Laissez les bons temps rouler!

February 22, 2012 § 1 Comment

“Let the good times roll!” is the theme of Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday) celebrations across the country. I almost let this somewhat localized holiday pass without commemoration since I was busy reading over 200 TWD blog posts yesterday and testing a date nut loaf recipe. So I squeezed in a reasonable facsimile of a Chicken Jambalaya for a late supper with what I had on hand, and with mostly local ingredients from the freezer or pantry that I had put up last season. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a stand-in for Andouille sausage, but otherwise, not bad for a “day’s work” and a winter’s meal in Colorado!

Local ingredients: tomato sauce, dried paste tomatoes, garlic, onion, celery root (substitute for celery), leftover roast chicken, frozen chicken stock (not shown), hot coppa, frozen roasted bell pepper

Purple rose garlic stores well; most are firm and haven’t sprouted in my basement. Amish paste tomatoes are super sweet; they have thin skin and few seeds, so meld into whatever you’re cooking. Hot coppa is an extravagant substitute for the tasso ham, so I only used one slice, but it added a lot of flavor to the jambalaya. Nearby Cure Farm raises Mangalitsa and Berkshire pigs and some of the meat goes to Il Mondo Vecchio, an artisanal meat curer in Denver. They turn it into really delicious and local pancetta, prosciutto, hot coppa, lardo and other salumi products which are then available to buy at the farm.

I really had to pinch hit with the seasoning mix using poultry seasoning and chili powder plus some chile flakes. Yeah, sounds weird, but it was tasty and I’m sure not authentic. One of my sources for spices and dried herbs is an online purveyor based in Denver called Smith & Truslow. All of their products are organically grown and processed, and ground spices and blends are made in small batches for freshness.

After I cooked the “Holy Trinity” of chopped onions, bell pepper and celery (root) in a little fat (coppa trim and butter), I added the seasonings, salt, pepper and rice to toast.

Meanwhile, I heated the chicken stock and tomato sauce with the dried tomatoes to rehydrate them. Later I added the still frozen leftover chicken to heat through too, bringing everything up to a simmer.

Everything is combined, covered and gently simmered for about a half hour to cook the rice. (Actually, this is how you would make a rice pilaf, except without so many extra goodies.) Since my oven was still on from baking the date nut loaves, I just put the pot into the 325°F oven and didn’t have to worry about it. Keep the rice covered while it’s cooking; you don’t want to keep peeking and stirring. You just lose heat and moisture and the rice can break up and turn mushy. I probably could have used a little more liquid for a soupier consistency; this reminded me of a very flavorful risotto, which isn’t bad either. A simple green salad, some baguette and a glass of red wine or a beer, and “laissez les bons temps rouler”!

Make-Do Chicken Jambalaya, serves 2 generously (loosely based on a recipe I found at NoLa Cuisine, substitutions welcome!)

1-2 tablespoons butter or fat

1 link Andouille sausage, chopped

1/4 cup chopped Tasso ham

1 small onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

seasoning mix (1/4 tsp cayenne, 1/4 tsp thyme, 1/2 tsp rubbed sage, 1/4 tsp dried basil) or substitute 1 tsp poultry seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder (you get cumin here), pinch chile flakes

1/2 tsp coarse salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup rice (long grain is traditional, I had short grain)

2-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tomato, chopped

1/2 cup tomato sauce

1 1/2 cup chicken stock

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1-2 cups leftover chicken, chopped or shredded

Parsley and/or green onions, finely chopped for garnish

Preheat oven to 325°F if using. Heat fat/butter in a sauce pot over medium heat, add meats and Holy Trinity (onion, bell pepper and celery) and cook until onion is translucent. Add the seasonings and sauté for a minute, then add the rice cooking and stirring to toast. Add the garlic and tomatoes after the rice has cooked for a few minutes.

At the same time, heat the chicken stock, tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce in another pot; add the chicken to the liquid so everything is hot.

Combine everything in the larger pot, bring to a boil and cover, then lower heat to a simmer or place the pot in the hot oven. Check after a half hour to see if the rice is tender and liquid mostly absorbed. Serve garnished with the parsley and/or chopped green onion.

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