Sunday, February 25, 2007

Food is one of my tools

I was a chef for a few years and worked with some great people who taught me alot. Didn't have formal training but I picked up some skillz. ;>
So my wife comes to me and tells me I'm cooking a dish for her office party at Christmas. I love Cajun, Jamaican, Southern type cooking and, like any good chef, I can't take a recipe and not tweak it to be my own. Show this to a chef and he'll nod his/her head, say yep, and go back to slicing/peeling/sauteing. Chef's have certain common traits. We like to experiment with food. In our arrogance, we love to see how much we can please a crowd with our creations.
Enjoy this recipe. I've had a great success with it.
PS-Uh, psssst, guys. If you think you want her to fall in love with you, make some Chocolate Mousse for dessert. You don't have the recipe ? Ask me for it. Mine kicks ass.

Jambalaya Stew
(or, The “I’m not sure what the hell it is.” Creole)

¼ cup olive oil
2 cups diced Vidalia or sweet onion
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup diced green pepper
3or 4 cloves (depending on size) fresh garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup dry white wine
2 or 3 or 4 cans tomato sauce (see note 1)
2 cans sliced tomatoes (see note 2)
1 quart water (see note 3)
1 large box of Zaltarain’s Red Beans and Rice
1 package smoked sausage (see note 4)
2 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 tablespoon of Tony Chachere’s Original Creole seasoning
1 tablespoon hot sauce

In a stew pot, heat the oil on medium heat then add the onions, parsley, and green pepper. Your intent is to ‘sweat’ the onions, or, sauté them until they are starting to look clear but not brown. Mix together in the pot to get an even cooking. While that is starting crush or chop the garlic fine (I use a garlic press). Add garlic and mix. Add salt and stir. Add other spices and stir. Cover and heat until onions start to clear, as previously stated.
Once the onions are ready, add the wine and mix. While this is heating, it would be a good time to peel and devein your shrimp. Dice the chicken breasts. Slice the sausage into ¼ inch pieces.
Add tomatoes, water and sauce to pot and stir. When it is warm, add box of red beans and rice. Increase heat but not set on high.
Once it is hot, but not boiling, add your meat. Mix it around to get an even distribution of meat in the sauce. Decrease heat to medium or slightly below. Allow to lightly simmer for an hour. If it looks like it’s becoming dry, or too thick, you can add some more water . You want to let it cook for a while to let the flavors combine. It will be even better if after cooking, you put the pot in an ice bath and stir until cooled. Then refrigerate. The next day you heat it up again and it should taste pretty much like what I made for the Christmas party thingy. I didn’t get to taste it then but I had some the night before and it was pretty good if’n I don’t say so myself.

Note 1: The more tomato sauce you add, the more saucy it will be when finished. Keep in mind more sauce will not make it more liquidy (if that’s a word) as the sauce will condense with cooking.

Note 2: I added two but if you like stewed tomatoes, you can add more. Also, crushed tomatoes will work if you like smaller pieces.

Note 3: You can substitute chicken broth for water for a slightly more soup flavor. Or mix half water, half broth. Or don’t. I don’t care. Get off me.

Note 4: I used smoked sausage but if you like it more Cajun spicy, you can use Andouille sausage available in most grocery stores.

Note 0: Nothing in this recipe is set in stone. Except for sweating the onions (which brings out the flavor nicely thank you) there are no fancy cooking techniques. Time is really the main ingredient here. Slow cooking it allows the flavors to blend well. Reheating it the second day does so as well.
I’m sure this recipe is not 100% exactly what I did that night but its darn close. Have fun with it but be careful. It makes alot. The ice bath idea helps cool it quicker and lowers bacteria build up. (Dudes, all food builds bacteria as it cools) Don't know how to do an ice bath ? Ask me.


You know, sometimes my mind drifts back…..

…to all the mistakes I’ve made in the past 40 years. Little demons that lurk in the peripheral, waiting to catch me with my guard down. I think back and wonder what lack of forethought or wisdom caused me to fail. Why did I do that, knowing deep inside it was the wrong thing to do. Hindsight is my personal hell at times.
Just now I was thinking about my Army days. I’ve thought about them often, mostly my ROTC failures. My biggest problem then was I thought I could get by on motivation. It was not until years later that I realized that it wasn’t enough to act like a soldier, I had to be one. I had to be physically fit, mentally alert, and concentrate on my studies. Getting involved with the Kentucky Rangers (at the time it was more of a macho boys club. dont know how it is now), thinking they could teach me what I needed to know was stupid. Greg Washington already taught me what I needed to know, just by his example. I didn’t deserve Active Duty. I wasn’t ready yet. If only there were a way I could have gone back and tried again once I was able to be a leader.
Part of me thinks that it was just a train up. My time in service was just to prepare me for what I do today. Perhaps, but I still sit huddled inside myself, scared to death I’ll make a mistake. Mind you, I need not make the mistake overtly, I need only to do something that command doesn’t like for a reason they have not voiced to us. They live for hindsight. I live with it.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


During the in-season here on Hilton Head I get alot of people, tourists mostly, asking for directions to restaurants, the ocean (You're on an island, ma'am, any direction you go will take you to the ocean...), and very often the hotel they are staying at. Takes about 5 minutes of my time. Necessary function too at night, as there are few lights on 'The Head' and business signs are restricted to ground level. At times, if I don't think they are understanding my directions or the place they are going is in an off the beaten path location, I'll just lead them over there myself.
Alot of the younger kids (I'm 42) and rookies think this is not proper law enforcement duties, or at least a low priority. They mention me having to play tour guide to terrori....oops they mean tourists. Til I check their swing. Make them think about it.
I'll point in the direction the tourists have gone and tell the rookie to think about them. They have just spent a half hour driving in circles lost. Over those thirty minutes they have been stressing because they either have a set time schedule or they are hungry. Maybe they have kids screaming they are hungry. Maybe this is the one restaurant Mom looked forward to eating at during this vacation and this is her one chance to eat there. Before finding me at the convenience store, Mom was probably giving up hope, getting ready to stop at McDonalds because the 7 year old is screaming.
They are happy now. It took five minutes for me to take their worry away and make them happy, and a bit excited now that they know they are on their way to where they want to go. I emphasize it. 'I MADE THEM HAPPY' and it only took me 5 minutes of my life. I tell them that in those five minutes I served the public, made people happy, and I didn't have to hurt anybody. I did not have to defend myself against somebody trying to hurt me. I tell them that in my view, this is the best thing that will happen to me today.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

a wall stands alone....

I live in the South where you can walk around in the woods and find remnants of former lives spread about in the wildest places. The photo I just put up is a brick wall I found on Hilton Head, SC. Out in the middle of nowhere.
Reminds me of when I lived in Kentucky 15 years ago or so. Worked with an archeologist for odd jobs. We'd end up miles from civilization and find a house slowly crumbling from age. I was told that the hill people did such things, just abandoned their spread. On occasion, or so I'm told, you find the former occupants' remains sitting in a chair reading a paper dated 1960. We'd be looking for Indian burial caves and such for coal mining companies (required by law lest they rip apart a graveyard) and come across houses with wells and barns and such. No road leading in, mind you. Spoke with a day hired hand once who told me about being raised in the hills during the 50's. Dad would hitch up the mules and they'd go into town for supplies and to trade furs, much like the western frontier in the 1800's.
We've come a long way since then, but to speak with this guy, you wouldn't think advancement was all it was cracked up to be. The way he put it, families were alot closer then, since the next door neighbor was an hour's hike away. Something to think about, as I hike around in the woods searching for treasures of the mind.

Yesterday was a bit more melodramatic than needed

I get it from my mother, I guess. My mother didn't cut her leg shaving, she cut an artery. No shit, she actually called me to tell me she cut an artery while shaving her leg. Now, as a sane, rational person I'd like to think that it would be impossible, but my mother has had cancer 14 times. You can't kill my mother.
She's the type of person that doesn't call to make small talk or catch up on things. Its always fire/flood/famine. Last year she called to tell me some horrible news. John Doe died suddenly. I know how this must hurt you blahblahblah. I (cutting her off)said, "Ma, who the hell is that ?" Pause on the phone. "He was your Uncle Gregory's (whom I haven't seen in 30 years) wife's (whom I've never met) father (whom I've never even heard of)" But his death must have saddened me.
Mom likes to ask me if I'm happy. You know, with my life and wife and the way the world is. She'd do it every time she called but the last time I got sick of it. Told her if I didn't like something I would change it. Mom doesn't understand. Bad things are to be looked forward to. They add that needed sense of drama to an otherwise boring life dedicated to all about me.
So anyway, that's where I get it from. I try to keep it in check but hey, we are a slave to our genes.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I'm stuck in the world I've created for myself

But aren't we all ? I started this thinking I'd be able to quell some of my inner demons, get some of it out of me, y'know ? I'm not Emo, though I've seen things that hurt me that would make the present generation think I'm a pussy. The difference in generations, there's the topic of about a million blogs. Not going there tonight. So here's where I'll show you some mental pictures, things I keep inside my head. Some I can't get rid of, others I don't want to, still more I probably should. I'll add some visuals, sometimes, to get my point across.
My world is terrifying. Sometimes I wish I could start again.