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Archive for Food Bars, Buffets, DIY

TIP OF THE DAY: DIY Wedge Salad Bar & Different Types Of Lettuce

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, restaurant menus offered hearts of lettuce salad with creamy dressings. The head was cut into quarters and plated with a slice of tomato for color.

Homemakers were fans, too.

  • The iceberg heads were sold fully trimmed, with little waste.
  • It was easy to cut into wedges or slice into shreds.
  • Although some people tore it into pieces, “The Joy Of Cooking” admonished: “Heads of iceberg lettuce are not separated. They are cut into wedge-shaped pieces, or into crosswise slices.”
  •  
    The lettuce’s crunch was very popular, if bland-tasting (solution: lots of dressing!). The heads kept longer in the fridge, so there was no wilted waste.

    Even James Beard was a fan, recommending the crisp texture mixed with other greens.

    Then came the California cuisine movement, introducing us to better varieties to eat. Iceberg was mocked for lacking flavor.

    Instead, foodies filled their shopping carts with romaine plus arugula and radicchio.

    Yet, hardy, crunchy iceberg still accounts for 70% of the lettuces raised in California (down from 80% in the mid-1970s, however). It’s still popular in foodservice (commercial, institutional), at salad bars and casual restaurants.

    And thanks to the retro food movement of the past decade, iceberg has returned to restaurant menus beyond the steakhouse, in the hearts of lettuce salad now known by a trendier name: wedge salad.

    Let the wedge salad add fun and crunch to your meals. If you have a daily dinner salad, feature the wedge once a week. Turn it into a DIY salad buffet for family and guests. An ingredients list is below.

    WEDGE SALAD HISTORY

    The crisphead (iceberg) lettuce variety is relatively new in the history of lettuce cultivation (see the different categories of lettuce, below).

    Crisphead lettuce was a mutation: A grower discovered a different-looking, sweeter-tasting head of lettuce in his field.

    Liking its flavor and superior crispness, he teamed with other growers to breed it to be even better. Thus was born what we today call iceberg lettuce.

    The new variety became a top seller, and remains so. It was called crisphead, its given varietal name, until the 1920s. It subsequently acquired the name iceberg because of its ability to be transported for long distances when packed on ice.

    Before the iceberg named settled in, it was also called cabbage lettuce, for its resemblance to cabbage. In 1894, a Burpee seed catalog exclaimed, “There is no handsomer or more solid Cabbage Lettuce in cultivation.”

    Numerous varieties of crisphead were developed, including varieties with reddish leaves tinged with green and varieties with scalloped edges. While they did not enter the mass market, you can still buy the seeds from specialty sellers.

    Now about the wedge salad:

    Period cookbooks, newspapers and culinary reference books date the popularity of iceberg lettuce salads to the 1920s.

    But the general consensus is that the wedge salad with creamy dressing became a ubiquitous menu entry in the 1950s. [source]

    Who served the first “hearts of lettuce salad,” as it was then called?

    Likely it was a steak house, given the popularity of that type of restaurant in the 1950s and the [still] ubiquitous presence on those menus. But as with so many things, we can only give credit to “an unknown cook.”

       

    Wedge Salad

    Wedge Salad

    Iceberg Lettuce

    [1] A California Wedge Salad with avocado, prosciutto crumbles and ranch dressing (here’s the recipe from Little Broken). [2] A BLT Wedge Salad from Applegate also has avocado and bacon with ranch dressing (here’s the recipe). Note that these are two different recipe names with the same ingredients. [3] The ubiquitous head of iceberg lettuce: Just quarter it for your wedge salad (photo Good Housekeeping).

     

    Boston Lettuce

    Red Leaf Lettuce

    Romaine

    [4] Boston lettuce, a variety of butterhead. [5] Red leaf lettuce, a variety of leaf lettuce. [6] Romaine lettuce (photos courtesy Good Housekeeping).

     

    DIY WEDGE SALAD BAR

    At THE NIBBLE, we’ve added a lot to the simple wedge salad. Call it a DIY, customized or signature wedge salad, it’s a fun munch.

    The Must Haves

  • Iceberg lettuce wedges
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Creamy dressings: blue cheese, thousand island/Russian, ranch
  •  
    Nice Additions

  • Avocado
  • Bacon, any type (the different types of bacon)
  • Cheeses: crumbled blue cheese or feta, shaved parmesan
  • Croutons
  • Veggies: peppadews or pimentos, red onion or scallions
  • Watercress
  •  
    For A Main Dish

  • Hard boiled egg halves (the quarters tend to fall apart)
  • Ham or turkey, julienned or cubed
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    Garnishes

  • Fried Chinese noodles
  • Frizzled onions
  • Fresh herbs (basil, chives, dill, tarragon)
  • Nuts and seeds: candied walnuts, pepitas, spiced pecans, salted peanuts, any toasted nuts
  •  
    THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF LETTUCE

    There four basic types: butterhead, iceberg, leaf, and romaine, along with hundreds of hybrids bred from them.

    Iceberg Lettuce: Also known as crisped lettuce, this is the crispest and hardiest of lettuces varieties. It lasts twice as long in the fridge as long as most other varieties. The downside: It’s not as flavorful or nutritious as other lettuces.

     

    Butterhead Lettuce: Comprising Boston and Bibb Lettuces, these are small, loosely formed heads of soft, supple leaves. Boston is a larger and fluffier head than Bibb; Bibb is the size of a fist, and sweeter than Boston. Both are excellent for lettuce cups. The down side: They’re highly perishable and bruise easily; and are pricier than iceberg and romaine.

    Leaf Lettuce: This category does not form a head; the leaves branch up from a single stalk. The leaves are very tender and are often seen in baby lettuce blends. The burgundy tint of red leaf lettuce and the spicier, nuttier oak leaf lettuce adds charming color to a mixed green salad. The downside: Leaf lettuces are more perishable than head lettuces and wilt easily.

    Romaine Lettuce: Second in crunchiness to iceberg lettuce, romaine is a stalk lettuce like leaf lettuce, with a pleasant bitterness. The crunchy center ribs make the leaves sturdy; and when the outer leaves are trimmed, the smaller ones (sold as hearts of romaine) can be used as “boats” to hold protein salads (egg, chicken, tuna, etc.).

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Customize Your St. Patrick’s Day Bagel

    Green bagels are a novelty on St. Patrick’s Day. But here’s a more elegant way to enjoy your bagel, with green fruits and vegetables.

    The concept can be applied to any holiday or occasion with theme colors (see the lists below), and can be part of a bagel buffet for brunch. Bonus: It’s a way to add an extra helping of produce to your daily intake.

    On top of the cream cheese, arrange fruits and/or vegetables in your color theme, as demonstrated by Arla Foods, maker of the cream cheese spreads used on the bagel (photo #1 and photo #6 at the bottom).

    Fruit on bagels beyond a raisin bagel? See photo #5, below—and try it on English muffins, too.

    Pick some fruits and/or vegetables from your color list, and get started. The green group has the most options.

    (Note: Specialty colors, such as yellow watermelon or purple bell peppers, aren’t typically found at supermarkets. Head to a specialty produce store or a farmers market.)

    GREEN FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli (including rabe and rapini)
  • Capers
  • Cucumber
  • Edamame
  • Green apples, figs, grapes, plums
  • Green beans
  • Green bell pepper
  • Green olives
  • Green onion (scallion) tops
  • Green peas
  • Herbs (basil, dill, parsley, etc.)
  • Jalapeño
  • Kiwi
  • Lettuces (everything from arugula to watercress)
  • Pickles/gherkins
  • Sprouts
  • Sugar snap peas, snow peas
  • Zucchini
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    ORANGE FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Chiles (aji amarillo, habanero, Thai yellow chile)
  • Dried apricots
  • Kumquats
  • Mango
  • Orange bell pepper
  • Orange cherry or heirloom tomatoes
  • Orange or mandarin segments
  • Orange watermelon
  • Papaya
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    PURPLE/BLUE FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Berries: blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries
  • Dried blueberries
  • Eggplant (grilled)
  • Purple figs, grapes, plums
  • Purple olives
  • Red cabbage
  • Specialty varieties: purple bell peppers, carrots, cauliflower, corn, potatoes, string beans
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    RED FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Dried cherries or cranberries
  • Jalapeño or other red chile
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Radicchio or red endive
  • Raspberries or strawberries
  • Red apples, grapes, plums
  • Red bell pepper
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Red grapes
  • Red onion
  • Red tomatoes
  • Watermelon
  •  
    YELLOW FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Apples (golden delicious and others)
  • Chiles (aji, banana, golden cayenne, lemon, Hungarian yellow wax, pepperoncini, etc.)
  • Corn
  • Pineapple
  • Yellow bell pepper
  • Yellow tomatoes
  • Yellow watermelon
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    Green Bagel Toppings

    Green Bagels

    Green Bagels

    Shamrock Bagels

    Bagel With Fruit Topping

    [1] and [6] The alternative solution from Arla Foods. [2] Conventional green bagels from Einstein Bros Bagels. [3] Fancy (and $6 each!) at the Wynn Las Vegas. [4] The creativity award goes to the shamrock bagels at Sunrise Bagels and Cafe in Wyckoff, New Jersey. [5] Fruit-topped bagel from Number 2 Pencil.

     
    Green Bagel Toppings

    [6] Bagels with a buffet of green fruits and vegetables (photo courtesy Arla Foods).
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 10+ Ways To Flavor Meatballs

    Spaghetti Stuffed Meatball

    Lamb Meatballs

    Asian Meatballs

    Vietnamese Pho With Meatballs

    Shanghai Lion's Head Meatballs

    Carrot Soup With Turkey Meatballs

    [1] Spaghetti-stuffed meatballs. Here’s the recipe from Thrillist (photo by Drew Swantak). [2] Lamb and feta meatballs; here’s the recipe from Smitten Kitchen. [4] Vietnamese who with meatballs. Here’s the recipe from Cooking And Beer. [5] Shanghai Lion’s Head; here’s the recipe from Serious Eats. [6] Floating meatballs made from turkey, in carrot soup with spinach. Here’s the recipe from Parade.

     

    MEATBALL TRENDS

    What’s trending as of March 9th, National Meatball Day?

    Flavor & The Menu, a magazine and website for chefs, took a look at what’s happening with meatballs.

    Meatballs have been popping up on menus nationwide—beyond Italian restaurants, sub shops and the emerging meatball restaurants.

    The ideas below may be new to some of us, but most of the recipes go back for centuries, if not longer.

    Meatballs are being made with almost any ground or chopped meat, seafood, poultry, and vegetarian/vegan versions made with beans, grains and veggies.

    Not only are meatballs a comfort food; they’re a canvas for endless versatility in formats, sauces, seasonings, sizes and garnishes.

    Ten flavor trends were spotted by by Joan Lang, who wrote the article.

    How About A Meatball Party??

    The tempting variety of meatballs inspired us to plan a DIY Meatball Party, with a buffet of fixings from breads (pita, Italian rolls) to bases (pasta, cellophane noodles, rice or other grains), to condiments (grated or crumbled cheese) and raw vegetables (cucumber, lettuce, onion, tomato) and fresh herbs.

    For a variety of choices, you can make meatball recipes as time permits, and freeze them until you have what you want for the party. If your guests typically ask what they can bring (and are good cooks), give them recipes to prepare.

    TREND ONE THROUGH TREND FIVE

    Today we present the first five meatball trends. The others arrive tomorrow.

    Whatever types of meatballs appeal to you, you’ll find score of recipes online.

    1. STUFFED MEATBALLS

    Stuffed meatballs require only the simple addition of a tasty filling inside a handful of ground meat. Don’t tell anyone, and let them be surprised when they dig in.

    Different types of cheeses are the traditional stuffings—everything from mild mozzarella and ricotta to tangy blue and feta.

    But we’ve also found meatballs stuffed with spaghetti (photo #1) and with mac and cheese. More examples:

  • Polpetta Napoletana: A meatball stuffed with ham, peas and mozzarella in tomato sauce, at Bella Tuscany in Windemere, Florida.
  • Spaghetaboudit Meatball: A classic meatball stuffed with three cheeses and fusilli pasta, topped with marinara and shaved Parmesan. It’s also garnished with ricotta, at The Meatball Room in Boca Raton, Florida.
  • Brisket Meatballs: An interesting concept, stuffed with blue cheese and accented with a balsamic glaze, at Clark Food & Wine Co. in Dallas.
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    2. LAMB MEATBALLS

    Inspired by Greek recipes, lamb meatballs—keftedes—will make lamb lovers happy. We purchase ground lamb and mix it with crumbled feta and herbs (photo #2). Or, you could stuff them with feta, for the surprise.

    Mixed with mix with bulgur wheat, it becomes Lebanese-style kibbeh. Add a yogurt sauce.

    Use plenty of Mediterranean spices—basil, cilantro, dill, rosemary, oregano, sage, thyme. Check out the spices: cinnamon, coriander, cumin, nutmeg and za’atar. You can:

  • Shape the meat mixture into small balls like falafel, serve it in pita with yogurt sauce, tahini and hummus and raw veggies: cucumber, red onion, shredded lettuce and/or tomato.
  • Serve them over pasta or grains, with yogurt sauce flavored with dill, lemon or mint.
  • Serve on skewers with a plate of sautéed or roasted vegetables.
  • Make them slightly larger than cherry tomatoes, and serve in a bowl with the tomatoes and an herb garnish as a cocktail snack (with picks), plain with a squeeze of lemon juice or with a yogurt-garlic-dill dipping sauce (recipe).
  • Serve with fresh mint chimichurri and yogurt sauce, as at Mud Hen Tavern in Los Angeles.
  • Make soutzoukakia, grilled lamb meatballs with spiced tomato sauce and Greek yogurt, as at Kokkari, San Francisco.
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    3. ASIAN MEATBALLS

    The meatballs of Asia are typically made from pork or seafood, and to a smaller extent chicken. Consider:

  • Vietnamese/Laotian pho noodle soup with meatballs (photo #4). You can add them to Asian soup or ramen bowls, too.
  • Shanghai Lion’s Head, a dish of large pork meatballs stewed or steamed with cabbage. Here’s a recipe from Serious Eats.
  • Shrimp balls: fried balls of chopped shrimp, drizzled with katsu sauce and/or Kewpie mayonnaise.
  • Tako yaki, deep fried octopus balls.
  • Tsukune, a Japanese chicken meatball most often cooked yakitori style, and sometimes covered in a sweet soy sauce or yakitori tare, which is often mistaken for teriyaki sauce but is its own recipe.
  •  
    We like this Asian Meatballs recipe from Life Makes Simple Bakes. Its served with a hoisin-based sauce, and traditional Asian flavors (photo #3).
     
    Chefs are making:

  • Meatball Spring Rolls: steamed rice paper wrapped around pork meatballs, pickled carrots and vermicelli, served with peanut sauce, at Pho Bistro in Malden, Massachusetts.
  • Tsukune: chicken meatballs with a choice of flavorings, including teriyaki, spicy miso, yuzu, daikon, goma (sesasme), kimchi, curry and cheese fondue—at Tsukuneya Robata Grill in Honolulu.
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    4. FLOATING MEATBALLS

    These are meatballs in soups and stews that incorporate meatballs as the protein, either braised or cooked right in the liquid. Consider:

  • Mexican sopa de albondigas, Bavarian meatball soup, Italian meatball stew or many others from world cuisine.
  • Chickpea Stew with Meatballs and Shrimp, including with garlic, spinach and seasoned basmati rice, at Pasha Cafe, Arlington, Virginia.
  • Steamed Pork Meatball Soup with crispy garlic, bok choy shoots and black soy sauce, at Kin Shop in New York City.
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    5. VEGETARIAN & VEGAN MEATBALLS

    Talk about Meatless Mondays! Of course, they should be called meat-alternative or meat-like balls; but convention calls them meatballs.

    There are many recipes on line, but we like the ones that use vegetables and grains rather than meat alternatives. Try:

  • Mushroom “meat” balls, made with cultivated white mushrooms or more exotic porcini: umami and heft without the meat.
  • Ground cooked potato meatballs with carrots and pea.
  • White beans meatballs with sautéed minced onions and garlic, seasoned and rolled in breadcrumbs.
  • Sauer-Tot Balls: potato and sauerkraut veggie balls served with lettuce and Dijon sauce on a hoagie, at the Barone Meatball Company, a food truck in Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina.
  • Quinoa “meat” balls and spaghetti squash, served with marinara and basil pesto, at Vine Brook Tavern in Lexington, Massachusetts.
  •  
    Stay tuned for Part 2.

    MORE MEATBALLS

  • Chicken Teriyaki Meatballs
  • Eyeball Meatball Sandwich (for kids)
  • Giant Meatball
  • Gourmet Meatball Sub
  • Inside-Out Spaghetti & Meatballs
  • Korean Spaghetti & Meatballs
  • Spaghetti & Meatball Sundae
  • Swedish Meatballs
  • Veal Meatballs With Vodka
  •  
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Congee, China’s Favorite Breakfast

    Many Asians start their day with a warm bowl of congee.

    If you’re a fan of Cream Of Rice or Cream of Wheat porridges, you’re a lock to enjoy the rice-based Chinese version.

    This traditional Chinese dish has evolved from gruel to porridge* to a porridge mixed with bits of protein (chicken, pork, shrimp) and vegetables (green onion, peas) to a spread of “DIY congee,” where the table is laden with dishes of condiments to tailor the dish to one’s taste.

    Congee can be as simple as a plain bowl of porridge, or as complex as the condiments and toppings allow. More luxurious versions cook the grain in chicken broth rather than water.

    It is easy to digest and very simple to cook.

    Plan to make it for breakfast or brunch, lunch or late dinner; serve as a DIY spread for a special meal (see the garnish options below); and reheat any leftovers on subsequent days.

    THE HISTORY OF CONGEE

    Congee (CON-gee with a soft “g”) is an ancient dish, made in China for thousands of years from uncooked rice and boiling water.

    The Book of Zhou (published 636 C.E.) says that the mythical Emperor Huang Di (2698–2598 B.C.E., mythical dates) was first to cook congee made from millet—or, we guess, his cooks did it, since we can’t imagine an emperor standing over a stove. This is considered the earliest reference to congee. [source]

    Tobie Meyer-Fong, associate professor at Johns Hopkins University who researches late imperial China and Chinese cuisine, has found references that date congee to the Han dynasty, circa 206 B.C.E. to 220 C.E. Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, author of Chinese cookbooks, maintains that congee dates to approximately 1,000 B.C.E., during the Zhou dynasty. [source]

    Today it is eaten throughout Asia (known by different names), in Burma, China, Korea, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Thailand, Tibetan, Vietnam and elsewhere.

    The name in Chinese, which means the watery one, derives from the Tamil language of India, where kanji refers to the water in which rice has been boiled.

    It can be part of a meal, but is most often served as the main dish of the meal (and often, the only dish).

    Congee can be made in a pot or in a rice cooker. Some rice cookers even have a congee setting, for households who want to cook the rice overnight.

    RECIPE: SIMPLE CONGEE

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 5-½ cups water
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup uncooked jasmine or long grain rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1-inch piece peeled fresh ginger, cut into 4 slices
  • 3 cups diced or shredded cooked chicken (e.g., from a purchased rotisserie)
  • Optional garnishes: chopped green onions, chopped fresh cilantro leaves, julienne-cut peeled fresh ginger, soy sauce
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the water, broth, rice, salt and ginger in a large pot set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Continue boiling, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    2. REDUCE the heat to medium low, cover and cook for 40 minutes longer, until the porridge has a creamy consistency, stirring occasionally.

    3. REMOVE from heat the and keep warm. Discard the ginger pieces. Stir the chicken into the soup. Serve garnished with the green onions, cilantro, julienne-cut ginger and soy sauce, or let people garnish their own.

    You can serve congee family-style, from a casserole-type dish, or bring individual bowls to the table.
     
    CONGEE GARNISHES: CREATE YOUR OWN CONGEE MASTERPIECE

    For a party, offer as many as you like. At home, serve half a dozen options (including the soy sauce); but keep rotating them each time you serve congee, so it’s never the same dish.

    Traditional

  • Black sesame seeds
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Chili oil, sesame oil
  • Dried shrimp, cuttlefish, fish, scallops
  • Fried garlic
  • Julienned or shredded ginger root
  • Preserved eggs, quail eggs
  • Sautéed bok choy or other greens (Chinese broccoli, napa cabbage)
  • Sliced scallions
  • Soy sauce
  • Sriracha or other hot sauce
  • Youtiao (Chinese crullers)
  •  
    Non-Traditional Garnishes

  • Asian chilli sauce
  • Bean sprouts or other sprouts
  • Black pepper
  • Caramelized onions
  • Chinese sausage or chicken sausage
  • Chopped prunes or dates
  • Cooked shrimp, cuttlefish/squid, fish, scallops
  • Cracklings
  • Crispy shallots
  • Green peas, snow peas, sugar snap peas, edamame
  • Grilled or fried shishito peppers, fresh sliced jalapeño
  • Kimchi, Japanese pickled vegetables, sliced radishes
  • Parsley, shredded basil or shiso
  • Peanuts or cashews, raw or salted
  • Sautéed greens (chard, collards, mustard, spinach)
  • Seasonal: asparagus, corn, fiddlehead ferns, ramps, scapes
  •  

    Simple Congee

    Congee With Pork & Scallions

    Ginger Chicken Congee

    Seafood Congee

    Congee With Boiled Egg

    [1] Simple congee looks just like Cream Of Rice, except it’s served savory, not with milk and sugar! Here’s the recipe from The Spruce. [2] Congee With Pork & Scallions (here’s the recipe from The Woks Of Life. [3] This Ginger Chicken Congee is made with brown rice. Here’s the recipe from Honest Cooking. [4] Seafood Congee. Here’s the recipe from Omnivore’s Cookbook. [5] A soft-boiled egg, crispy shallots and cilantro top this congee. Here’s the recipe from Sprinkles And Sprouts.

  • Proteins, diced or shredded: chicken, lamb, ham, pork, pork belly/lardons, rare sliced beef, tofu
  • Sautéed mushrooms
  • Soft-boiled egg
  •  
    Plus

  • Try it with other grains, such as brown rice, Cream Of Wheat, grits or cracked grains (bulgur, couscous, polenta. Or, do as Emperor Huang Di, and try millet.
  • Be creative and enjoy!
  • ________________

    *Gruel is a cereal—based food—typically made from oats, rice, rye or wheat—boiled in milk or water. It is a thinner version of porridge. Some gruels are so thin that they are drunk rather than eaten. It is a food that is eaten every day, easy to digest, and thus also used during an illness. It is usually the first non-milk food given to infants, a food for the elderly and those with dental or stomach problems, and above all, comfort food. Some people call congee a soup.

      

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    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
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    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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