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Archive for February 15, 2017

TIP OF THE DAY: DIY Jambalaya Bar

For Mardi Gras—February 28—try a new take on food bars (a.k.a. buffets): DIY Jambalaya.

Jambalaya is a delicious, spicy, main course consisting of rice and practically everything else in the refrigerator! It’s a great way to use favorite meats and veggies (shrimp, peas, carrots, bell peppers). You can start from scratch; for a family night, using leftovers is more than acceptable.

Jambalaya is also an economical and easy way to feed a large group—Super Bowl Sunday, Oscar parties, even outdoor fêtes.

But, as a creation of New Orleans, we like it best for Mardi gras.

JAMBALAYA HISTORY

Jambalaya originated in Louisiana. Creole jambalaya, called red jambalaya by the Cajuns to differentiate it from their take—sprang from the French Quarter of New Orleans, the sector originally inhabited by Europeans.

Jambalaya was an adaptation of paella by the Spaniards, most of whom could not afford saffron (an essential paella ingredient) due to high import costs. Tomatoes were substituted to color and flavor the dish.

French Creoles introduced jambalaya to the Cajuns of southern Louisiana, who rarely used tomatoes (it’s swamp country). Instead, they browned the meat for color and smoky flavor and referred to their recipe as brown jambalaya.

The word “jambalaya” is a combination of the Spanish jamón or the French jambon, meaning ham, and another word; however, what word that is can be controversial.

  • You may read that the word is “aya, African for rice.” But there are no rice varietals in Africa with names like “yaya,” “aya,” or “ya.” “Ya” in Mambila (the language of Cameroon and Nigeria), and “y?” or “yala” (among the Grusi and Lyela peoples of Burkina Faso) refer to another grain, sorghum.
  • A better explanation may be the combination of jamón/jambon and paella: It doesn’t take too close a look to notice that jambalaya is an adaptation of paella, using white rice instead of saffron rice. Jam-paella or jamb-paella = jambalaya.
  •  
    While there are different recipes for each dish, both paella and jambalaya incorporate chicken, ham, sausage and seafood.

    Since jambalaya could be made economically in big black cast iron pots for crowds*, it became popular for large events, including church suppers, weddings and political rallies.

    The recipe evolved to seafood-only versions, meat-only versions, and vegetarian/vegan recipes. One of the benefits of a jambalaya bar is that each person can customize the dish as he/she wishes.

    The easiest way to make the rice is to use Zatarain’s Jambalaya Mix. Alternatively, use plain white rice with cajun seasoning from McCormick, or other brands.

    Thanks to Olivia Manning and Zatarain’s for the suggestion!

    RECIPE: JAMBALAYA BAR

    This recipe makes five dinner-size portions. Multiply it for a larger crowd. Don’t worry about leftovers: leftover Jambalaya is delicious (even cold!).

    Ingredients For 5 Servings

    Cooked Proteins (Total 1.5 Cups)

  • Andouille or other smoked sausage, sliced
  • Ham, cubed
  • Chicken, cubed or sliced
  • Shrimp, peeled and deveined shrimp
  • For an all-shellfish jambalaya: scallops, mussels, oysters, shrimp
  •  
    Vegetables

  • Green bell peppers, cubed or sliced, cooked
  • Heat: hot sauce, red chile flakes, sliced jalapeños
  • Onions: sliced cooked onions, raw green onions (scallions)
  • Red bell peppers, cubed or sliced, cooked
  •  
    Rice

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 package Zatrain’s Jambalaya Mix, Original
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MIX the water and rice mix in a large saucepan until well blended. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low; cover and simmer for 25 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed and the rice is tender

    2. REMOVE from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving and place on a platter or individual serving plates. Bring to the table with the add-ins.

       

    Jambalaya

    Jambalaya Bar

    Zatarain's Jambalaya Mix

    Cajun Seasoning

    King Cake

    [1] A pot of Jambalaya, served at the table (here’s the recipe from Gimme Some Oven). [2] Deconstruct the ingredients for a Jambalaya Bar (photo courtesy Olivia Manning | Zatarain’s). [3] Zatarain’s Jambalaya Mix. [4] You can use Cajun seasoning to flavor plain white rice (photo courtesy McCormick). [5] Yes, please! It’s easy to make a King Cake with the mix kit from King Arthur Flour.

    ________________

    *One of the charms of paella is the crispy rice crust that develops at the bottom of the pan, called soccorat. You can’t get soccorat from cooking in a large kettle. Paella is cooked in a wide, shallow pan with a layer of rice on the bottom. At the end of cooking, the heat is turned up to create the crust. Socorrat derives from the Spanish verb socarrar, to singe.

     

    Sazerac Cocktail

    Sazerac de Forge 1811 Cognac

    [6] The Sazerac Cocktail, a New Orleans specialty (photo courtesy Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse). [7] A bottle of the original Sazerac cognac, currently for sale for €12,500 at Old Liquors.

     

    WHAT TO DRINK? A SAZERAC!

    Beer and Jambalaya are natural companions, but you might like to start the event with a round of one of New Orlean’s signature cocktails, the Sazerac.

    Developed in the 1830s, the Sazerac is a New Orleans variation of a cognac or whiskey cocktail, named for the Sazerac de Forge et Fils house of cognac with which it was originally made, plus rye.

    As the story goes, the cocktail was first mixed at Antoine Amédée Peychaud’s apothecary on Royal Street. With his own bitters—still called for in the recipe— Peychaud’s bitters, served friends a cognac cocktail made with his own bitters (you can make your own too—here’s more about bitters). It was then popularized at Sazerac Coffee House, a saloon on Exchange Place in the French Quarter.

    The primary ingredient in the cocktail was switched from cognac to rye in 1870 and an absinthe rinse added, due to changing tastes; the recipe remains so today, but you can go back to the original—or make both recipes to see which you prefer.

    It is one of many descendants of the Old Fashione. The absinthe and Peychaud’s bitters make it unique to New Orleans.

    Bartenders of today use rich simple syrup (2:1 sugar:water ratio instead of 1:1) instead of the sugar cube.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1/4 ounce absinthe (herbsaint)
  • Crushed ice
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 1-1/2 ounce rye or cognac
  • 3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters (you can substitute Angostura—both are made from gentian)
  • Garnish: lemon peel
  •  
    Preparation

    1. RINSE a chilled old-fashioned (rocks) glass with the absinthe, add crushed ice and set it aside.

    2. STIR the remaining ingredients in a shaker over ice and set it aside.

    3. DISCARD the ice and any excess absinthe from the prepared glass, and strain the drink into the glass. Garnish and serve. Optionally, you can serve the drink straight up.

     
    MORE MARDI GRAS RECIPES

    Cocktails

  • Purple, Gold & Green Cocktails—the colors of Mardi Gras
  •  
    Mains

  • Easy Gumbo Recipe
  • Gumbalaya—a cross between gumbo and jambalaya
  • Shrimp & Grits
  •  
    Desserts

  • Beignets
  • King Cake Mix
  •   

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