Friday, April 17, 2015

Good Cookin' in N'awlin's... Sausage Jambalaya...

New Orleans has a very special place in my heart. It was one of the first places I ventured in the US that intrigued me profoundly, as it looked like no other American city I've ever been or imagined- bar none! So incredibly rich in culture and history, and gifted in celebration and cuisine! I knew I had to return one day and the next time took my husband to rediscover and share all the exciting sights, sounds and tastes the tourist-loved French Quarter had to offer- in the place that never sleeps! Even though it has been a decade ago, the memories still live on. Everyday we were ready to rock and roll, or shall I say “jazz and jam it”, where a Big Easy good time is always accompanied by great eats! 

Strong French and Spanish influences from centuries past have created a truly European city inside the United States. With such a rich and historical background blending the rich French, Spanish and Caribbean heritages emerged a jazzy robust and somewhat complex taste of regional Cajun and Creole cuisines. The question most people often ask or wonder is “What is the difference between Cajun and Creole food?” Most Louisianans claim the answer is simple. Cajun cuisine is the robust food of country people with its one pot meals- pungent with the flavour of seafood and game, cooked in a lot of animal fat with a very spicy flavour. And Creole cuisine is a more refined “city” food with a rich array of courses which has a greater emphasis of cream and butter, indicating its close tie to European aristocracy. From their association with the Indians, the Cajuns learned techniques to best utilize the local products from the swamps, bayous, lakes, rivers and woods. Creole cuisine, then, is that melang
é of artistry and talent of cooking, developed and made possible by the people of various nations and cultures who settled in and around New Orleans, and is kept alive by Louisiana sharing it with the rest of the world. 

Having a courtyard brunch at Brennan's- a tourist favourite since opening in 1946.

Most people eat to live, Creoles and Cajuns live to eat! Their very existence is food, more food and still more food! In Louisiana, one can feast on crabs, crawfish pies, crawfish étouffées and crawfish bisques, seafood gumbos, jambalayas, sauce piquantes, grillades and grits, salt pork, boudin, black-eyed peas, red beans and rice, dirty rice, po-boys, smothered chicken, oysters, shrimp, redfish and muffuletta sandwiches. Delicious desserts include but are not limited to pecan and apple pies, pralines, chocolate mousse, crepes suzette, bananas foster, beignets and bread pudding with whiskey sauce.

Horsing around in the many cool and fun novelty shops!

New Orleans is known for their Voodoo and Spiritualistic rituals and tours.

Between New Orleans and Baton Rouge is a small town called Gonzales. It is known as the Jambalaya capital of the world. The Spanish gave Creole food its spices, and the paella, which was the forefather of Louisiana's jambalaya. On the coastline, seafood were often substituted for meats in the jambalaya creating many variations, according to the local ingredients available at different times of the year. The Germans who arrived in Louisiana in 1690 were knowledgeable in all forms of charcuterie (very spicy sausage) and from them came the andouille and other sausages. Their dishes were often pungent, peppery and very practical since it was also all cooked in a single pot. The use of tomatoes from south and central America rounded out the emerging Creole cuisine. Native Indians and other tribes befriended the new settlers and introduced them to local produce, wildlife and cooking methods. New ingredients, such as corn, ground sassafras leaves (or filé powder), and bay leaves from the laurel tree, all contributed to the culinary melting pot. 

Enjoying on one occasion grilled sausage, gumbo soup, a side of red beans and jambalaya.

If you have visited South Louisiana and have fallen in love with the food as I have, then concentrate deeply on one particular dish you enjoyed. Can you bring the taste back in your mouth so sharply that your mouth begins to water? Mine ever so distinctly is the very dish of jambalaya. If so, get your pots and let’s start cooking! This Creole-come-Cajun dish can be prepared from whatever is on hand and meats such as chicken, shrimp or pork. Just follow the basic procedures and raid your refrigerator and freezer for ingredients to prepare a no-frills dinner. Serve with a tossed salad and French bread. Here is an adapted traditional recipe taught to me at the now closed but then popular Cookin’ Cajun Cooking School (with products available only on-line). To kick it up a notch, as Emeril would say :), throw in some red cayenne or serve with Tabasco sauce at the table

Sausage Jambalaya
Makes 8 servings

1-½ lbs. sliced andouille (I used two kinds of mild smoked sausages preferring to spice it up at the table)

4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green or coloured pepper, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 bay leaves
½ tsp. dried thyme
2 cups long grain rice (converted rice works particularly well as it holds up)
1 can (396 mL) diced or crushed tomatoes
3 cups hot chicken stock
2 cups diced cooked or smoked ham
2 green onions, chopped
¼ cup chopped parsley
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Tabasco sauce and green chilies to serve

Cook's NOTE: Andouille is a spicy Louisiana smoked pork sausage. Hot or mild smoked Italian sausage can be substitute. 

The holy trinity and base of Creole and Cajun cooking are onions, celery and pepper.

Sauté sausages in 1 tsp. oil in pot or skillet over medium-high heat for several minutes until slightly browned. In same pot, add garlic and onions; cook thoroughly, then add pepper and celery. Cook until tender about two to three minutes. 

Add bay leaves and thyme. Then add the rice and stir well. 

Add tomatoes, chicken stock, and ham. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes or until rice is cooked. Remove bay leaves, toss in green onions and parsley or serve at the table.

Lusciously soft and savoury with every bite. Sausages were YUM! Served with crunchy coleslaw, bread and a chili pepper.

Thumbs up by everyone chowing down until there was none!

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