"J" Is For JAMBALAYA
New Orleans Classics
by Mark R. Vogel
In 1604 the French colonized Acadia, the region surrounding present day Nova Scotia. Disputes with Great Britain over the sovereignty of the territory quickly arose. Over the next two centuries control of Acadia shifted between the French and the British, highlighted by interminable armed conflicts, political haggling, and treaties. Finally in 1785 the British had the upper hand and forced the Acadians from their homeland.
The Acadians then migrated to Louisiana where successive translations of their name produced the term "Cajun." Cajun cooking, a hearty and rustic mixture of French and southern US influences, relied heavily on pork fat and spices. Creole, the other major New Orleans culinary force, was a fusion of French, Spanish, Caribbean and African cuisines. It was differentiated by a greater use of butter, cream, and tomatoes, and was considered more refined.
New Orleans is known for transforming legendary dishes into newfound classics. Bouillabaisse, the famous fish stew from the Provence region of France, was a forerunner to gumbo, a Creole favorite. Jambalaya, the Cajun version of paella, is a mixture of any number of meats, such as chicken, sausage, shellfish, duck, ham, etc., with rice, vegetables and seasonings. Creole or red jambalaya includes tomatoes while the Cajun style does not. Either way, it is a spicy and robust dish that epitomizes the soul of New Orleans. Here's my recipe for Cajun style jambalaya:
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Olive oil as needed
12 oz. andouille or chorizo sausage, cut into medium dice
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 batch scallions, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
6 cups chicken broth
3 cups long grain rice
2 tablespoons paprika
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon celery salt
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
Trim the fat from the chicken thighs and then cut them into quarters. Season them with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Heat up a large pot, add olive oil, and brown the chicken on each side. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon, set aside and then brown the sausage. Remove the sausage and then sauté the peppers, onions, and celery. Do not drain the grease between each item. Use it to sauté the next item and add flavor to the final dish. Sauté the vegetables until, soft. One minute before they are done add the garlic. Then add the chicken, sausage, broth, rice and seasonings. Cover, bring to a boil, and then simmer for 15 minutes.
The skill of New Orleans' chefs doesn't cease at revolutionizing timeless classics. They invent masterpieces of their own. New Orleans originals include po boy sandwiches, muffulettas, oysters Rockefeller, beignets, and Shrimp Creole. Here's one story of the birth of a New Orleans classic:
Owen Edward Brennan opened the infamous Brennan's Restaurant in 1946 in the French Quarter of New Orleans and it remains a New Orleans icon to this day. Members of the same family also own Commander's Palace, an equally notable New Orleans culinary landmark. In the 1950's New Orleans was the major port of entry for bananas from Central and South America. The story goes that in 1951 Mr. Brennan asked his chef Paul Blange, to create a dish featuring the tropical fruit. Chef Blange rose to the challenge and concocted the classic Bananas Foster. It was named for Richard Foster, a friend of Brennan and regular patron of the restaurant. It remains the most popular dish at the restaurant to this day. Each year Brennan's utilizes over 35,000 pounds of bananas for the world renowned dessert. The standard recipe is as follows, (serves four):
Two oz. butter
One cup brown sugar
Half a teaspoon of cinnamon
Two oz. banana liqueur
Four bananas, cut in half lengthwise and then in half crosswise
Two oz. dark rum
Combine the butter, sugar and cinnamon in a skillet over low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Watch the heat and stir almost constantly to prevent the mixture from burning. Add the banana liqueur. Add the bananas and cook until they soften and start to brown. Next, add the rum and tip the pan slightly so the flames ignite the rum. (This is known as flambéing). After the flames subside, place four pieces of banana over vanilla ice cream and spoon some of the sauce over them.
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Kick Mardi Gras Up A Notch With Emeril!
MARDI GRAS KING CAKE
2 envelopes active dry yeast
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup warm milk (about 110ºF)
5 large egg yolks, at room temperature
4 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 plastic king cake baby or a pecan half
5 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Purple-, green-, and gold-tinted sugar sprinkles
Combine the yeast and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the melted butter and warm milk. Beat at low speed for 1 minute. With the mixer running, add the egg yolks, then beat for 1 minute at medium-low speed. Add the flour, salt, nutmeg, and lemon zest and beat until everything is incorporated. Increase the speed to high and
beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, forms a ball, and starts to climb up the dough hook.
Remove the dough from the bowl. Using your hands, form the dough into a smooth ball. Lightly oil a bowl with the vegetable oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it to oil all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a
warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and 1 cup of the confectioner's sugar. Blend by hand or with an electric mixer on low speed. Set aside. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using your fingers, pat it out into a rectangle about 30 inches long and 6 inches wide.
Spread the filling lengthwise over the bottom half of the dough, then flip the top half of the dough over the filling. Seal the edges, pinching the dough together. Shape the dough into a cylinder and place it on the prepared baking sheet seam side down. Shape the dough into a ring and pinch the ends together so there isn't a seam. Insert the king cake baby or pecan half into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden
by the dough.
Cover the ring with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm, draft-free place. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Brush the top of the risen cake with 2 tablespoons of the milk. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the icing. Combine the remaining 3 tablespoons milk, the lemon juice, and the remaining 3 cups confectioner's sugar in medium-size mixing bowl. Stir to blend well. With a rubber spatula, spread the icing evenly over the top of the cake. Sprinkle with the sugar crystals, alternating colors around
The cake is traditionally cut into 2-inch-thick slices with all the guests in attendance.
Yield: 20 to 22 servings
From Chef Emeril Lagasse**
MARDI GRAS JAMBALAYA
One 5-pound duck, trimmed of fat and cut into 8 pieces
3 tablespoons Creole Seasoning
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound andouille or other spicy smoked sausage,
cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 cups chopped yellow onions
1/2 cup chopped green bell peppers
1/2 cup chopped red bell peppers
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
3 bay leaves
2 cups long-grain white rice
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
2 quarts Chicken Stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup chopped green onions (green and white parts)
1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
Season the duck pieces with 2 tablespoons of the Essence.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the duck, skin side down, and sear for 5 minutes. Turn and sear on the second side for 3 minutes. Remove from the pot and drain on paper towels.
Add the sausage to the fat in the pot and cook, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, salt, cayenne, and black pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, garlic, and bay leaves and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes give off some of their juices, about 2 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
Add the thyme, stock, and duck. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender, about 30 minutes.
Season the shrimp with the remaining 1 tablespoon Essence. Add the shrimp to the pot and cook until they turn pink, about 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let sit, covered, for 15 minutes.
Add the green onions and parsley to the jambalaya and stir gently. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Adjust the salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. Serve directly from the pot. (Or, if desired, transfer the jambalaya to a small ice chest to transport to the outing.)
Yield: 6 servings
From Chef Emeril Lagasse**
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Click here for more recipes and cooking tips from Chef Emeril.
More JAMBALAYA recipes:
Skillet Vegetable Jambalaya
New Orleans by the Bowl: Gumbos, Jambalayas, Soups, and Stews
by John DeMers with Andrew Jaeger
There is a story about a Cajun funeral for a man who was horrible to everybody. But since he was dead, someone had to stand up and say something nice. "Well," said one who knew him, "who's gonna make the gumbo now?"
With New Orleans by the Bowl, home cooks can now ladle up some of that famous gumbo, as well as the Crescent City's many other beloved foods, including:
Jambalaya - the best way to make something wonderful out of anything and everything in the refrigerator
Crawfish Etouffee and Redfish Courtbouillon
Roux - the deep-brown, nutty-tasting, soul-satisfying sauce thickener
Seafood Gumbo, Louisiana Yam Soup, and Oyster Bisque
Soul food, like greens stewed with salt pork and smothered black-eyed peas
Maque Choux, the "famous Cajun corn dish," learned from the neighboring Attakapas Indians
"J" Is For JALAPENOS!
12 fresh or pickled jalapeno peppers
8 oz. softened cream cheese
Carefully halve the peppers. Scoop out the seeds
completely and discard. Fill the pepper halves with
cream cheese, then sprinkle paprika on top for color.
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You don't have to cook your jalapenos before freezing,
although you can skin/peel them if desired. Just keep
in mind that after you thaw them, the skins usually come
right off easily. Simply wash the peppers, drop them into
a Ziploc baggie, and set them in the freezer in 2 lb bags.
Some Like It Hot
Chile peppers, with hundreds of varieties, have been cultivated since 6200 B.C. All chile peppers get their fire from a compound called capsaicin, (kap-SAY-ih-sihn), the greatest deposits of which lie in the veins of the pepper. The Scolville Scale measures chile peppers' heat in increments from 500 to 400,000. Your average jalapeno registers about 3,500-4,500 Scolville units, while the mighty habanero, the hottest pepper on earth, tips the scale at 300,000-400,000. Chiles are available in fresh and dried forms. A fresh chile's dried counterpart will be somewhat hotter since dehydration intensifies the heat. Aside from the heat, chile peppers offer a distinct flavor unequaled in the culinary world. Moreover, they are high in vitamins A and C as well as good sources of potassium, folic acid, and vitamin E.
It is advisable to wear rubber gloves while cutting them. Capsaicin from the pepper quickly infiltrates the skin and can linger even after washing. I learned this the hard way one day when I put my contacts in after cutting up habaneros. Yes, just imagine shoving a needle in your eye.
There are countless hot sauces on the market today. Steer clear of the ultra hot ones. These super hot sauces are an intensified extract of capsaicin. They provide dangerously high heat but a relatively low flavor yield since the heat factor is not balanced by a proportional amount of the other elements in the pepper. Thus, if each drop of the super-sauce equaled one jalapeno, you would get a greater depth of flavor from five fresh jalapenos than from five drops of the sauce. Here's my recipe for Habanero Sauce, which will provide good flavor and blistering heat.
Chicken and pineapple in this dish make for a delicious island flavor!
"J" Is For...
Sugar abd fruit cooked to a thick mixture.
Sometimes pectin is also added.
Dip a spoon into boiling jelly and let juice run off the
edge of the spoon. If it runs into two separate streams,
the jelly is not done. When the last few drops run off
the spoon in a single sheet rather than in two or more
separate streams the jelly is done.
Also known as the Mexican Potato, this vegetable
has a brown skin, is mildly sweet in flavor, and its
crunchy white flesh is tasty both raw and cooked.
A flat griddle-type cake made from cornmeal, salt,
and boiling water or cold milk. Sometimes johnnycakes
are made in the oven, similar to cornbread, but more often
are fried. Modern recipes may include oil, eggs, and baking powder.
To cut into long slender pieces; usually applied to
vegetables, sometimes to meat or cheese.
Juicy Chicken Without The Fat
When cooking chicken breasts I keep them frozen and spray with Pam (both sides). It keeps the chicken so juicy!
Check out more COOKING tips in our Virtual Tipbook!
Juice Carton Crayon Box
Wash and dry an empty cardboard juice carton and cut off the top. Using bits and pieces of masking tape, have the children tape up the entire carton, covering all sides, the more tape the better. Use crayons to color the masking tape box. The tape makes the box sturdier and will make a great crayon holder for their desk or dresser.
Check out more CRAFT tips in the Family FunBook!