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Louisiana Bayou Saturday, January 12, 2008

Posted by Grace in from the kitchen.
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The kitchen has always been somewhat the heart of the home I grew up in. It is a place where advice is given, relationships are discussed, stories are told, food is prepared and, in my case, a lot of singing and dancing goes on.

I play music when I cook. I have since I started cooking when I was still rather small. And, as things tend to go with music and myself, a good deal of silly dancing about and singing along soon follows.

A few evenings ago, after getting back from classes (yes, classes have started up again), I decided to whip up a nice hot pot of my Jambalaya. So I turned on my Creative Zen, put on my headphones, and got to the chopping, browning, stirring, singing and dancing.

After I got it simmering away and I was giving it a last good stir before covering, one of my ear buds decided to escape. I guess I have small ears? The buds just never sit right, and then proceed to fall out at inopportune times. With quick reflexes, I saved it, but it still got a little wet. They don’t work anymore. Anyone know of any good ear buds that are small-er?

Anyways, the recipe.

Jambalaya

12 oz chorizo sausage, sliced

4 chicken thighs, skin removed and cubed

1 medium onion, chopped

3-4 stalks celery

1 green pepper

1 tsp thyme

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp basil

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

2 bay leaves

salt and pepper to taste

1 28 0z can diced tomato

1 cup chicken stock

1 cup water

2 cloves of garlic, very fine chop or through a press

1 1/2 cups parboiled long grain rice

12 large raw shrimp, thawed, peeled and deveined

In a large Dutch oven, slowly bring up heat and add sliced sausage. As fat renders, increase heat to medium-high, and brown. Transfer into a bowl, leaving behind fat. Add the cubed chicken (I prefer a fine cube, it cooks faster and is more bite size, but its really up to you), and brown well. Place chicken in the bowl with the cooked sausage.

Drain the Dutch oven of the majority of fat and decrease heat a little so that when you add the vegetables (onion, celery, and green pepper) to saute and caramelize, they do not stick to the brown bits on the bottom of the pan and burn. Mix regularly, because that is what they’re going to want to do. While waiting for the veggies to brown, I like to run the thyme, oregano, paprika, cumin, basil, salt, pepper and cayenne over with the mortar and pestle to increase their aromaticity. When the onion starts to turn golden, the vegetables are done so it is time to add the crushed seasonings, bay leaves, sausage and chicken.

Give it all a mix until you can catch the aromas of the herbs. Add the can of diced tomatoes, liquid included, the chicken stock, and the water, and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom. Bring to a boil, and then decrease heat so the oven holds a low, even simmer.

Normally, the garlic is added with the onion, celery, and green pepper, but I find I get the acrid overcooked garlic flavor in the jambalaya if I add it then. I add it here, after the liquids are put into the Dutch oven, so that it heats through and the flavor comes out, but you don’t get the acridity.

Add the parboiled rice, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes until rice becomes tender. If you happen to have leftover rice in your fridge, I find its okay to just add that in, making sure it isn’t in big clumps, but then you just want to simmer until it can heat through.

Stir in the shrimp, and cook, stirring, until they become pink. It should around 5 minutes, but probably a little less. You don’t want to cook them much longer than that, or else they get overcooked and rubbery.

This recipe will generally last two suppers in our house, but if you aren’t a fan of leftovers (I like it better the second day), you can half the recipe, or if you have got a crowd coming, it is easily doubled.

Song of the Day: Louisiana Bayou – Dave Matthews Band

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