Sunday, February 21, 2010

Who Knew Jambalaya Could Take All Weekend to Prepare

Whew. I had an awesome weekend of purchasing, chopping, and researching how to cook Jambalaya. Who knew Jambalaya could talk all weekend to prepare? I chose this recipe as the first of the Commanding Journey for a couple reasons. The main reason being it was a safe call. However, walking on the safe side has its trade-offs. It all started Friday night with purchasing my very first stock pot at Bed Bath & Beyond after dinner. Now, that's a date night.

New stock pot with fancy insert strainer.

If we want to be technical, which I prefer to be, I prepared a total of five recipes. So much for taking it slowly. To my defense, the Jambalaya called for three and suggested a fourth recipe - Chicken Stock and  Clarified Butter in the Lagniappe section, suggestion of serving Creole Sauce from Shrimp Creole Recipe over the Jambalaya, and then the Jambalaya.

Let's start with the Chicken Stock. The recipe called for one cup of chicken stock which is one of the recipes. I've got to cook it sometime, so let's go ahead and get a stash built up. Gag, gag, and gag. Have you ever stopped and wondered how the chicken broth gets in the the cans on the store shelves or even better yet those extra nice new boxes it comes in? Well, if you don't have a tough stomach and if working with boneless chicken breasts gets you queasy, then don't think about how the chicken stock is made...and skip to the next paragraph because I'm going to tell you. First of all, stock gets it's flavor from the bones of a chicken. After reading the recipe calls for four chicken carcasses, I realized how crazy I was going to sound at the grocery store saying, "Um, hi. Aah yeah, do you have any extra chicken carcasses in the back that I can purchase? See, I'm cooking my way through a cook book...." Thankfully, the butcher at our wonderful neighborhood High Point Market remembered me and the Beouf Bourguignon. Hook line and sinker, I got him. Unfortunately, he doesn't have full carcasses but he saved me a stash of chicken backs. I'm not sure if it was necessary but I felt the need to remove the excess fat and meat from the backs. On Saturday morning, I had, oh, about forty-five minutes to gag a few times, think about the poor chickens, then tell myself how I was doing a good thing because their backs would never be used if it wasn't for me, and then gag a little more. About half way through the four pounds, I think a primal instinct took over. By now, I was convinced that I could make it in on Survivor, not in the wilderness, but Survivor. That only lasted a few minutes then I was grossed out again. Finally, time to make the stock. From there, it's easy peasy. So easy, the Big Guy volunteered to man the stock making while I focused on shopping for the Jambalaya ingredients. I love him for helping me.

Here it is...The makings of Chicken Stock.

Finished product

To prepare the Jambalaya and Creole Sauce in advance as much as possible, I chopped the vegetables, took the tails off the shrimp, sliced the sausage, and measured out the seasonings last night while watching the Olympics here and there. By the way, there are about a thousand ingredients in Jambalaya. I had time to think about restaurants and always have Commander's kitchen in mind. I mainly thought about how locally owned restaurants, whether it be casual or fine dining, deserves every single penny they charge. This is manual labor. I'm talking, of course, about truly great restaurants who do everything from scratch. Anyone can buy vegetables already pre cut and stock in a box, but it's those restaurants who have their staff put time and effort into it that I respect so much. I thought I couldn't possibly cut another onion when I was done and had the smell of onion engrained in my nostrils when I laid down last night. How must the staff in restaurants feel after a day of chopping vegetables. We should write a note to include them in the tip also.

Shrimp Creole Ingredients

Jambalaya Ingredients minus the canned tomatoes - I forgot to place them in picture.

So this afternoon, all I really had to do was combine everything following the mostly clear directions of the Creole Sauce and Jambalaya recipes. The Creole Sauce was a breeze and gratifying to create. Brad expected more heat to it but it's not spicy at all. The Jambalaya was easy except for one ingredient -  Clarified/Drawn Butter. To saute the vegetables you're only supposed to use clarified butter. I haven't had a chance to research why, but who am I to second guess Dick & Ella Brennan? The recipe says to melt the butter in a saucepan and skim the foamy white part off the top. Well, how might one go about skimming this off the top? Your guess is as good as mine. First I tried straining it. That was not the way, so I put it back in the pan, got out a spoon and dragged it across the top of the melted butter.

Before Clarifying

Semi- Clarified

As I scooped the spoon across the butter, I smiled to myself because at this moment I couldn't be farther from resembling Julia Child who inspired me to do embark on this Commanding Journey. She would know exactly how to do this, know why she was doing it, and have her pearls on while doing so. I on the other hand had on p-jankers, pony tail, apron (beautiful toile, so that earns a couple points), and snaggle tooth. Yes, snaggle tooth. My $1,000 porcelain crown came out last night before the chopping commenced. I bet Brad had to tie himself down to the recliner to avoid coming in that kitchen and scooping me up!

Sexy or not, I prepared the Big Guy a down home meal from scratch that will keep on giving for longer than we will ever want to eat Jambalaya. The recipe says it prepares for six servings. I don't know how many cups a serving is in Louisiana, but after three bowls tonight there are 16 more cups of Jambalaya. I'm keeping some but sharing the rest with family and friends. Who's hungry?

Finished products

Total prep time took a couple hours, excluding chicken broth, and cook time was approximately an hour. I thought the consistency would be thicker but am just fine with it as is. I rate it a 7 and Brad rates is 6.5 (again because it isn't spicy) out of 10. Maybe we're not Jambalaya lovers or I didn't do something right or the recipe is just ok.

To cap off the night, Brad and I toasted with the fifth recipe, Brandy Flip cocktail. I had some Brandy that I use for cooking, thus very inexpensive, so I thought it would be nice to toast with a Commander's cocktail. The drink is brandy, simple syrup, and a raw egg! Brad took one drink and I took three. It was a mix between a White Russian and spiked Egg Nog with cheap liquor. I could have finished, but the raw egg was messing with my mind each time I took a drink.

Cheers to the Commanding Journey

To sum up my Chicken Stock, Creole Sauce, Jambalaya, and Brandy Flip experience, I can only think of one way I would rather have spent this weekend, and that is do it with a group of friends or family.

Tata for now.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It wore me out just to read all this, Christie. But the final product looks awesome! I bet it deserves higher than the rating you gave it.

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio
Brad and me in Florence, Italy