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Tuesday, January 29, 2008 

Not paying attention

This past weekend was most definitely not about food.

I DID actually cook food. But I didn't really put my heart into it, and it showed. I cooked up a Jambalaya on Saturday that ended up being kind of mushy because I put the rice in to early. And, I had to mix tomato paste in at the last minute because I had forgotten to put it in. On Sunday, I fried up some boneless pork chops, but put them on too early so they were really dry and I put too much rice in my side dish making it bland.

Obviously, I was focused on other things. We had a good friend over for gaming on Saturday and as the gamemaster I had other things to think about beyond food. And on Sunday we had to rush out of the house just after dinner because we had tickets to see the young English blues band "Back Door Slam". They were fantastic, by the way. If you dig blues, go buy their CD. I'm a good guitar player. If I actually practiced, I could probably be as good as their guitarist Danny Knowles. The thing is though, I'm 37. He's 20. At the same age he is now, I was still just fumbling around on the guitar. This kid has the makings of a guitar hero.

But, that's not the point of this post. My two mediocre dinners served as a good reminder that no matter how good at cooking I think I am, I still need to pay attention to what I'm doing.

It was a great reminder that you really DO get out what you put in.


Just found your blog through an old link from Orangette. I like what I'm seeing so far. I cook, smoke, and barbecue for crowds, mostly folkies.

I'm not sure what you're doing with tomato paste in Jambalaya. I'm going to try to paste in my recipe below. Give it a shot.


This is a pretty quick and easy preparation of a great party dish that almost everyone loves. Total preparation time is about an hour. It’s a one pot meal if you have a large heavy skillet or Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid. The amount of spicyness can be varied to suit your taste. This recipe will feed 4-6 hungry people, and is spiced for “middle-of-the-road” taste. The meat additions can be varied, depending on what you have available. Do not add additional salt, as the ham, sausage, and broth tend to add enough.

1/2 lb. lean smoked ham, cut in 1/2” dice
1 really large onion, chopped in coarse dice
1 sweet green pepper, cored, seeded and chopped in coarse dice
1 sweet red pepper, cored, seeded and chopped in coarse dice
2 stalks celery, sliced 1/4” (save celery leaves for final garnish)
1 jalapeño pepper (or other moderately hot small green pepper), cored, seeded and chopped fine
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. mild cooking oil
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. hot red cayenne pepper
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1 lb. smoked sausage (smoked kielbasa, or other smoky sausage of your choice), sliced into 1/4” coins
1 cup long grain rice
2 cups (1 pint) of either shrimp/seafood stock or chicken broth - boiling when added.
1 lb. peeled, deveined medium-size shrimp (frozen is OK, but defrost before using)
2 tbsp fresh parsley leaves, chopped fine along with reserved celery leaves

In heavy skillet or Dutch oven, heat butter and oil over medium-high heat. Add ham and sauté briefly. Add chopped onions, sweet peppers, and celery and sauté until onions are translucent, but not browned. Add chopped jalapeño and garlic, along with black pepper, thyme, bay leaves, and cayenne, and sauté two minutes more. Then add tomatoes and sliced sausages and cook slowly for about 3 minutes. Stir in rice, then add the hot stock or broth. Cover tightly, reduce heat to a slow simmer, and cook for about 15 minutes. Then stir in the shrimp, parsley and celery leaves, making sure shrimp are buried in rice and sauce. Cover and continue simmering about 7 minutes more. Serve immediately in large bowls or soup plates, with Crystal hot sauce and/or Tabasco on the side for those who want more heat. A big green salad with a vinaigrette dressing, with ripe melon or fresh peaches for dessert go nicely. A cold, sharp beer is a better beverage choice than wine for this highly flavored dish.

You may add with the shrimp (or substitute for shrimp) cooked, diced chicken or pork, or uncooked scallops.
You may use pre-cooked fresh Italian sausage (sweet, hot, or both) instead of the smoked sausage.

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