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 9/29/19

 

Chicken Fricassees

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Says Wikipedia, “…there are recipes for fricassee as far back as the earliest version of the medieval French cookbook Le Viandier, circa 1300. In 1490, it is first referred to specifically as “friquassee” in the print edition of Le Viandier.”

Roux:

4 Tbsp flour
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion chopped

Heat the olive oil until it gets hot. Then add flour. Whisk.

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Whisk- pause-whisk-pause until the flour turns oak color…(do not burn flour or you will need to start over)

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…Then add onions and sauté 10 minutes.

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Add three cups of chicken stock and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add 4 chicken thighs with bone and skin on and cook 30 minutes.  The fat in the skin adds a lot of flavor.  You can remove the skin later before serving.

Pinch of salt and pepper at this point.

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Then add dumplings to pot and cook another 20 minutes and serve.  Adjust liquids by adding more chicken stock if necessary.

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Dumpling Mix:
1 cup flour
1 egg
.5 cup milk
Pinch of salt

Hot Comfort Food on a very cold day.

Shrimp Sauce Piquant

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This is the best Cajun recipe ever. The flavors in this dish capture a bit of all the best in gumbo.

Piquant is translated as “having a pleasantly sharp taste or appetizing flavor”. Therefore, it is an appetizing gumbo and great when the weather gets cold.

Serving for 4

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Making the Shrimp Stock:
Peel one pound of shrimp and use 1/2 of the shrimp heads and tail shells
½ onion chopped
1 stalk celery chopped w/leaves
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. peppercorns
1 clove garlic cut in half
6 cups water

Place all ingredients in a 4 quart sauce pot. Bring to a light boil then simmer for 45 minutes, then turn off heat.  You will not use all the stock but need that much water to properly dilute the shrimp heads and tail shells, otherwise the stock will get too strong.  The idea is to have a hint of seafood flavor in the stock.

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Making the mirepoix:
½ onion chopped (place in a separate bowl)
1 stalk celery chopped
½ green bell pepper chopped
1 clove minced garlic

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Making the roux and sauce base:
5 Tbsp. olive oil
5 Tbsp. flour

In a pot, I use a 5 quart cast iron pot, heat the oil until hot. One tablespoon at a time, add the flour and whisk. Add another tablespoon and whisk and rest of the flour and whisk until the flour turns a dark oak color but keep whisking. Add onions and mix with the roux and allow cooking for 5 minutes or so while whisking. Then add the celery, garlic and green bell pepper. By now the roux will get darker.  Ladle in 3 cups of strained shrimp stock one cup at a time for desired thickness and bring to a fast boil, then reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.

Complete pot:
Shrimp meat from one pound of shrimp
1 stick of Andouille sausage (or any smoked sausage) sliced to quarter inch thickness
3 stalks of scallion (green onions with tops) chopped
2 Roma tomatoes diced
1 jalapeño pepper minced
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste

After boiling the roux sauce for 30 minutes add all remaining ingredients and then ladle-in a little more shrimp stock if necessary until all the ingredients are covered with stock. Some of the stock will evaporate when first cooking the roux.  You have to feel-the-feel on that. Place lid over pot and simmer another 30 minutes.

Serve over rice.
Add Tabasco if desired.

Can it be that easy?

(Someone say yes.)

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