Mike

Creole Jambalaya

To me jambalaya is a fall or winter dish. I am always nervous or fidgety when LSU or the Saint’s or playing, so you might find me cooking Jambalaya while watching the game on TV to help me relax. It’s also fun to cook while sucking down a few beers at tailgate parties. This is my newest jambalaya recipe. I call it creole because it includes tomatoes and a more complex seasoning mix which contains thyme, oregano, and allspice. Sometimes I include shrimp, but I’ll save that for another post. If you don’t wish to make the seasoning mix, a store bought brand like Tony’s or Slap Your Mama will substitute just fine. I make my own seasoning for just about all my cooking because I believe it gives me more control of the flavors. Seasonings in a dish should be to your liking so feel free to tweak my recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound bacon, diced
  • ½ cup of oil
  • 1 pound andouille sausage, diced
  • 1 pound ground pork sausage, removed from casings
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, roughly cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pound pork roughly cut into 1-inch pieces I like to use boneless country style ribs
  • 1.5 cups of rice – converted rice such as Uncle Bens works best. If you use regular rice rinse it.
  • 3 cups of water or beef broth (I use water then add a couple spoonfuls of Better Than Bullion)
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1 jar of roasted red and/or yellow bell peppers sliced
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley. 2 if fresh

Seasoning mix

  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp Dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • 1 dash allspice
  • 1 Dash Crushed red pepper

Method

For this dish you’ll need a large pot. I used my number 12 black iron pot which is about 12” across with 5” sides. If you have a smaller pot, reduce the meat to ½ pound portions.

Heat the oil in the pot and brown the andouille sausage, stirring slowly with a long wooden spoon or a spade. While this is browning, go ahead and season the chicken thighs and pork chunks with about a tablespoon of the seasoning mix. Once the sausage is browned remove and set aside. Add the pork chunks to the pot, stirring, and cook until is becomes slightly seared, about 5 minutes.

After the pork is browned remove and set aside. Rendere the bacon (your choice whether to remove it or leaveit , but the rimnants sure are good on a slice of bread while cooking). Add the onions to the pot and allow them to caramelize, stirring for about 15 minutes. Add the green bell peppers, and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes. Continue stirring from time to time so that everything in the pot cooks evenly. Add the ground pork sausage and stir until browned. Return the set aside meats to the pot. Stir well

Next add the rice, bay leaves and a tablespoon or so of the seasoning mix and stir often for 3-5 minutes. You want the seasoning to coat the other ingredients and allow them to begin swapping flavors with each other. (Continue this step longer if there is a lot of liquid leftover from vegetables to allow the liquid to reduce.)

Increase the heat to high and add the tomatoes, roasted peppers and beef stock to the pot. Taste and add more seasoning if desired. Bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the burner to it’s lowest setting and put the lid on the pot. Don’t peak for 30 minutes. (A second option would be to place the pot in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes once it returns to a boil.)

After 30 minutes turn off the stove (or remove from oven) and remove the lid from the pot. Stir well, and then fold in the green onions and parsley. There will likely be about a ½ inch of liquid on top when you first remove the lid. Return the lid and let it rest for an additional 10 minutes. Remove the lid, fluff the jambalaya and serve.

How to rescue a jambalaya

Sometimes when a jambalaya is opened at the 30 minute mark there is too much water or more likely, the rice is crunchy. Don’t freak out. These problems are caused by an incorrect liquid to rice ratio. For crunchy rice stir in a cup more water and let it sit covered for 15 minutes. For too watery, remove the lid and let it sit for 15 more minutes.

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PASTALAYA

Pastalaya is a relatively new dish appearing at social gatherings. It’s a very close cousin of jambalaya because you use the same ingredients, but substitute some type of pasta for the rice. If you struggle with the rice in your jambalaya being too crunchy or mushy, give pastalaya a try. The pasta is much more forgiving when it comes to the water ratio than rice. Most cooks use spaghetti, but any kind of pasta will do. Thicker types of pasta may need more water. 

This recipe is the one I used to place second in a local cook-off this past Spring. I multiplied all the ingredients by five and used my five gallon pot since the rules required the recipe to feed 50. I am not crazy about competition cooking, but it was part of a professional conference and my office hoped to “make a statement” to our colleagues from other offices.  This was my first time to make a pastalaya in my large pot and only my second time to use this recipe, so I was pleased with the results. Next time, I think I will use bow tie pasta because I beleave it will make a better presentation.

Pastalaya – This batch was made in my five gallon black iron pot and placed 2nd in a local cookoff.

Ingredients:
1 pound of pork, (I like to use boneless country-style ribs cut into 1” pieces)
1 pound of pork sausage (sliced) mild.
1 pound of boneless chicken thighs (cut into pieces)
1/2 pound of mild ground sausage
2 large onions (diced)
2 cups bell pepper (diced)
6 slices of bacon
Enough veg oil to cover bottom of pot
Creole seasoning, salt, pepper to taste
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
1 quart of  beef broth or water (add one more cup for a “juicier” pastalaya) see NOTE 1:
1 pound of number 4 spaghetti (break spaghetti into three pieces)
Parsley
green onions

NOTE 1: I heat my water and add beef broth granules, or bullion cubes to save money. 

This should serve 12 to 15.

Directions:

I used a #12 Black Iron Pot  For smaller pots, cut back on meat and spaghetti but not seasonings

  1. Heat oil in pot – just enough to brown and keep sausage from sticking – brown and remove sausage.
  2. Salt and pepper pork, brown and remove
  3. Cook bacon – when crisp remove bacon, wrap in sliced bread and eat.  You can skip this and sub veg oil if you prefer a good heart to good flavor.
  4. In bacon grease – add onion and cook until it starts to caramelize.  I have learned you really need to get onion caramelized to bring out its best flavor. Adding peppers or other veggies in this stage will prevent onions from caramelizing due to too much steam from water. 
  5. Add ground sausage and brown. 
  6. Add bell peppers and garlic
  7. Add the cream of mushroom soup
  8. Add the broth, meat from steps 1 and 2, and bring to a boil.
  9. Salt and pepper the chicken and add to the pot.  Stir till chicken almost done.
  10. Taste and add creole season, salt and pepper to taste.  Should be a little salty because spaghetti will take some salt.
  11. Now add the spaghetti. Don’t forget to break it.  You can reduce heat to medium after adding the spaghetti. Now, stir the spaghetti well. NOTE 2: This is an important step because you do not want the spaghetti to clump together. Once you are satisfied that each strand is loose, turn off the burner,stir in the parsley and green onions and place a lid on the pot. Allow your pastalaya to stand for about 20 minutes. NOTE 3: It is okay to stir the pasta every 5 to 10 minutes to prevent the pasta on top from drying out or sticking to pot. 

Mike’s Creole Seasoning

Mike’s Creole Seasoning

I like to use my own blends of seasoning when cooking.  I feel it gives me more control over the flavor. I have used commercial brands of seasoning such as Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning or Slap Your Mama, but I prefer homemade.  To me, Tony’s has too much salt and well, I just don’t like the name of the other one.  Both are good, so use them if you like. 

This recipe is what I use as a base seasoning for most dishes, including meats, salads and vegetables.  I like it because the flavors of the different spices seem to change with each bite. I can adjust it to the type of dish I am cooking. If I am cooking Italian, I will add traditional Italian spices such as garlic, oregano, and basil.  For Mexican dishes, I’ll add spices such as chili powder, cummin, and spanish oregano.

Here’s my recipe: 

1/2 cup Kosher Salt

1/3 cup Paprika (Smoked Paprika if you can find it)

1/4 cup granulated garlic

1/4 cup onion powder

1/3 cup black pepper

3 tbsp white pepper

2 tbsp cayenne pepper

2 tbsp celery salt

2 tbsp dried thyme

2 tbsp dried basil

1 tbsp dried oregano

1 tbsp MSG (optional)

1/2 tbsp allspice

Combine all ingredients. Makes about 14 ounces