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.

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