Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

Laisses les bons temps rouler!  Let the good times roll!

I am neither Cajun nor am I Catholic.  But I do appreciate good food and good times, so this is my celebration of Mardi Gras.  Today is Fat Tuesday, the last day of Carnival, and the day before Ash Wednesday which begins Lent.  Lent is the period of fasting and prayer between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.

Jambalaya is a rice dish with Andouille sausage, and your choice of chicken or seafood. Since nobody in my house eats seafood, I made my Jambalaya with chicken.  You could however substitute any of the following for the chicken: shrimp, crawfish, clams, mussels, or whatever you like.

Of course, no Cajun meal would be complete without the obligatory Beignets, which is the French/Cajun version of a donut. Tonight, Carol is making the Beignets, and is using Paula Deen's French Quarter Beignets recipe.  I saved plenty of room to go a little crazy!  So as they say in N'awlins, laisses les bons temps rouler!

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 lb Andouille sausage, sliced 1/4" thick on the bias
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
2 tablespoons Emeril's Essence Creole Seasoning, divided
1 onion, diced
2 ribs celery diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups long grain rice
1 14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 scallions, finely sliced

In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the Andouille sausage and cook stirring until the sausage starts to brown and gives the oil a slight reddish color.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Season the chicken with 1 tablespoon of the Cajun seasoning.  Add to the Dutch oven and cook stirring until the chicken is no longer pink on the outside.  It will not be cooked through at this point.  Remove and set aside with the sausage.

Add the onion, celery, bell peppers, and additional tablespoon Cajun seasoning to the Dutch oven.  Cook and stir until vegetables are softened and nearly cooked, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute or two.

Add the rice and cook stirring constantly so the rice does not burn until the rice is toasted slightly, about 2 minutes.  

Add the tomatoes, chicken, and sausage and stir.

Add the chicken stock and stir it all together. 

Bring to a boil, then cover with a tight fitting lid and reduce heat to lowest setting on your stove.  Set a timer for 20 minutes and do not lift the lid.  After 20 minutes, remove the lid and stir gently with the tines of a fork. Replace the lid and cook covered for 10 minutes more.

After ten minutes, turn off the heat and let rest for 10 minutes.

Turn out into serving dish and garnish with sliced scallions.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Bunny Chow

In Durban, South Africa, you can get a bunny chow at nearly every take-away in the city. If there is any street food that Durban is known for, it is bunny chow.  And contrary to the name, no bunny rabbits are used in this dish. 

It is a hollowed out loaf of government bread into which a curry stew of meat or beans and potatoes is placed. During apartheid non-whites could not go into restaurants to get food for their lunches.  But the restaurants could serve them from a window. Since Durban has the largest Indian population outside of India, curries are very popular in Durban.  The problem still remained though of how to serve the curry since disposable packaging was not widely available at the beginning of the apartheid era.  So, it was discovered that if you hollowed out a loaf of government bread, it would hold the curry nicely inside.  Then it was wrapped in newspaper for the workers to take with them.

To order, you simply ask for the size and type of meat without using the term Bunny Chow. For instance, if you ordered a quarter mutton, you would receive a quarter loaf of bread with mutton curry inside.

To truly experience a bunny, you must order and eat as the workers did in Durban by getting your bunny wrapped in newspaper and sitting on the curb of a side street or at a park bench. Using your hands, you tear off chunks of bread and use it as a utensil to grab chunks of meat and potatoes to eat while the bread absorbs most of the gravy.

Here in the US, we don't have "government" bread, so the next best thing is a good loaf of homemade white bread.  Gold Medal Classic White Bread is a good recipe.

Here is the curry recipe:

½ cup ghee, butter, or vegetable oil
2 onions, diced
6-8 cloves garlic, smashed & chopped
2” knob of ginger root, skin removed, smashed & finely chopped
4 Tablespoons Pakco Pure Roasted Masala*, or other good curry powder
2.5 lbs meat, cut into 1” chunks
1 14.5oz can petite diced tomatoes
2-3 teaspoons salt, or to taste
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

1.            Add ghee to a Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pan and heat over medium heat.  Add onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook for a further 2-3 minutes until garlic softens.

2.            Add Pakco Pure Roasted Masala to onions in pan and stir to mix well.  Continue to cook for 1-2 minutes over medium-low heat until spices are fragrant.  Add meat chunks and turn to coat in the onions and spices. 

3.            Add the tomatoes, and salt.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium low to maintain a low simmer.  Cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Do not let the meat burn or stick to the pan.

4.            Add the potatoes.  Stir to mix, then recover the pot and continue to simmer until the potatoes are fork tender.

5.            Remove the lid and if the sauce is too liquid, bring back to a boil to reduce the liquid to desired consistency, constantly stirring to prevent burning.  The sauce should be of a stew-like consistency.

6.            Remove from heat and let sit about 5 minutes before serving.  Serve with basmati rice or in a hollowed out loaf of bread or bread bowl to make a bunny chow.

*Pakco Pure Roasted Masala can be ordered from African Hut at http://www.africanhut.com/product.asp?id=63

**You can use beef, lamb (or mutton), chicken, or goat.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Buttermilk Cornbread

Having grown up in the farmland of the Central Valley in California and now living in Eastern Washington State, I cannot truly call myself a "Southerner".  However, my mother grew up in Kelsey, Texas, and her mother grew up in Happy Valley, Tennessee (near present day Maryville, just outside of Knoxville).  So I claim the privilege of being a Southerner by birthright.  

Growing up without much and having to make do with what they had or could grow, both mom and grandma often cooked such staples as cornbread, biscuits, beans with ham hocks, mustard greens, and black-eyed peas.  I remember grandma always had a bottle of Tabasco Peppers in vinegar with a shaker top in the refrigerator.  I never saw anybody eat any of the peppers, but the vinegar was used as a seasoning to sprinkle on the greens.  I don't recall her ever buying a new bottle, just refilling the vinegar in the bottle as it was depleted.  And there was always buttermilk in the refrigerator, for cooking and for drinking, and to this day I love a cold glass of buttermilk!

I have fond memories of the food that mom and grandma used to make, though I don't think I ever really appreciated it too much when I was young. Some was fantastic as is, and other things I have had to adapt to my tastes.  This is true with cornbread.  While I have always liked mom's cornbread, I didn't always like how dry and crumbly it was.  So I took it upon myself to adapt her recipe just a little to make it a little more moist.  I added eggs (which she NEVER did) and more butter and buttermilk, and just a tablespoon of sugar.  The results were fantastic.

Of course the key to a good southern cornbread is to preheat a cast iron skillet with the fat in it in the oven while it is preheating. It actually takes longer for the oven to get to 450⁰F than it does to make the cornbread batter.  The cube of butter is nicely melted by the time the oven is ready.  Just swish the butter around the skillet before dumping it into the batter and your skillet is ready.  Lightly mix the butter into the batter then dump it straight back into the skillet.  It should sizzle because the pan is so hot.  Remember use oven mitts as the pan is screamin' hot!  The batter going into the hot fat in the pan makes that wonderful, brown, crispy crust that a good southern cornbread needs.  Of course, if you don't have cast iron (you really should invest in it as it is not expensive) you can use a regular baking dish (glass or metal) and get a good result.  It just won't have that nice crispy exterior that cast iron gives.

½ cup butter
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1½ cups buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 450⁰F.  Place butter in 10” cast iron skillet and place in oven while it is heating to melt.

In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar.  Mix well.

Add buttermilk and eggs and stir just until combined.  Add butter and stir until just combined.

Add batter to hot skillet.  It should be sizzling with the hot butter. 
Bake at 450⁰ for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top. 
Let cool for a couple of minutes before turning out onto a plate.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Buttermilk Dinner Rolls

I now use a darker metal pan to bake these rolls. They cook more evenly and come out with better color.

Recipe by Cora Muckleroy

Yield – 24 Rolls 

5 cups *bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 packages yeast (or 2 tablespoons)
6 tablespoons butter
1½ cups buttermilk
½ cup *filtered water


1.       In large bowl, add 3 cups of the flour, salt, sugar, baking soda and yeast.  Lightly mix. 

2.       Add butter, buttermilk, and water to small saucepan.  Heat slowly over low heat until butter is completely melted.  Stir with finger to test temperature.  It should be just hot enough so that you can barely put your finger in without burning it (about 105° - 115° F). 

3.       Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well.  Add remaining 2 cups of flour and mix (It will be sticky). 

4.       Turn out onto floured board and knead for about 5 minutes (adding additional flour as needed) until dough is elastic.  Let rest about 10 minutes, uncovered, on floured board.

5.       Shape into 24 rolls.  Place in baking dish.  Let rise in a warm place until about double in size. 

6.       Bake at 400° F for 12-15 minutes. Butter tops while still hot.

*NOTES: Bread flour has a higher protein content which makes a more tender and fluffy roll. Tap water is chlorinated, and chlorine can kill yeast so I have gone to using filtered water from my Brita pitcher. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Suid Afrikaanse Melktert

Serves: 16


½ cup butter
½ cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon salt

4 cups half & half
1 tablespoon butter
2 cinnamon sticks
2 vanilla beans
2 ½ tablespoons flour
2 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon


Cream together softened butter and sugar. 
Add egg and incorporate into butter and sugar. 
Sift flour, baking powder and salt. 
Incorporate into butter, sugar and egg mixture.  It should look like bread crumbs. 
Divide evenly and press into 2 pie tins. 
Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes.

Using a sharp paring knife, split vanilla beans in half lengthwise.  Scrape seeds out and reserve.  In a non-stick saucepan, add half & half, butter, cinnamon sticks, and split vanilla beans with the scraped seeds. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil. 
Do not let burn or scorch. Mix flour, cornstarch, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract to a smooth paste. 
When milk boils, remove cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans.  Remove from heat and slowly whisk in paste mixture.  Return to heat and stir constantly until thick and bubbly, about 2-3 minutes.

Pour into baked shells. 
Bake at 325°F for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle tops with cinnamon.  
Let cool until room temperature, then refrigerate.  Serve cold with a hot cup of rooibos tea.