Friday, March 1, 2013

"The New Orleans Restaurant Cookbook" - Jambalaya

Date I made this recipe:  February 24, 2013 (Academy Award night)

The New Orleans Restaurant Cookbook by Deidre Stanforth
Published by:  Doubleday & Company, Inc.
© 1967
Recipe:  Jambalaya (from Dunbar’s restaurant) – p. 171-172

My friend, David, recently went to New Orleans to present a paper at a conference.  When he mentioned this trip on Facebook, he was inundated with well-meaning individuals like me who couldn’t wait to offer up suggestions on where to eat and drink.  I think we scared the guy.

Sure, there are things to see and do in New Orleans but let’s get real here:  there’s eating and there’s drinking and there’s eating and drinking.  And that pretty much summarizes the New Orleans’ experience.  And okay, there’s music but usually there’s eating and/or drinking involved in listening to music.  And this is as it should be.

Although it has been a long time since I’ve visited, many New Orleans restaurants that I visited on my last trip (and first trip many moons ago) survived Hurricane Katrina and/or rehabbed to reopen years later.  I had to chuckle that one of my favorite restaurants on the last trip, Mother’s on Poydras, became an instant hit with celebrities like Beyonce and Martha Stewart during the 2013 Super Bowl played in New Orleans.  Good to know that Beyonce and Martha recognize that I know what’s going on when it comes to food.

This book is fun because it gives the history of New Orleans’ most famous restaurants as well as exterior and interior photos.  The next time I’m in New Orleans, I should bring the book with me to compare and contrast and to see what’s changed.  Luckily for you and me, while interiors may change, food in New Orleans does not and so the restaurant recipes listed in this cookbook are likely what I will get on my next visit:  cooking traditions are sacred in The Big Easy.

Restaurants featured in this book are:  Antoine’s; Arnaud’s; Brennan’s; Galatoire’s; Dunbar’s; Pontchartrain Hotel; Commander’s and Masson’s.  There’s also a photo of the gate outside Pat O’Brien’s and I would be remiss if I didn’t say a few words about Pat O’Briens, namely “Stay away from the Hurricane [drink]!”  I drink martinis and love scotch and brandy and whiskey and whatnot and so felt that I was prepared for another high-test drink but folks, I was wrong, wrong, oh-so-wrong!  A Hurricane is one of the drinks that I usually avoid for what should be obvious reasons – it contains several shots of booze (rum) and a fruity punch so of course it tastes way too good going down and it about knocked me on my ass!  So I was cheered to see that a friend of mine had about the same thing to say about a Mojito she just had in Miami.  I’m going to blame both our debacles on the fact that both drinks contain rum.  Bad rum, bad!!

Anyway, New Orleans is known for its oysters and there were plenty of recipes for oysters in the book but after an oyster incident this summer (that did not go well), I stuck with a favorite, Jambalaya.  Jambalaya combines shrimp, ham, rice, the “holy trinity” of onions, celery and peppers along with tomatoes and a few spices.  You can hardly go wrong with this recipe and I did not, in fact, go wrong and we were happy campers.  Because I was so behind on recognizing events like Mardi Gras, I made half of this recipe and then half of my Oscar night dinner’s pasta recipe on the same night and it was all good, plus we have delicious leftovers.

I have not had a chance to talk to David about his dining excursions in New Orleans except to warn him in advance not to take the easy way out and eat in his hotel.  So I hope he did as some of us suggested and just tiptoe into the cuisine by at least going to Café du Monde and Central Grocery for a few bits of glorious food.  For my money, if you only hit those two places, you will have experienced New Orleans; anything you do after that – food-wise – is just gravy.  (Yes, pun intended.)

Jambalaya – serves 8 (We made half)
2 onions, chopped
4 tablespoons butter
1 can tomatoes
½ can tomato paste
4 cloves garlic
2 pieces celery, chopped
¼ bell (green) pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
½ teaspoon thyme
3 cloves, chopped (Ann’s Note: you ever try to chop a whole clove?  This instruction puzzled.)
1 pound boiled ham, diced
2 pounds shrimp, peeled and boiled
3 cups cooked rice
Salt, pepper and cayenne

Sauté onions in butter 5 minutes.  Add tomatoes and tomato paste and cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add garlic, celery, bell pepper, parsley, thyme and closes.  Cook 30 minutes, stirring frequently.  Stir in ham and cook 5 minutes.  Stir in shrimp and cook 5 minutes.  Stir in rice, season to taste, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring often.  Serves 8.

Author’s Note:  Jambalaya makes a good main dish for supper served with salad and corn bread.  It can also be served as a vegetable, decreasing the amount of ham and shrimp.  Although jambalaya is a leftover dish itself (its name is said to mean “clean up the kitchen” – and any odd bits of meat, chicken or seafood can be added), leftover jambalaya makes a good stuffing for peppers.

No comments: