Poorman’s Jambalaya

Dear Friends,

I hadn’t made real jambalaya in years. I’m embarrassed to say that when cooking massive amounts of fodder for Tony and the teen-ager, I used those boxes of rice with the spices mixed in, and just added sausage or chicken. I had started to think that the boxed stuff wasn’t bad. Then I made real jambalaya earlier this month for Mardi Gras. I almost thunked the side of my head and yelled, “Oh, yeah! That’s what it’s supposed to taste like!”

To me, the gold standard for jambalaya recipes is “Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen.” The Cajun chef knows how to infuse rice with more flavor than anyone else. Even his Dirty Rice is a revelation,  and his many permutations of jambalaya are all outstanding. When adapting his the recipes for home kitchens, Prudhomme made sure they would produce jambalaya as good as the stuff he serves.

As long as you have rice, spice and the holy trinity – onions, celery and green peppers – you can make jambalaya. Last week I had homemade spicy Italian sausage on hand so that’s what I used, despite the recipe recommendation of andouille smoked sausage. I didn’t have any ham, either, so I left that out. To make up for the omission, I tossed in some peeled shrimp at the end. The jambalaya was awesome.

The one thing you don’t want to mess with in the following recipe is the spice mixture. It gives the jambalaya its backbone. Converted rice, with its grains that remain firm and separate after cooking, is preferred. I didn’t have enough on hand so I used sushi rice, which worked beautifully because it, too, is fairly short-grain and remains separate if rinsed and cooked properly. I wouldn’t recommend using supermarket brands of long-grain white rice, though, which tend to be mushy. Instant rice, of course, is out of the question.
If you haven’t celebrated Mardi Gras yet, here’s your chance.


POORMAN’S JAMBALAYA

(From Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen)

Seasoning mix:

  • 4 small whole bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves

Jambalaya:

  • 4 tbsp. margarine
  • 6 oz. tasso or other ham, diced (about 11/2 cups)
  • 6 oz. andouille or kielbasa sausage, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped green bell peppers
  • 1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 cups uncooked converted rice
  • 4 cups beef, pork  or chicken stock or broth

Combine seasoning mix in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast iron), melt margarine over high heat. Add ham and sausage and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add onions, celery, bell peppers, seasoning mix and garlic. Stir well and continue to cook until browned, about 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping the pan bottom well. Stir in the rice and cook and stir for 5 minutes.

Add the stock, stirring well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered until rice is tender but still firm, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally toward the end of cooking. Remove bay leaves before serving. Make  8 appetizer or 4 entrée servings.

HELP U COOK

If you haven’t gotten in on the grapefruit bonanza this winter, get to a store pronto. The ruby-red grapefruit from Florida are the sweetest and juiciest I’ve  tasted in years. I can’t get enough of them.
Before you load up on grapefruit, though, make sure the compounds in the fruit won’t interfere with any medications you’re taking. A new study reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in November uncovered reactions to more drugs, such as Zocor, Lipitor and Afditab, bringing to 43 the known medications that can cause side effects when taken with grapefruit.

Scientists are working feverishly to develop grapefruit hybrids that do not interfere with medications. Meanwhile,  ask your doctor or pharmacist about the grapefruit compatibility of the drugs you are taking, or check out a list (outdated but still helpful) on MyMediaPharm’s Grapefruit-Drugs Interaction site: http://powernetdesign.com/grapefruit/.

THE MAILBAG

From Sherri S.:
The mozzarella sticks (Feb. 20 newsletter) sound so good. I want to try them but have questions. I wish there was a picture to accompany the mozzarella sticks recipe. When rolling up the thin (whole loaf?) slices, I’m assuming you roll it up lengthwise and cut into several pieces? What will hold it together when put in the hot oil? With or without crust?

Thanks for your help

Dear Sherri: The crusts are removed. The thin slices are cut lengthwise along the unsliced, crustless loaf of bread. Use a good serrated knife and cut the bread thin enough that it will not break when bent. I’d probably use slices 3/4 the length of the loaf rather than the whole length.

Then the filling is spread on one side of each slice (not quite all the way to the edges), and the slices are rolled up cigar-fashion starting from a short edge. The rolls are not cut.

Don’t pinch the ends or anything, just press the short edge slightly to stick it in place. The goodies are rolled to the inside, remember. Then drop the rolls into a deep fryer. The rolls will loosen slightly but won’t unroll (at least, mine didn’t). No toothpick is necessary to hold the roll in place during frying. They come out looking like rolled-up scrolls, golden brown and about the size of a cigar. They are worth the effort. As I recall Crocker’s served 4 or 5 per order — plenty for two people.

From George Russell, Akron:
Re the inquiry/comment from Carla Owens about The Akron City Club’s seafood appetizer, the “official” name was a rather mundane “Akron City Club Seafood Sauce.” But mundane the taste was not! As a Junior member back then, it was one of my favorite things to eat. I got the recipe from one of the chefs, and would have it at home or fix it for parties on many occasions. Alas, and alack, Escoffier Diable Sauce, a key ingredient, is no longer made.  Thus, any attempt to recreate it (and believe me I tried — I kept Russ Vernon at West Point Market busy for months trying to track it down or come up with an acceptable substitute) will, unfortunately, not live up to the original. All that said, here is the recipe:

AKRON CITY CLUB SEAFOOD SAUCE

  • 2 cans (7 oz. each) prepared crabmeat or lobster or 1 lb. cooked shrimp
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup chili sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. Chutney powder
  • 1/2 tsp.Escoffier Diable Sauce
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • Few grains cayenne pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Place crabmeat, lobster or shrimp in a 1-quart casserole dish. Blend in remaining ingredients except Parmesan. Sprinkle Parmesan over top. Bake at 350 degrees until nicely browned. Serve on or with buttered toast.

Note: One-half teaspoon Diable Sauce doesn’t sound like much, and I usually added more, but when you consider  that the Escoffier Diable Sauce was a lot like fish sauce, with anchovies as a key ingredient, it packs somewhat of a zing.  For me, I LOVE anchovies so the more the merrier. As for chutney powder, I know you might think I meant “chutney” instead but it is really the powder. I don’t know if any stores carry it locally, but Google it and you will find several sources. Hey, I didn’t say it was easy, but it was delicious!

Dear George: You have saved me from embarking on a futile effort to duplicate this recipe. Thanks for the background.

From Melanie B.:
I tried to make a delicious recipe for cherry turnovers (Presidents Day and all that). Anyway, you mix flour, salt, sugar with yeast (that has been dissolved in warm water), eggs, and a little cold water, cut in shortening, refrigerate overnight, then roll into walnut-size balls and roll out on a sugared surface. When I got to this part, and tried to roll out the walnut balls, they absolutely fell apart. I could get the center part to hold, but the sides were just crumbling apart, and I could not even get an inch area to put the dab of cherry filling on, let alone fold over and crimp the edges. I bought all the ingredients the weekend before so I know they weren’t stale or anything like that. Do you have any idea what I did wrong? I followed everything to a “T”. Thanks.

Dear Melanie: My hunch is that the dough was too dry. When it comes to flour, amounts expressed in cups are just ballpark figures. That’s because the volume of flour expands and contracts depending on several factors, including the weather. Ounces and pounds are a much more accurate way to measure flour, but for some reason we Americans cling to our cup measures. At any rate, your dough may have contained too much flour. The next time this happens, sprinkle some water over the dough and gently knead it, adding more water as necessary until the dough becomes pliable.

From Elaine Urban, Hudson:
My husband LOVES foie gras. When I saw you listed it as your favorite food in See Jane Cook, I figured you might know where to find it. We’ve had it at Downtown 140 in Hudson, but we would love to have it at home. Any suggestions?

Dear Elaine: I assume you want to buy pate de foie gras, not wrangle the raw lobes yourself. I have made pate de foie gras from scratch and I’ve sautéed raw foie gras.  In both cases, I bought the frozen raw foie gras from  West Point Market. Be forewarned – making pate from the raw, fatted goose livers is a delicate, multi-day project.

West Point used to (and maybe still does) sell pate de foie gras by the slice at Christmas time. To satisfy my foie gras craving at home, though, I just buy cans of goose-liver or duck-liver pate, again available at West Point Market. Look for “block” foie gras, which means the foie is packed and compressed rather than pureed with other ingredients.  Chill, plop it on a plate and serve it with warm buttered toast, the way I had it in Paris.

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Chicken and Bread Soup

Dear Friends,

Just when I thought I had tasted every kind of chicken soup on the planet, from Thai to Jewish to Amish with those little dumplings called “rivels,” I discover chicken bread soup. At first bite the heavens part and trumpets play. Mentally I rearrange my list of favorite foods: Foie gras, bread soup and then chocolate.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think this comforting, homey, pudding-like soup is the cure for everything that ails us. It may be the key to peace in our time, too. Who could be cranky after spooning up a custardy chunk of bread infused with broth and  studded with vegetables and chicken?

I can’t believe this soup was right under my nose for a decade before I found it in a book on my shelf. Although Joyce Goldstein is one of my most trusted cookbook authors, I hadn’t used her book, “Solo Suppers,” much because I’m not solo. But in browsing the book for inspiration recently, I spotted this soup and had to have it.

The recipe, Goldstein writes, is a cross between a panada, or bread soup, and a Venetian dish called “sopa coada.” Here’s the description that got me:

“More like a poultry bread pudding than a soup, it is rich and filling…The aromatic dish emerges (from the oven) golden, the stock fully absorbed, the bread soft and pudding-like.”

Goldstein’s recipe is for a single serving, so I had to play with the ingredients to expand it to three to four servings. Tony ate one serving, and over the next two days I ate the rest. If you know someone who is nursing a cold or the flu, this soup will make you a hero.

CHICKEN AND BREAD SOUP

  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 medium onion, cut into small dice
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into small dice
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 12 to 16 oz. total), cubed
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • Salt, pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 4 or 5 thick (1-inch) slices of sturdy bread
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese or half Parmesan and half Fontina

In a wide saucepan melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook mushrooms  until the edges begin to brown.
Add 1 tablelspoon butter and remaining 1 tablespoon oil and reduce heat to medium. Add onion, celery and carrots and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add chicken and stir fry until golden, about 5 minutes. Add wine and boil until it evaporates. Add chicken stock, salt and pepper to taste and the cinnamon. Cover and simmer gently until the chicken is tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Toast bread slices on both sides, adding more butter if necessary, until golden.
In a 6-quart, deep-sided casserole such as a souffle dish, arrange 2 to 2 1/2 slices of the bread in a single layer.  Sprinkle some of the cheese on top, then the chicken and vegetables. Top with remaining bread slices. Soup may be made and refrigerated up to 8 hours at this point.
Ladle broth over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Cover loosely with foil. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes, depending on the depth of the casserole. The bread on the top should be chewy and the bread on the bottom, custardy. Makes 3 to 4 servings.

 

HELP U COOK
On the off chance that someone  out there is still nursing their Valentine’s Day chocolate, here’s how to keep it in good shape:

Store it in a cool, dry spot  away from sunlight. The idea temperature is 60 degrees.

Chocolate will keep for up to a year if wrapped well and stored at the proper temperature.

When chocolate is stored at warmer temperatures, the  fat rises to the surface  and produces what is called a “bloom.” This appears as white patches. While it doesn’t look great, it won’t hurt you. The candy is still safe to eat and use in cooking..

If you did eat all of your Valentine’s chocolate and now are desperate for some to use in a recipe, you may substitute 3 tablelspoons cocoa powder, 2 teaspoons butter and 2 tablespoons sugar for one ounce of semisweet chocolate. Be aware, though, that the extra volume of dry ingredients could affect some recipes.

TIDBITS
La Tacqueria Rancheros, home of the most authentic Mexican food I’ve had in Northeast Ohio, has expanded again, but don’t worry – it hasn’t strayed from its culinary roots. Chef/owner David Soreque has merely added more seating and a bar.

The little taco shop began life in a narrow storefront in the North Hill area of Akron. Soreque cooked behind a lunch counter, and customers sat at a handful of stools or a couple of tables squeezed along one wall. His homemade tamales, moles and soft little tacos (served with a sprig of cilantro and squeeze of lime) more than made up for the lack of amenities.

Now the restaurant plus a Mexican food shop David added takes up four store fronts.. Regular specials, I noticed on a recent visit, include mole on Friday  evenings and chile rellenos on Saturdays. La Tacqueria Rancheros is at 286 E Cuyahoga Falls Ave. in  Akron, phone 330-510-2110.

THE MAILBAG

From Carla Owens:
Back in the day, the Akron City Club was the place movers and shakers went to socialize and “do business.” The view of the city and the food were phenomenal. My grandfather frequented the establishment and even contributed to the menu with a recipe for a seafood appetizer they named “The City Club Special.” It is delicious but unfortunately calls for an ingredient that appears to no longer be made — Escoffier diable sauce. Does anybody have a bottle in the back of their pantry collecting dust?  Internet searches have recipes but preparing a recipe for another recipe seems a bit much. Don’t tell that to my Grandpa Max Moch though – he would be sorely disappointed!

Dear Carla: What a charming story. If you’ll share the recipe, we’ll try to find a substitute for that diable sauce.

From Anne Caston, Cuyahoga Falls:
A helpful website when scaling down larger recipes, such as Jimmy’s 
Favorite Garlic Dressing: 
http://www.fruitfromwashington.com/Recipes/scale/recipeconversions.php Ingredients that aren’t given in typical units of measure, such as 
cloves of garlic or whole onions are a bit tricker to enter, but if you 
play with it a bit, you’ll get the hang of it.

Dear Anne: I can put away my calculator now. Thanks for bringing this site to our attention. My only caveat is that some recipes and/or ingredients cannot be proportionately reduced without affecting the flavor or texture.

From Anonymous:
This is for Sharene, who asked what kind of sauce to serve with sauerkraut balls.  Some restaurants I’ve been to serve them with marinara sauce, others with honey mustard, and I’ve also seen them served with a sauce similar to the Bloomin’ Onion sauce from Outback Steakhouse.  I imagine an English brown sauce would be nice as well.

Dear An:
I still say, eat ‘em nekkid.

Secret Recipe from Jimmy’s Café

CrabcakesJanuary 4, 2012

Dear Friends,

My good friend, Carla, who operated the late, great Jimmy’s Café in Cuyahoga Falls until it closed in 2008, mentioned in a phone chat last week that she had recently made a quart of Asian salad dressing from a recipe in my cookbook. She has been eating it by the spoonful, she said. And then, in a rush of typical Carla generosity, she offered to give  me the super-secret recipe for the Café’s Creamy Garlic Salad Dressing and my favorite, the corn casserole. This is the salad dressing recipe that everyone wanted – silky-smooth and slightly sweet with a garlic punch. That’s Carla for you. She  could probably get a nice chunk of change for that recipe, but instead she wants all of us to enjoy it for free. The dressing is similar to the white French dressing that was served at other restaurants in the Akron area, but just different enough that it created its own mystique.

After closing the café Carla married a great guy, Tim Bethea, and moved to Maryland. She says she would get pleasure imagining her former customers making the dressing and corn casserole and thinking of Jimmy’s. Here’s what she wrote in a note that came with the dressing:
Ok, because you are my dear friend and we both love food, here is the secret recipe for the famous Jimmy’s Cafe’ creamy garlic salad dressing. For anyone who forgot, we served it with mixed greens, mandarin oranges, chunks of pineapple, feta cheese chunks, and topped it with candied pecans. The bite from the garlic dressing and feta paired with the sweetness of the fruit made for an incredibly flavored salad that so many of our customers loved. In the summer, we would replace the oranges with fresh sliced strawberries when they were at peak sweetness.

I actually had a man offer me $500 cash to disclose the recipe! What was I thinking?? I turned him down!! Oh well, such are the secrets of our coveted recipes while we are still in business. Today, I say share it to bring smiles to a lot of faces — those who have longed to get the much-coveted and loved recipe. Here it is, just as we prepared it at Jimmy’s Café. Happy New Year!

JIMMY’S FAMOUS CREAMY GARLIC SALAD DRESSING
•    1 cup sugar
•    1 cup HOT water
•    2 cups apple cider vinegar
•    1 large sweet onion, roughly chopped
•    Handful of garlic cloves (about 10-12)
•    1 gallon (16 cups) real mayo

Put the sugar in measuring pitcher; add 1 cup HOT (close to boiling) water. Mix to dissolve sugar. This is the “simple syrup” for the dressing. Add the apple cider vinegar to the simple syrup.

Place onion and garlic in a food processor, add at least 1 cup (plus a splash more) of the syrup=vinegar mixture and blend until smooth.  Place mayo in a big bowl.  Add garlic and onion mixture and the remaining syrup mixture.  Mix with a hand mixer, being sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula while mixing to get all the mayo.

P.S.: I have no idea on the shelf life of this as we went through so much of it we made it daily. Enjoy! I miss Jimmy’s Cafe’ and I’m grateful to share this delicious recipe with you.

The corn casserole that we made at Jimmy’s was an old recipe from my Aunt Dovie that we ate at our holiday table for years.  The best-tasting side dish ever and so very easy to make!  I had customers order this warm in the mornings with their coffee and they would drizzle maple syrup over it. To this day it is still a favorite of mine.

JIMMY’S CORN CASSEROLE
•    3 cups corn muffin mix
•    3 cups whole kernel corn
•    3 cups creamed corn
•    2 sticks butter, melted
•    2 cups sour cream

Mix all of the above and fill a greased, 9-by-13-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. The top will begin to lightly brown. Don’t overdo.
Note from Jane: Because of the high vinegar content, the dressing will keep for weeks if not months in the refrigerator. You won’t have to worry about that with the corn casserole.

P.S.: I miss Jimmy’s, too. Thanks for sharing these treasures from the restaurant.

HELP U COOK

Quinoa, the relatively healthful, high-protein grain, is a decent substitute for rice in all kinds of dishes. For a more nutritious version of fried rice, cook one cup of quinoa in 1 1/2 cups water until al dente (about 15 minutes at a simmer), then drain and refresh with cold water to halt the cooking. Stir-fry chopped green onions, a couple of handfuls of other chopped veggies and lean meat (pork loin) or shrimp in canola oil. Add the cooked quinoa, a drizzle of Asian sesame oil and three tablespoons of soy sauce and mix well. For added protein, create a clear space in the center of the veggies and quinoa and gently scramble an egg or two egg whites, then mix through the stir fried quinoa. Mmmm.

THE MAILBAG

From Michele Bowman: 
My grandmother used to make a stew that she called “potpie”.  It had ham, potatoes and homemade noodles.  The noodles were thicker than most and often cut in a diamond shape.  We have never been able to duplicate it and she never really had a recipe.  The biggest obstacle has been the noodles.  I wondered if you or any of your readers had ever heard of anything like this.  Since I have a ham bone from Christmas dinner, I thought I’d give it another try.

Dear Michele: I remember watching my grandmother roll out the dough for those diamond-shaped noodles, and drop them one by one into the bubbling broth. I grew up on ham pot pie. It’s a Pennsylvania Dutch specialty.  For the uninitiated, it is nothing like a regular pot pie. It is a brothy potful of ham stock, cubed ham, sliced potatoes and large, square-ish noodles. I like the explanation for the name that I found at http://www.howipinchapenny.com/2012/04/pot-pie-using-that-leftover-easter-ham/. It’s a pot pie with the crust IN the filling instead of outside the filling.

My grandmother never used a recipe for the noodles, either. She just stirred water into flour until the dough felt right. At the above site, which has an easy-to-follow recipe with pictures of each step, the ratio is one-fourth cup water to one cup flour. The dough is rolled out 1/8 to ¼-inch thick and cut into about 2-inch squares with a pizza cutter. That’s a technique I’m sure our grandmothers never thought of.

From Tom:  
I have been attempting to read “Wheat Belly” by William Davis, M.D.  But my knowledge of biochemistry was lost to the ages long ago. I have found that Dr. Davis recommends avoiding gluten entirely.  I have what is described as a “wheat belly”.  I eat as healthy as I can and have been attempting to lose weight as well.  However, my attempts result in a bit of frustration.

The wife and I have turned to a bread maker and have been using Bob’s Red Mill gluten free products, which are quite good. We have found tons of recipes for baking and nearly all call for wheat flour.  My question, then, is …Is there any other kind of flour that can be substituted for wheat flour?

Dear Tom: You can’t just substitute  potato flour, rice flour or whatever for wheat flour in regular bread recipes. You must search out recipes developed specifically for these other flours. Gluten-free currently is a hot topic, so quite a few cookbooks have been published lately. I don’t bake gluten-free so can’t recommend one, but maybe another reader can. Also, I’ve seen mixes for gluten-free breads as well as ready-made gluten-free breads in health- and natural-foods stores.