Mardi Gras is next week and with that comes Fat Tuesday, the last day to feast before Lent. When I think of these events I think of Jambalaya, Red Beans and Rice, Beignets and the Café du Monde.
I’ve only been to New Orleans once, and it was just after all of the festivities. My impression though, was that the partying and eating never stopped, not even for Lent.
Jambalaya is an easy dish to make. Years ago I was watching a cooking show and an older black woman was demonstrating how to make it. Her interpretation of Jambalaya was to “jam it all into a pot.” And that is what it is, a lot of foods all in one dish. There are many ways to prepare it; most recipes call for chicken, sausage, ham, or seafood in varying combinations. Since I love shrimp, my recipe opts for the seafood, chicken and sausage.
An extra large skillet or a large Dutch oven is required. The proportions can vary with personal preferences, using more seafood or more chicken. The only ingredient to be careful with would be the rice. Too much or too little liquid (as well as over-cooking) might affect the outcome.
¼ cup of olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
1 large clove of garlic, minced
2 boned and skinned chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
1 teaspoon of Old Bay seasoning (more or less to your taste)
1 pound of Andouille Cajun sausage, sliced diagonally in 1” pieces
1 can of diced tomatoes (mild RoTel tomatoes will add a kick to it)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon of thyme
2 cups of rice
4 cups of chicken broth
1 pound of peeled and deveined raw shrimp
½ pound of bay scallops
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pan (maybe 16” in diameter) or Dutch oven, heat the oil. Add the onions and green pepper and cook until the onions are almost translucent. Add the garlic (watching closely so as not to burn, thus ruining the dish) and then the chicken. Brown the chicken on all sides and season with Old Bay. Add the sausage and cook long enough to heat up (generally this sausage is precooked). Should you use a raw sausage, cook it with the chicken.
At this point add the tomatoes, herbs and rice and blend together. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Once this is at a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover with a lid or aluminum foil. You’ll cook this for about 45 minutes, checking and stirring in 15-minute increments.
Uncover the pot and pull the rice and chicken mixture back to the sides of the pan to create space to cook the shrimp and scallops. Add the seafood and cook for two minutes. The shrimp will turn pink. Stir all of the ingredients together and there you are – Jambalaya.
I would serve this with a nice green salad, a crusty loaf of bread and some hot sauce, such as Texas Pete or Tabasco.
Key Lime Pie
The first time I ever made Key Lime Pie was years ago when I was working at the Middleburg Tennis Club. They were having a special benefit lobster dinner and I offered to make the dessert. Fifteen pies. It was quite a production and turned out beautifully, not a bite left over.
This is my husband Lou’s all time favorite dessert. I probably make it 15 times a year, usually in the summertime. It is the perfect dessert to offer with Jambalaya or any seafood entrée.
9” graham cracker crust
½ cup of fresh lime juice or Nellie & Joe's Key West Lime Juice (not Rose's Lime Juice - it's too syrupy)
1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
3 egg yolks (save the whites for a meringue)
Graham Cracker Crust
9” pie plate
1½ packages of graham crackers
½ cup of melted butter
¼ cup of sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°. In a food processor with a metal blade, crush the graham crackers. Add the sugar and blend; then add the butter. Once everything is blended, pour into a greased pie plate and gently (very gently), tap the crumbs into place. (If you press too hard the shell will stick to the plate and make it almost impossible to serve.)
In a mixing bowl add the juice and the condensed milk. Blend well and then add the egg yolks one at a time. Once all of the ingredients are blended, pour into your pie shell and bake for 15 minutes. After the pie has baked, let it cool and the put it in the refrigerator to chill for a couple of hours. Cover with fresh whipped cream and decorate with a thin slice of lime.
For the topping I use freshly whipped cream. That is probably the secret to my pie and it keeps well.
Two years ago when we were at the beach, I was in charge of dinner one night. We had a clambake and key lime pie was the dessert. I thought I’d cheat and save time and used Redi-Whip instead of the real thing. Later that evening when it was time to serve the dessert, the whipped cream had melted and the pie looked disgusting.
1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of sugar
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl that has been chilled in the freezer and beat on high speed until peaks form in the cream. It only takes minutes to whip; be careful not to over whip because it will turn to butter.