I promise I will start posting with photos soon. This is a story that took place earlier this week, before I got overwhelmed by the urge to start YET ANOTHER blog. So. I wasn’t documenting stuff. But trust me…it was beautiful.
This is a story about Mardi Gras. No, Mardi Gras plus the week preceding it. Because that’s how WAP cooking rolls – you plan for a week for one dish and it’s totally worth it until your dreams get crushed by people who are supposed to love you. I was informed that our household would be on budget lock-down a couple of weeks ago, so I went into meal planning overdrive. Which I generally love. It’s very puzzle-esque and I’m pretty flexible about it and make the plans available so people are on the same page. I discovered that if I substituted beef for pork, we could have legitimate Jambalaya on Mardi Gras without any separate grocery trips. What?! Oh man, excitement.
Do ahead steps:
- Cook a whole chicken so that the bones will be accessible at least a few days pre-Jambalaya
- Use the chicken carcass to make broth (a good tutorial for this can be found here – I use my crockpot for the cooking part so I can leave it overnight without worry)
- Draw lots of hearts around the Jambalaya entry on your meal plan and spend lots of time imagining how good it’ll taste
- Thaw 1 pound of ground beef (or pork or whatever you want to make sausage out of) and 1 pound of boneless skinless chicken (I used thighs because they are WAY better and I don’t understand why people even think they prefer white meat – they’re just plain wrong)
- Mardi Gras morning, put 1.5 cups of rice (I used Brown Jasmine) in a pot with 3 cups of warm water and 3 tablespoons of an acidic medium (lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, whey, etc), cover and let sit at room temperature until it’s time to cook, at least 7 hours should be allowed for soaking
- Put thawed chicken pieces in bag with about 1 gallon of water and .5c of kosher or sea salt. Leave in fridge for as long as the rice is soaking.
- Mardi Gras early evening, throw together the spices for the Cajun seasoning, use 2/3 of it with ground meat and roll into bite-sized meatballs
Man. Look at all those steps! All that planning! Wow. SOMEone was pumped about Jambalaya.
Here is the recipe I used for Cajun seasoning. It’s Emeril’s “Essence” recipe and it turned out great. Though I would like to note that I’ve recently become uncomfortably aware of how many New Orleans celebrity chefs there are, and how they are ALL white dudes. All of them. What gives? I really don’t think “exclusively white male” represents the demographic of New Orleans accurately. But that’s probably a post for another day, and possibly another blog.
I used this recipe for the Jambalaya. With some adjustments, obviously. Here’s how it went:
- Avocado oil (or other fat of choice – I try to avoid olive oil for high heat cooking) as needed
- .25lb Bacon Ends and Pieces – nitrate and sugar free
- “Essence” seasoning
- 1lb Ground Beef rolled into meatballs as previously mentioned
- 1lb Boneless Skinless chicken thighs
- 1 Onion, diced
- 1 Green Bell Pepper, diced
- 2 Stalks Celery, diced
- 6 Cloves Garlic, minced
- 1 Large Can Crushed Tomatoes (I know – I really need to start canning my own tomatoes I knowwwwww)
- Red Pepper Flakes to taste
- Sea Salt and Fresh Pepper to taste
- Hot Sauce to taste
- Worcestershire Sauce to taste (optional – the one we had on hand has soy sauce in it, so not ideal, could’ve skipped it or maybe put in some minced anchovies instead)
- 1t File Power (FEE-lay…it’s a thickener apparently)
- 1.5c Rice, previously soaked and drained
- 2.5c Chicken Broth
- Heat a Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Add bacon pieces. If pot is too dry, add some avocado oil.
- Remove bacon with a slotted spoon once crispy, and reserve. (NOTE: I added this step to impart some smoky porky flavor to my non-pork meatballs, but it isn’t necessary)
- Add meatballs to pot and brown, adding oil as needed. While browning, chop up the cooked bacon into teeny tiny pieces. Also rinse and pat dry chicken, and slice into bite sized pieces.
- Remove meatballs and reserve with the bacon crumbs. Add chicken to the pot and brown on all sides.
- Remove chicken from pot. Add the onion, celery, pepper, and garlic and saute for a minute or two.
- Pour in the tomatoes and add seasonings, then put all the meat back in the pot. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- After a couple of minutes, add the rice and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for at least 40 minutes. The rice may still have a little bite at this point, so you might want to do a taste test and leave for another 10 minutes or so.
- Serve, warn all consumers it is SUPER HOT BE CAREFUL GEEZ, receive compliments
If you’re me, step 3.5 is to have an ill-timed drop in blood sugar, causing you to demand an unhealthy drink to get it back up quickly. And step 9 is to just be all of a sudden not hungry and only have a few bites, delicious though they may be.
And then step 10 is your husband packs up all of the leftovers and gives them to his brother. What? Yeah. I don’t know either.
The next day I was being vegetarian and commented that I was SO EXCITED to have a bowl of Jambalaya on Thursday, and ye olde traitorous spouse says, “Oh, but it’s all gone, so you can’t.” HAHAHAHAHAHAHA oh wow. Oh geez. I’m sure it’s mostly the pregnancy hormones coursing through my body at the speed of light, but I went into the bedroom and sobbed for like half an hour. Silently because I knew he felt really, really terrible about it, but hard because whyyyyyyy was all my soup gone?! He offered to go retrieve the leftovers but COME ON I’m obviously not going to take back leftovers that have been given. I had less than half a bowl of it and GONE! Brothers-in-law, for future reference, get ONE serving of leftovers to go. One. Max. Ever.
Unless it’s cake that I need to exit my house, but that’s another post, and now I’m gonna go be misty-eyed about my stew again goodbye.