)
½ cup quarter chopped celery stalks, I prefer the center stalk
1 cup or 1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup of green bell pepper, chopped

2 cups diced tomatoes – I used one Roma and one yellow
¾ cup scallions (green onions)
1 garlic clove minced

~3 to 5 TBSP unsalted butter
Thyme – fresh
Kosher salt (pinch)

Dash of white wine
½ cup of chicken stock

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Cooking Directions:
• Lightly brown the sausage in olive oil and remove
• Add the (Trinity) onion, celery, bell pepper and sauté four minutes. Add the dash of white wine to release the fond while sautéing and scraping the bottom of the pot
• Add the butter and melt
• On low heat add the corn and mix until the corn is buttered.
• Add thyme, return the meat, pinch of salt, ½ cup chicken stock and cook covered on medium heat 15 minutes
• Watch the pot, don’t let it over cook
• Add the remaining ingredients and cook another 15 minutes on medium to low heat. Add more chicken stock if necessary (There should only be just enough fluids to steam the corn and release the corn milk)

100_6878As of 8/21/21

Shrimp Étouffée

Place a scoop of rice in the center of the bowl
Then add the shrimp and sauce along the side of the rice
Use Tabasco on top.

Shrimp Stock: Start with making your seafood stock by using the heads and tails of the shrimp.  I use 10 to 12 medium size shrimp.  Put them in a sauce pot and add 1 TBSP pepper corns, 1 celery stalk with leaves chopped, 1 small carrot chopped, 1 garlic cloves chopped, 1/2 onions chopped two cups of water and bring to a boil and let rest. Then strain into a two cup measuring cup..

Tomatoes: 2 Roma tomatoes, cut a cross on the top and a cross on the bottom, blanch in hot water until the skin starts to come off, peel off skin, peel off the skin and chop.  Look tomato concasse procedure of skinning, removing seeds and chopping.

Shrimp: Keep shrimp in frig until ready to use.

Make your own Cajun Spice:
¾ tsp paprika
¼ tsp thyme
¼ tsp oregano
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp white pepper
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp Old Bay

Start the Roux. 3 TBSP olive oil and 3 TBSP flour.

This is kind of like Gumbo only with tomato:

Fry the roux and whisk until it gets oak color.
Add the 1/2 onions chopped and sauté in the roux with a whisk.
Add the 1 chopped celery, 1/2 green pepper chopped and 1/4 cup scallions chopped
Add the tomato and some beer and the some of the seafood stock.
The idea is to make it a thick stock so add liquid until it starts to thicken and get a gravy
Add the shrimp and cook on medium for 20 minutes
Étouffée literally means to smother the food in gravy

As of 3/13/21

Shrimp, Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo


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Gumbo is a perfect meal for a winterish day. It is very easy to make. For me, it is a labor of love and heritage. There are a lot of choices.

My Godmother makes the best seafood Gumbo I ever ate. She packs a lot of flavors in her Gumbo. Down here in the South I consider her Gumbo the “real deal”. Hers leans more toward the Creole side. My mother made a Filé Gumbo using filé powder, which is ground sassafras leaves. I’m not a real fan of filé. But, I think the finishing herb drives the final touch. Some people use bay leaf, some use filé, some use both.  I use bay leaf and fresh oregano from my garden.

There are other choices to consider – the oil and the peppers (heat).

Most people use vegetable oil or canola oil and some use olive oil. I use olive oil for several reasons. Mostly, I think the flavor suits the vegetable profile better but more importantly, it handles the heat better when making a dark roux.

With respect to peppers, I know people who add jalapeño peppers and others add lots of Tabasco pepper sauce and others add a Creole Seasoning containing cayenne pepper. I de-seed a jalapeño (limit the heat) and add it to the vegetables and then add a little Tabasco sauce when serving. This allows the person to control their own destiny with the pepper heat when serving. The other thing to calculate is the Andouille sausage has ground pepper flakes, cayenne pepper and chili powder in it. If you live in a place where you cannot get Andouille sausage, use your favorite smoked pork sausage and toss in a small dash of red pepper flakes. The base of this Gumbo depends on a mild pepper back flavor, but not an over-powering pepper flavor.

Roux

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The roux (oil and flour) is not only the thickening agent for the stock; it is the main flavor for the entire dish. The key to a roux is patiently cook by whisking the equal parts flour and oil until it becomes dark brown on a steady medium heat; add chopped onions and sauté. After 5 minutes, then add the celery and bell pepper. The aroma that occurs between the roux and the onions is incredible and can’t be missed in the flavor from that point forward.

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Ingredients (shown in the picture above, click on the pic to enlarge):

Mirepoix (Vegetables)
1 small onion – chopped
1 bell pepper – seeded and chopped
1 celery stalk – peeled and chopped
1 jalapeño pepper – seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves – cut into small coins
4 scallions (green onion) – chopped

Meat
1 chicken thigh – with skin and bone
1 chicken breast – skinned and deboned
1 Lb. of shrimp – shelled and cleaned
1 stick of Andouille pork sausage – sliced

Seasoning, Herbs and Stock
Salt and pepper
Fresh oregano (or a dash of dried)
1 small bay leaf
1 TBSP Worcestershire
2 cups chicken stock

Roux
4 TBSP all purpose flour
4 TBSP olive oil

In a Dutch Oven, add the flour then the oil and whisk into a paste.

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Turn heat to medium and as the flour begins to cook whisk every few minutes or so as not to let the roux burn.  You will see the flour begin to bubble.

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In a little while you will see the flour begin to turn brown.  A baked bread smell will begin to emerge.  2015-11-15 Gumbo 009

Whisk more until the roux turns a dark oak color.  Whisk every two or three minutes.

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While the roux is hot add the onions and sauté five minutes.  You will see the roux begin to brown even more.

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Then add the celery, bell pepper and jalapeño pepper.

2015-11-15 Gumbo 014Mix and let that cook a minute or so more then add the stock a half-cup at a time.  Stir and watch the roux begin to foam.

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2015-11-15 Gumbo 016Then add the chicken and the Andouille sausage.

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Add the rest of the stock, bring to a boil and then cover, turn the heat to the lowest setting and cook 30 minutes.

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At 30 minutes remove the chicken and remove the bone and skin, cut into pieces and return to the pot, add the garlic and scallions, add the shrimp, herbs, Worcestershire and salt and pepper.  Cover and cook another 30 minutes on low.

Serve over a bed of rice and sprinkle Tabasco sauce.

I also made a bread for dipping in the stock.

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This was so good.  The meat was tender and flavor was wonderful.

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Turkey and Sausage Gumbo

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I hope you see I don’t spend a lot of money on ingredients. This dish is around for the “after” turkey day and you have a carcass to boil. But, since I never cook a whole turkey and it’s me and the Little Woman, I buy a turkey thigh. I then boil the thigh making a turkey stock and then shred the meat for this dish. Instead of wine I use a cup of ale beer. This dish is a nice thick tasty gumbo served on rice.

Turkey Stock

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1 turkey thigh
1 celery stalk chopped
1 carrot chopped
1 small onion chopped
1 garlic clove chopped
1 TBSP peppercorns
1 tsp thyme
1 small bay leaf
Salt
2 cup water

In a large pot add all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1 hour. Let cool. Remove turkey thigh, remove bone and shred meat. Strain the stock and discard the other ingredients.

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Roux

4 TBSP flour
4 TBSP olive oil
1 cup chopped onion

Add oil to the 4 quart pot. Get oil hot, add flour 1 TBSP at a time and whisk.

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Keep whisking until the flour begins to turn brown to the color of a dark oak.

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Then toss in the onions to sauté to cool the roux a little and create the wonderful gumbo base flavor.  Whisk until the onions cook down (6 – 8 minutes).  Notice how the roux gets darker when the onions are added.

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1 cup of dark ale (I use Sierra Nevada Pale Ale).  Pour in ale and mix until the beer begins to foam.

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Mirepoix

½ red bell pepper, chopped
½ green bell pepper, chopped
3 scallions, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 stick of Andouille sausage (or smoked pork sausage), sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 cups of turkey stock

Add the mirepoix, sausage and garlic and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook on simmer with lid off 1 hour. The oil and the food need to break down and the stock needs to evaporate a little.

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Remaining Ingredients

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shredded turkey
1 TBSP fresh oregano
1/8 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
1 dash Tabasco sauce

 

Add the remaining ingredients and cook covered 30 minutes on low heat.

Serve over rice.