Shrimp and Sausage Jambalaya

Close-ups of jambalaya are maybe not quite as appetizing as its taste. Delicious, I swear!

Close-ups of jambalaya are maybe not quite as appetizing as its taste. Delicious, I swear!

 

From the same cookbook as the last post, Jambalaya: The Official Cookbook of the Junior League of New Orleans (1981). Spicy, delicious, and easier than you might have imagined, this is the real thing! There are ten jambalaya recipes in this cookbook. Here is the one we made tonight:

1 lb smoked sausage, thinly sliced
3 tbsp olive oil
2/3 c chopped green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 c chopped fresh parsley
1 c chopped celery
2 16-oz cans tomatoes
2 c chicken broth
1 c chopped green onion
1 1/2 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tsp oregano
1 tbsp Creole seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 c long grain converted rice, washed
3 lbs raw shrimp, peeled

Preheat you oven to 350 degrees. In a 4 quart heavy pot, sauté sausage; remove with a slotted spoon. Add oil to the drippings and sauté green peppers, garlic, parsley, and celery for five minutes. Chop tomatoes and reserve liquid. Add tomatoes with liquid, broth, and green onions. Stir in spices. Add rice which has been washed and rinsed three times. Add sausage and cook for 30 minutes, covered, over low heat, stirring occasionally. After most liquid has been absorbed by rice, add shrimp and cook until pink. Transfer mixture to a casserole dish and bake for approximately 25 minutes. Serves 10.

Notes: I halved this recipe and it came out just fine. I do feel that this dish needs vegetables. I think a cup of okra would be perfect. Okra tends to thicken things a little bit, so I’m guessing a little extra chicken broth might be needed. Also, serve this with a dollop of sour cream. It cuts the spiciness and heavy texture nicely.

Shrimp Fettucine

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From a fantastic vintage cookbook I grew up with, Jambalaya: The Official Cookbook of the Junior League of New Orleans (1981). When you can find it used, it is well worth the couple of dollars. It occasionally pops up on that Amazon page or eBay. The recipes are all classics, plus many Creole and Cajun dishes you’ve never heard of.  Even without pictures, they’ll make you drool just reading the dish names.

This was an easy 20 minute dinner and a fairly plain and simple one for the cookbook, but last night I happened to have everything on the list at home, even the shrimp. I omitted the mushrooms because I’m the only one in my house that loves them. If I had added them I think shiitakes would have been ideal, as their flavor and shape holds up well in cooking and they produce very little liquid. Lastly, I think a sprinkle of dry white wine or vermouth would make this more dynamic. I served it with a wedge of lemon and tossed some deep fried shallots on there – blammo. Perfection.

You’ll have to unbutton your jeans when you’re done eating.

5 green onions, chopped
2 c sliced mushrooms (I omitted this)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 stick of butter (American sticks are 8 tbsp – 1/2 c)
2 tbsp oil (I omitted this)
1 lb peeled, deveined, raw shrimp (I only had 1/2 lb)
2 tsp salt
8 oz fettucine (I used closer to 10 oz)
3/4 c grated Romano cheese
3/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
1 c heavy cream
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley

In a large skillet, saute green onions, mushrooms, and garlic in 1/2 a stick of butter and oil. Add shrimp and saute until pink. Pour off excess liquid. Season with salt (I also added pepper). Cover and keep warm.

Cook noodles in salted, boiling water. Drain. In a saucepan, melt remaining 1/2 stick of butter. Add noodles, cheeses, and cream. Mix well and combine with shrimp mixture. Sprinkle with parsley and toss. Serve immediately.

*Note: They aren’t kidding about serving immediately. It pales in texture every moment that goes by.

Pasta With Herbs and Greens

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From Donna Hay’s Instant Cook. This is the easiest way to get Nevan to eat a lot of vegetables (although admittedly I may have gone a little crazy with the parmesan there). He had three helpings last night.

14 oz orecchiette or rigatoni pasta
1 tbsp butter (I use 2 tbsp)
3/4 cup chicken stock
7 oz broccoli, cut into small florets
3.5 oz green beans, quartered
3/4 cup green peas
2.5 oz baby spinach leaves
sea salt and cracked black pepper
1/4 cup mint, shredded
1/4 cup basil, shredded
parmesan

– I also add crumbled spicy turkey sausage and either smoked paprika or a little cayenne powder, and sometimes garlic. White pepper would be good too. This recipe is a great base but needs a little oomph.

Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain. While pasta is cooking, heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add stock and butter and bring to a simmer. Add broccoli, beans, and peas,and cover and cook for 2-3 minutes until tender. Stir in the spinach, salt, pepper, and cooked pasta. Sprinkle with basil, mint, and parmesan. Serves 4 (I think serves 6).

Banana Apple Dumpling Bread

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Sometimes a simple experiment ends up being a huge success. My little experiment from years ago ended up becoming a favorite in our house, among family and friends, and even the old grandma who used to be my neighbor, who would regularly ask me to make it for her.

I took a really good banana bread recipe (which I found in my America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook) and using their suggested Orange Spice variation I added large chunks of apple to it. I experimented with grating the apple (too wet) and large slices pressed into the loaf (looked beautiful, but the dough against the slices would not bake). In the end, large chunks won.

2 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted then cooled
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 c plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp orange zest
1 1/4 c walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
3/4 of an apple that is good for baking, such as Jazz, Pink Lady, or Granny Smith, diced into 1-1.25″ pieces, skin intact

Adjust oven rack to the lower middle position and heat to 350 degrees. Butter a 9X5″ loaf pan. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk the bananas, eggs, yogurt, butter, orange zest, and vanilla in a separate bowl. Gently fold banana mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula and until just combined. Fold in apples and nuts.

Scrape batter into the loaf pan. Press any apple pieces into the batter if they are at the top. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few crumbs attached, approximately 55 minutes.

Let the loaf cool for 10 minutes, then unmold and allow to cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Serve warm, with a little powdered sugar sprinkled over it.

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Almond-Chocolate Cookies

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Before.

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After.

Some time ago, I worked with a woman who would sometimes make these and bring them in for the team. I believe she got the recipe from Crisco by the name “Chocolate Filled Bon Bons”, but I haven’t been able to find it on their site to link to. I am not a fan of Crisco and generally only use it for this recipe, as they are so good I am willing to forgive it. It’s that yummy.

As usual, I alter the recipe a bit, but only a bit… the last bit of rolling it through sugar and almonds. This time around I decided to try out less flour to get it crispier, which worked and came out beautifully; however, the cookies are definitely more fragile. Normally they maintain their ball shape. While this makes for a softer cookie (or bon bon), it does allow the recipient to enjoy the cookie and Hershey Kiss all in one bite.

I made these as a thank you gift to Dave’s office for the beautiful baby gifts they gave us.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup shortening (I prefer to use plain, but you can also use butter flavored)
1/2 cup white sugar, plus about 1/3 cup more for rolling
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (if you prefer, just use more vanilla)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sliced almonds
24 milk chocolate Hershey Kisses, unwrapped (note: the original recipe calls for 48, but I have never been able to squeeze nearly that many out of the amount of dough made from quantities above. Always 24)

Preheat oven to 350F. Using a mixer, cream shortening and sugars until fluffy. Add egg and extracts and beat well. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and mix well. On a plate, combine the extra 1/3 cup of white sugar with the sliced almonds and mix. I usually crumble up half of the almonds.

Form into 1 inch balls. Press a Hershey Kiss into the ball so that the Kiss is completely enrobed. Roll each ball through the sugar/almond mixture. Bake for 12-13 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet. It is worth mentioning that when baking with Crisco, they often look undercooked when they are in fact done as it should not brown, so be careful not to over bake. Cool on a wire rack. They will need to cool for 5-10 minutes before firming up.

Makes approximately two dozen delicious cookies.

Gai Yang (Thai BBQed Chicken)

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This is a simple recipe from my go-to Thai cookbook, Thailand: The Beautiful Cookbook. Although traditional gai yang is barbecued (and there are gai yang variations in the book whose directions only give barbecuing instructions), this one is baked then broiled. Juicy, fragrant, delicious, simple. Nevan’s favorite!

Quick notes: I usually double the marinade while keeping the salt at 1 tsp, up the cilantro/ginger/garlic, and add some dried sliced red Asian chillies. Doubling the marinade also gives you extra sauce to put on the rice! Also, while the recipe calls for a whole chicken, I just buy the same weight in wings because everyone in the house seems to prefer it that way (plus, American chickens rarely come in such a low weight).

1 whole chicken, about 3 lbs, cut in half

Marinade:

1 tsp salt
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp white pepper
1 tbsp minced cilantro leaves and root (you may have to skip the root, as Americans rarely sell cilantro with it intact)
2 tbsp rice wine (or cognac or whiskey)
2 tbsp coconut milk
1 tbsp nam pla (fish sauce)
1 tsp chopped fresh ginger
2 tbsp soy sauce

Rub the entire chicken with the combined marinade ingredients. Allow to marinate for 15 minutes minimum. When I do wings, I put the wings and marinade in a casserole dish, coating the chicken well, and put them in the fridge until I’m ready for baking.

Bake at 350F for 45 minutes (I turn the wings over halfway through cooking) and then broil or grill for 10 minutes or until done and nicely browned.

Cut into serving sized pieces and serve with chili sauce. I like to serve this with steamed rice and stir-fried vegetables on the side.

For the vegetables, I threw together some leftover bell pepper, broccoli, carrots, onion, garlic, and basil with a little sesame oil and soy sauce… nothin’ fancy.

Banana Nut Muffins with Chocolate Chips

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I prefer not to use baking recipes that use oil, but this recipe is an exception (and so says everyone who has had this particular recipe!). This cookbook, The Muffin Lady: Muffins, Cupcakes, and Quickbreads for the Happy Soul, is a breakfast baking staple in our household and I highly recommend it. Makes for a great gift for anyone you know who loves baking!

2-3 ripe bananas
1 cup oil
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp mace
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped nuts
chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the bananas in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until pureed or mashed. Add the oil and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time. Sift the remaining dry ingredients and gradually add. Add the vanilla. Fold in the nuts. Bake in a parchment paper-lined 12 unit muffin pan for 30-34 minutes

Optional: Sprinkle a few chocolate chips on top of each muffin before baking.

Pepper Lunch Nom Noms

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When living in Asia, I LOVE eating at Pepper Lunch, a Japanese chain restaurant whose most popular dish is a hot skillet plate with a mound of rice and corn in the middle and very thinly cut shabu-shabu beef sizzling around it, topped with lots of pepper and a runny egg if desired (click here for a picture). While we are lucky enough to have one here in the South Bay, it’s just barely far enough away that I don’t feel like driving there (plus it’s kinda divey here… no idea why, it’s not like that overseas). Thankfully, my area is chock full of Japanese markets where finding shabu-shabu is a snap, so I make my own version. It’s very quick and way more flavorful than my above description. As testament to that, know that when I make Pepper Lunch for dinner, there is no talking at the dinner table. Just the sound of Nevan going “MMMMMmmm” after every bite.

After some researching other homemade versions of the famous Pepper Lunch skillet plate, I tossed together my own recipe. Many Pepper Lunch lovers are sticklers for the sauces they make there, but personally I just prefer it with soy sauce. If you’re interested in reproducing their famous sauces, this page looks promising.

My home variation obviously takes into account my preferences. Per person, you will need:

1/2 cup cooked white Japanese rice
A pat of butter
soy sauce
Several tbsp of chopped green onions
A good amount of chopped cilantro (not in original recipe)
Approximately 1/4 cup frozen corn or boiled and cut off the cob
1 clove of garlic, sliced or chopped (not in original recipe)
1 egg
Oil
However much shabu-shabu sliced kobe/wagyu/angus beef you’d like
Lots of salt and pepper
Some Thai roasted chili paste (or whatever favorite chili sauce you have)

Cook the rice. Make a little mound and put your pat of butter on top to melt. In a hot pan, heat up a little oil and throw your corn and garlic in until hot and cooked through. Place on top of the rice. Fry your egg and place on top of the corn. Season your beef with plenty of salt and pepper and quickly cook through, being careful not to overcook. Place that on or around your rice/corn (I usually throw it all on a cutting board and roughly chop it up just to make it easier to eat). Top with green onions and cilantro and lots more ground pepper, and splash a little soy sauce on there if desired. Put a spoonful of chili paste on the side and chow the hell down.

Blackberry and Apple Pie

Welcome to the ugliest pie I’ve ever, ever made. I am the kind of person who likes to cut out little flowers and leaves for decorating and painstakingly crimp the edges of my pies. It’s so hideous I contemplated NOT posting a photo of it. Have I ever made a pie that looked like this? The answer would be no. Not even when I took Home Ec in HS. Please read my notes before attempting this pie crust (which by the way was delicious and worth it).

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From Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess. Almost every single time I attempt a recipe out of this, even with being a seasoned baker, I have some sort of issue.

For the pastry:
4 tbsp cold unsalted butter, diced
4 tbsp vegetable shortening, teaspooned out
1 1/3 cups self-rising cake flour
scant 1/4 cup fine cornmeal
2-4 tbsp salted ice water or enough to bind
squeeze of lemon juice as needed

For the filling:
About 1 1/2 lbs Golden Delicious Apples or other cooking apples
1/4 cup unsalted butter
7 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp rosewater (my note: slightly less than 1 tbsp vanilla can be substituted if absolutely necessary)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 scant tbsp cornstarch (I needed like 6 tbsp – perhaps my apples were just very juicy)
12 oz blackberries

For the glaze:
1-2 tbsp milk
1-2 tbsp sugar

You will also need an 8 inch shallow pie plate. See notes regarding this.

Put flour and cornmeal in a bowl, add the cold, diced butter and shortening, and stir gently to coat. Put in the freezer for about 10 minutes. As you do so, put your water in a cup with a pinch of salt and transfer to the fridge. Either in a processor or free-standing mixer with a flat paddle attachment, blend your fats and flour until you have a mixture that resembles sandy porridge. Then, gradually process or paddle in the liquid until the pastry is almost coming together (my note: if it comes together too much, it will be too sticky. Add a little flour). Use your hands to form two discs, one slightly larger than the other, then wrap in plastic and let it rest in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before rolling.

Preheat your oven to 375F, Remembering to put a baking sheet in at the same time. Peel, core, and slice apples. In a saucepan, melt the butter and add the sugar, rosewater, and cinnamon, then cook the apples in the pan for about 3 minutes remove them to a dish with a spatula or tongs. Pour the caramelly juices into a cup and whisk in the cornstarch to form a paste (note: it doesn’t quite form a “paste” like I would consider a paste – think more like the consistency of Elmer’s glue… which is… a paste. lol).

Line the bottom and sides of the pie dish with the bigger disc of pastry, and put the apples and blackberries into the pie. Pour over the cornstarch-butter mixture and mix carefully if there wasn’t much. Roll out the smaller disc of pastry, dampen the edges of the pie with water, and put the pie lid on top. Crimp the edges, either by hand or using a form, to seal. Decorate as desired with any scraps.

Glaze with milk and cook for 30 minutes, by which time the still slightly knobbly top should be golden. Sprinkle with sugar when it comes out of the oven, and leave for about 15 minutes before cutting it.

Serves 6.

Notes:

First – I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen self-rising cake flour. Just self-rising flour or cake flour. Cake flour doesn’t have any additives like self-rising flour, so I looked up how to convert flour into self-rising. The general consensus was around 1 cup of flour + 1 1/2 tsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp salt, so with this recipe calling for 1 1/3 c cake flour, I thought I’ll stick with the amounts in that equation and not increase to compensate for the extra 1/3 cup. The baking powder was fine, but it was too much salt. Next time, I’d go with 1/4 tsp.

Second – I didn’t have fine cornmeal, but I did have regular cornmeal, so again being the genius I am, I thought I would simply use my pestle and mortar to grind it as fine as I could. Guess what? That’s practically impossible. I did manage to get it the texture down finer, but not by much. This made the crust a little bit crunchy, which was not desirable. Take the time to find finely ground cornmeal!

Third – 8″ pie dishes are not common in the US. Most standard pie dishes are 9-9.5″ here. I ended up having to double the pie crust recipe, which I didn’t fully realize until it was too late (I did suspect) and had to make another batch in a mad, panicked dash around the kitchen, which resulted in me not being able to dedicate another 20 minutes for refrigerating. This meant my top crust has way too soft to properly roll out. This is why it came out so ugly! Either because of the larger pie size or perhaps my oven wasn’t the right temperature, but I ended up having to bake this thing an extra 30 minutes, which was crazy. Remember to use more apples if using a larger pie dish.

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Me attempting to grind cornmeal… yeah right.

Macaroni & Cheese

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Caution: macaroni and cheese is not that appealing close up and under bright lighting.

If there is something every human should master, it’s a handmade macaroni and cheese. My general rules for a great mac are that it must:

– use a bechamel sauce base,
– have goat cheese for a little tanginess,
– have more than one kind of cheese,
– must have something of the onion family in it.

Now don’t get me wrong – I still buy Annie’s boxed mac ‘n cheese from time to time for Nevan – but if you’re going to make it from scratch, you may as well take your time and go for gold.

My method is a bit of combination of two of Martha Stewart’s mac ‘n cheese recipes from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook, but mostly it’s the “Macaroni and Four Cheeses” recipe. Here is my little version with proportions halved from her recipes. Serves 5-6 people.

4.5 tbsp butter, plus extra for greasing casserole dish
2.5 cups milk
1/4 plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups grated extra sharp or sharp cheddar
1/2 cup Gruyere, Parmesan, or Pecorino Romano cheese
10 scallions, white and pale green parts thinly sliced OR 1 leek, white part minced
5 oz goat cheese
1/2 -3/4 lb your favorite mac ‘n cheese pasta
1 cup panko (optionally, you can make your own buttered breadcrumbs)

Optional:
1/2 cup blanched broccoli, run under cold water and chopped
1/4 cup diced turkey ham or bacon, chopped

Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly butter a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish and set aside.

If you are using leeks instead of scallions, cook lightly in a little butter until soft and set aside. If using scallions, they do not need to be cooked.

Warm your milk in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Gradually whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, or until mixture is thick and smooth. Whisking constantly, gradually add the warm milk, allowing a portion to absorb before adding more. Cook over medium-low heat for 8-10 minutes, whisking occasionally.Remove the white sauce from heat, add salt, pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg.

While you are making the white sauce, boil your pasta half way in salted water, then rinse under cold water.

Gently stir in half of the cheeses into the white sauce. Fold in your scallions/leeks and optional broccoli and meat. Stir in the boiled pasta, then turn out into your prepared casserole dish. Crumble the remaining goat cheese over the top, sprinkle remaining grated cheeses, and cover with panko.

Bake for 30 minutes and serve hot.