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.


(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


  • 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.


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/.


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:


  • 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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