Thursday, July 15, 2010

Jambalaya

There is nothing in my kitchen I love more than my Le Creuset Dutch Oven.  People, meet Big Red.  Big Red and I have been together for less than a year, but it's a relationship made to last a lifetime.  This pot makes me a better cook.  This pot makes me want to cook.  This pot makes me happy just sitting on the stove, because it is that beautiful to look at.  She wasn't cheap, but Big Red was worth every penny.  If you like to cook, I cannot recommend the purchase highly enough.  

Dutch ovens can be used on the stove top, or in the oven.  They have superior heat distribution and retention.  When you brown meats you get beautiful fond, or little brown bits of flavor, on the bottom of the pot; something I was missing all those years using nonstick cookware.  The lid is heavy enough that it keeps the heat locked in; a feature important to today's recipe, in particular.  I'm always on the lookout for new recipes to make in Big Red, and this Jambalaya was the perfect test of her strengths.

I was watching an episode of Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network, and had the pleasure of seeing Ina Garten prepare Jambalaya with her friend, Amelia Durand.  Jambalaya is a traditional Creole dish made with meat, vegetables, rice and stock, and is a cousin to Spanish Paella.  There are as many varieties of Jambalaya as there are Louisianans, according to Amelia, and this is her recipe.  The list of ingredients is long, and includes andouille sausage, smoked ham, shrimp, onions, peppers, celery, rice, chicken stock etc...  The recipe worked exactly as written, and I couldn't have been more pleased with the results.

The actual cooking time for this Jambalaya is a little more than an hour, but there is a considerable amount of prep involved.  I estimate I spent another hour chopping the various vegetables, herbs, meats, and organizing my ingredients, before starting to cook.  However, once that was done, the cooking of the dish was very straightforward.  I definitely recommend that you do all prep beforehand, so that you can relax and enjoy the assembly.  This is a great recipe to make on a weekend when you have a little more time on your hands, or you could prep your ingredients one night, and cook the dish the next. 

This Jambalaya will easily serve 6-8 people.  I thought about cutting the recipe in half, but it doesn't lend itself all that well to being split.  At least at my market, you can't buy the andouille sausage, or ham, in quantities of less than a pound.  And I didn't happen to have half of a red and green bell pepper hanging about.  But if you get creative, you could easily make a smaller quantity by skipping the ham, only using one type of pepper, reducing the amount of rice etc...  I'm glad we liked the dish, because I have a ton of leftovers in the freezer.  I'll add a comment after we eat them to let you know how well the dish freezes.

Once you have all your ingredients ready to go, start by browning the sausage.
After about 8-10 minutes, remove the sausage to a bowl and set aside.  Now brown the ham.
After 8-10 minutes the ham will be done, set aside in the bowl with the sausage.  See the bottom of the pot?  That's the fond, the brown bits, the flavor that makes the dish sing.  Next, add the butter, onion, celery and bell peppers to the same pot...
...and saute for another 8-10 minutes, or until onions are getting translucent. 
Now add the tomato, garlic, jalapeno, oregano, thyme, and tomato paste, and cook for several minutes...
...until all vegetables and herbs are well blended.
Add the chicken stock, and bring to a rolling boil.  Stir in the rice, sausage, ham, bay leaves, salt, pepper and hot sauce.  Bring back to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes add 1/4 cup of the scallions, 1/4 cup of the parsley, the lemon juice and shrimp.  Stir well to combine.
Cover pot and remove it from heat.  Let sit undisturbed for 15 minutes so the Jambalaya can steam, and cook the shrimp.  
Just look at that!  That right there, is why Big Red ROCKS!  The shrimp were perfectly cooked.  They were not overdone, or rubbery; something I always fear when cooking shrimp.  The shrimp also were not undercooked; so don't worry about turning off the heat.  The pot retained enough heat to steam the shrimp through, resulting in very tender and tasty shrimp.

Garnish with the remaining scallions, parsley, and a dash or two (or three) of hot sauce.
Oh me, oh my-o!  Son of a gun, that's some good Jambalaya!

JAMBALAYA

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound sausage, such as kielbasa or andouille, sliced
1 pound smoked ham, cubed
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup diced celery
1 green bell pepper, cored and diced
1 red bell pepper, cored and diced
1 cup seeded and diced tomato
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced OR 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons diced fresh oregano
1 teaspoon diced fresh thyme
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
3 cups long-grain rice, rinsed
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 to 8 dashes hot sauce, optional (recommended: Tabasco)
1/2 cup chopped scallions, divided
3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed (20 to 24 count)

Directions

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or black iron pot over medium heat, add the sausage and saute for 8 to 10 minutes, until browned. Remove the sausage to a bowl, and set aside. Add the ham to the same pot and cook 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove to the bowl with the sausage, and set aside. Add the butter, onion, celery and peppers to the same pot and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the tomato, garlic, jalapeno or cayenne, oregano, thyme, and tomato paste and cook until all the vegetables and herbs are blended well. Add the stock and bring to a rolling boil. Stir in the rice, and add the sausage, ham, bay leaves, salt, pepper and hot sauce. Return to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of the scallions, 1/4 cup of the parsley, the lemon juice and the shrimp, and stir well. Cover the pot, remove it from the heat and allow the jambalaya steam, for 15 minutes, before serving.

Garnish with the remaining 1/4 cup scallions and 1/2 cup parsley, and a dash of hot sauce, if desired.







Friday, July 2, 2010

Jalapeno Corn Muffins with Cheesy Centers


I'm going to try something new, and let the pictures speak for themselves.  Recipe at the end of the post.
 

Jalapeno Corn Muffins with Cheesy Centers, by Bonzo Bean

3/4 cup flour
4 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
1 1/4 cups yellow corn meal
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, softened
1, 4 oz can diced jalapeno peppers
12 cubes of cheese; cheddar or pepper jack, approx 1 " in size

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Grease muffin pan with melted butter, using a pastry brush.    In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt.  Add cornmeal to bowl, and whisk until combined.  In another bowl, mix wet ingredients.  First, beat the eggs.  Then add milk, and stir.  Add the softened butter, and whisk until butter is broken into pea-size chunks.  Add wet ingredients to dry, and mix until combined.  Fold jalapeno peppers into the batter according to taste; 2-3 T will make a milder muffin, while the entire can will make a spicy muffin, with a lingering pepper taste.  I used the whole can.  

Spoon about a tablespoon of batter into greased muffin cups.  Add a cube of cheese to each cup, but do not press the cheese down.  You want it to rest on top of the layer of batter.  Spoon the rest of the batter carefully over the cheese cubes, being careful to distribute the batter around the cube of cheese.  Bake for 9-11 minutes.  Let muffins rest in the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool.  Serve muffins while hot, or store in the refrigerator until they're gone (which won't take long).  To reheat, microwave for about 30 seconds, until cheese gets melty and gooey.   

*This is a Bonzo Bean original recipe.  Special credit goes to my husband Al, for lending me the use of his hands for one of the pictures in this post.