Sunday, January 23, 2011


Every time I even hear that word - Jambalaya - I have this mental image. Surprisingly, it's not about New Orleans, seafood, stew, or anything like that. It's about Seinfeld... Yes, the infamous Soup Nazi episode - and I picture Newman dancing down the road after he looks in his bag and says "Jambalaya!".

I'm sure my recipe isn't that good - just as sure I am that there are about a zillion recipes for Jambalaya out there. This is just my humble entry into the foray. I *think* this classifies as a stew. I'm not sure.

Now, as most of you know, I'm a spice wimp. In addition, if you have been following my blog, you will know that I am a total spice wimp. I love complex flavors, as long as it's not so high on the Scolville scale that it burns my tongue off. Actually, a ton of flavors gives me something to think about, and I remember the dish longer. It's like a puzzle that I have to figure out before I'm happy.

You will also notice this has a *ton* of ingredients. Don't be intimidated by that, the recipe actually comes together very easily. I actually surprised myself to notice this recipe doesn't contain soy or ginger. Yes, I know, unusual for me.

I was first introduced to Jambalaya and Gumbo by my ex. He has very specific ideas on what Gumbo and Jambalaya was. He also had his secret recipe. No, this isn't close at all to his Gumbo recipe. For one, it doesn't have any okra. Now I'm not an okra hater, I just wasn't feeling it when I was thinking about this recipe.

I was fortunate enough to travel to New Orleans for a wedding in my lifetime - way before Katrina. I got to taste a ton of dishes, and enjoyed every one. Now, it's my turn to spin it to my tastes. One thing you will never me cook with is Tilapia, though. I know people love it, I think it tastes like dirt. The first time I had it, I honestly thought the chef had accidentally dropped my fish on the floor...a very dirty floor.

I have really blurred the line between Gumbo and Jambalaya on this one, but I think the results are worth it. If you can have some patience with my food geek hat, from what I know, the difference between Gumbo and Jambalaya is Gumbo has file, okra, and a roux. Jambalaya can have those, but is more of a tomato-seafood stew than anything. This has some roux in it, and can be loosely classified as a Gumbo, but it really is a stew.

One more quick note - I chose to serve my Jambalaya over rice rather than put rice in it. I really prefer rice to be separate for many reasons. I think leftovers keep better if the rice is separate, and I enjoy the rice being a bit neutral in the dish.

Serves 4-6

1/2 cup cubed ham
1 lb. cajun sausage, like Andouille, cut into bite size pieces
1 lb shrimp
1 24 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 medium onion, diced
2 green peppers, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 T. olive oil
1 cup cooked shredded chicken
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 c. flour
3 bay leaves
1 t. smoked paprika
1 t. old bay seasoning
3 cloves garlic, minced
10 shakes hot sauce, or to taste
Juice of 1 lemon

In a heavy bottomed stew pot, put 1 T. oil, the onions, peppers, and celery. Cook until onions are translucent, and set aside. Saute sausage briefly 1-2 minutes, and remove from pan. Add rest of oil and the flour, and cook until a caramel color.

Once your flour and oil is the right color, add all your remaining ingredients except the lemon juice and shrimp. I used home made chicken stock for my recipe, and used approximately 1 t. salt. However, if you use not homemade stock, you may want to add less. Add up to 1 t. pepper, or to taste.

Simmer 30 minutes. Adjust taste by adding more salt and pepper, or hot sauce. Add shrimp and lemon juice and continue to simmer until shrimp just turns pink. Taste and adjust seasoning again before serving.

Serve over white rice.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mocha Cheesecake

While I would like to say this was an experiment gone bad, I simply can not. While the result was not what I expected, this cheesecake was simply amazing.

I have had this idea for a while - a 2 layer cheesecake, baked together. Just imagine it - complimentary cheesecakes baked together in layers. That was the original intention of this cheesecake - a beautiful coffee cheesecake on the bottom, and a wonderful chocolate cheesecake layer on top.

It didn't quite work out that way. There was a layer of coffee cheesecake on the bottom, but, for the most part, the layers combined into a simply divine mocha cheesecake. While I still have hopes of creating a multi layer cheesecake, I realize I will have to be a bit more creative if I want it to be a baked one. I do still have a few ideas, but the next cheesecake I have been thinking about for over 6 months, so I have to make that one first!

The cheesecake was embellished with white chocolate covered espresso beans, ganache, and caramel. And, this cheesecake went fast - it was a favorite all around! I've included instructions as if there were one layer, and we will save multiple layers for next time.

Mocha Cheesecake

For the crust:

1 1/2 cup chocolate wafer cookie crumbs - this is about 2/3 of a package of Oreos or similar
5 T. butter, melted

Mix together, and press into an 8 or 9" springform pan. Press the crumbs up the sides of the pan with a spoon or a measuring cup.

For the filling:

2 pounds cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup cocoa powder (I use dutch processed)
1/2 cup espresso powder
2 t. vanilla extract
1 t. salt

Preheat oven to 350. In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese for 1-2 minutes until lighter. Add sugar, and beat for 3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl to make sure well incorporated. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add cocoa powder, espresso powder, vanilla, and salt. Mix until completely incorporated and no white streaks remain. This will take a few minutes.

Pour mixture over prepared crust, and bake for 55 minutes at 350. Remove from oven and let cool at room temperature for at least one hour. Place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, decorate with chocolate ganache, espresso beans, and/or caramel sauce. Let sit at room temperature for an hour before serving.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Daring cooks begin 2011 with a Cassoulet~

What a way to start 2011! This is a dish I've always wanted to cook, but I must admit - I was a bit intimidated with the instructions!

Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.

What an incredible way to elevate the simple bean! This has so much meat in it! I couldn't believe it. Maybe that's me. I'm the type of person that will call a soup chicken soup because it has chicken stock in it, but not necessarily chicken.

Compare that to these beans - which have at least 2 types of meat in them! And, lots of it as well! I chose to do the chicken version, not the duck one. I had just had duck a little earlier, and I felt along with all that pork, it may be too much.

This is an incredibly rich dish. The chicken is slow cooked in olive oil, then put in with the beans. I chose to shred mine. You will also note the recipe calls for sausages, which I forgot in the finished dish, and didn't miss them one bit until I noticed them in the refrigerator later that day.

Finally, the recipe does call for pork rind - which I didn't use at all. I couldn't really find it, and I didn't notice the difference.

Thank you again Jenni and Lisa for such a great challenge! I look forward to doing a similar dish, mainly the vegetarian version, since I love beans, but prefer mine without all the meat in them!

Also, a note: Since this is such a great recipe, I cut and paste directly from the daring cooks instructions. I didn't edit the recipe at all, so use your own judgement! Enjoy!

Chicken Confit Using Olive Oil
Chicken Confit by Emeril Lagasse, via Food Network


4 chicken leg portions with thighs attached, excess fat trimmed and reserved (about 2 pounds/ about 1 kg total)
1 tablespoon plus 1/8 teaspoon (15.6 ml) kosher salt (**note: if using table salt, use ½ the amount)
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (3 gm) freshly ground black pepper
10 garlic cloves
4 dried bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons (7½ ml) (6 gm) black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon ( 2½ ml) (3 gm) table salt
4 cups (1 liter) olive oil


1. Lay the leg portions on a platter, skin side down. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of the kosher salt and black pepper. Place the garlic cloves, bay leaves, and sprigs of thyme on each of 2 leg portions. Lay the remaining 2 leg portions, flesh to flesh, on top. Put the reserved fat from the chicken in the bottom of a glass or plastic container. Top with the sandwiched leg portions. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt. Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours.
2 .Preheat the oven to cool 200°F/90°C/gas mark ¼.
3. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Remove the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and chicken fat and reserve. Rinse the chicken with cool water, rubbing off some of the salt and pepper. Pat dry with paper towels.
4. Put the reserved garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and chicken fat in the bottom of an enameled cast iron pot. Sprinkle evenly with the peppercorns and salt. Lay the chicken on top, skin side down. Add the olive oil. Cover and bake for 12 to 14 hours, or until the meat pulls away from the bone.

Cassoulet by Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman (as featured on the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations”)
Serves 4 - 8 (unless you're Lisa Michele)

Ingredients for Duck Confit

4 whole duck legs (leg and thigh), size does not matter
sea salt, for the overnight (at least 6-8 hours) dry rub (the amount varies depending on the size of your legs, so just know that you need to have enough on hand for a good coating.)
2 cups/480 ml/450 gm/16 oz duck fat
a healthy pinch or grind of black pepper
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 garlic clove

Day One

1.Rub the duck legs fairly generously with sea salt, place in the shallow dish, cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight. At all times, keep your work area clean and your ingredients free of contamination - meaning don't allow any other food, like bread crumbs or scraps, to get into your duck, duck fat or confit, as they will make an otherwise nearly non-perishable preparation suddenly perishable.

Day Two

1.Preheat the oven to moderately hot 375ºF/190ºC/gas mark 5.
2.Render (melt) the duck fat in the saucepan until clear.
3.After seasoning with the black pepper, place the duck legs in the clean, ovenproof casserole.
4.Nestle the thyme, rosemary and garlic in with the duck legs, and pour the melted duck fat over the legs to just cover.

5. Cover the dish with foil and put in the oven. Cook for about an hour, or until the skin at the "ankle" of each leg pulls away from the "knuckle." The meat should be tender.
6. Allow to cool and then store as is in the refrigerator, sealed under the fat. When you need the confit, you can either warm the whole dish, in which case removing the legs will be easy, or dig them out of the cold fat and scrape off the excess. I highly recommend the former. A nice touch at this point is to twist out the thighbone from the cold confit. Just place one hand on the drumstick, pinioning the leg to the table, and with the other hand, twist out the thighbone, plucking it from the flesh without mangling the thigh meat. Think of someone you hate when you do it.

Ingredients for Cassoulet

5 cups/1200 ml/1100 g/39 oz dried Tarbais beans or white beans such as Great Northern or Cannelini (if you use canned beans be aware that you will need double this amount!)
2 pounds/900 gm fresh pork belly
1 onion, cut into 4 pieces
1 pound/450 gm pork rind
1 bouquet garni (tie together two sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs thyme and one bay leaf)
salt and pepper
1/4 cup/60 ml/55 gm duck fat
6 pork sausages
3 onions, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
4 confit duck legs

Day One

1.Place the beans in the large bowl and cover with cold water so that there are at least 2 or 3 inches (50mm or 75mm) of water above the top of the beans. Soak overnight. That was hard, right? (Beans will double in size upon soaking, so use a big bowl!)

Day Two

1. Drain and rinse the beans and place in the large pot.
2. Add the pork belly, the quartered onion, 1/4 pound/115 gm of the pork rind, and the bouquet garni.
3. Cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and continue to simmer until the beans are tender, about 30 minutes more.

4. Let cool for 20 minutes, then discard the onion and the bouquet garni.
5. Remove the pork belly, cut it into 2-inch/5-cm squares, and set aside. (If you plan to wait another day before finishing the dish, wait to cut the pork belly until then.)
6. Strain the beans and the rind and set aside, reserving the cooking liquid separately.
7. In the sauté pan, heat all but 1 tablespoon/15 ml/15 gm of the duck fat over medium-high heat until it shimmers and becomes transparent.
8. Carefully add the sausages and brown on all sides.

9. Remove sausages and set aside, draining on paper towels.

10. In the same pan, over medium-high heat, brown the sliced onions, the garlic and the reserved squares of pork rind from the beans (not the unused pork rind; you'll need that later).
11. Once browned, remove from the heat and transfer to the blender. Add 1 tablespoon//15 ml/15 gm of the remaining duck fat and purée until smooth. Set aside.

12. Preheat the oven to moderate 350ºF/180ºC/gas mark 4.

13.Place the uncooked pork rind in the bottom of a deep ovenproof non-reactive dish. You're looking to line the inside, almost like a pie crust. Arrange all your ingredients in alternating layers, beginning with a layer of beans, then sausages, then more beans, then pork belly, beans, duck confit and finally more beans, adding a dab of the onion and pork rind purée between each layer.

14. Add enough of the bean cooking liquid to just cover the beans, reserving 1 cup/240 ml in the refrigerator for later use.
15. Cook the cassoulet in the oven for 1 hour, then reduce the heat to very slow 250ºF/130ºC/gas mark ½ and cook for another hour.
16. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight.

Day Three

1. Preheat the oven to moderate 350ºF/180ºC/gas mark 4 again.
2. Cook the cassoulet for an hour.
3. Break the crust on the top with the spoon and add 1/4 cup/60 ml of the reserved cooking liquid. (Don't get fancy. Just pile, dab, stack and pile. It doesn't have to be pretty.)
4. Reduce the heat to very slow 250ºF/130ºC/gas mark ½ and continue cooking another 15 minutes, or until screamingly hot through and through. Then serve.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Beef Stew with Yeasted Corn Bread

Yes, it's still cold here! We got the 3rd snow of the season yesterday and today. For those of you that live in the Pacific Northwest, you know how unusual that is. It's usually very rainy, but rarely snowy!

This makes the perfect weather for soups and stews - like beef stew. To me, this is the perfect winter dish. Full of nice vegetables and bits of tender beef, all floating in a flavorful gravy. It doesn't get much more comforting than this.

Now, I will admit to you - Sometimes I use leftovers for my stew. That little bit of roast beef you tucked in the freezer thinking - oh, I'll make something with it. Those two or three carrots floating around the bottom of your crisper drawer. It's all good.

Let's for a minute, talk about this bread. I loved it. I used the recipe from howtobaker. Now, I must admit, I don't like corn bread. It's a texture thing for me. I don't like how it falls apart, or how it seems to have crunchy bits in it from the corn meal. This bread fixes those problems, and was very good. Was an excellent accompaniment to my stew.

I'm not going to republish the recipe, will just refer you to this post. I must admit, I didn't do the poolish. I got impatient and just dumped everything together. It worked just as well, although I'm sure if the poolish were done, it would be a nicer texture. But, the texture was fine, and it was very tasty.

Beef Stew
Serves 4-6

1 lb beef stew meat, cut into 1" chunks
1/3 c. flour
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1 t. oil
2 carrots, cut into 1 1/2" chunks
2 medium potatoes, cut into 1 1/2" chunks
2 celery stalks, cut into 1 1/2" chunks
1 medium onion, cut into 16 pieces
2 cups beef broth
2 T. soy sauce
1/2 t. garlic powder
2 T. rice wine vinegar
1 T. corn starch, mixed into 2 T. water

Lightly sprinkle beef stew with salt and pepper, and coat with flour. In a medium stew pot, heat oil and brown beef on all sides in batches. When all beef has been browned, add beef broth to pot and scrape bottom of the pot. Add all your vegetables, meat, and garlic powder. Reduce heat to low and let cook for 2-3 hours, until meat is tender and vegetables have been cooked. You can add more broth or water if needed.

Add soy sauce and rice wine vinegar, and stir. Taste broth, adjusting salt and pepper to taste. Thicken with cornstarch slurry and serve.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Taco Soup

It's soup weather! My mom loves this soup. For me, it's ok. I think it would be better with shredded chicken than the ground beef, but it is very hearty and hits the spot on a cold winter day. It's one of those things that you can turn to from your pantry and have dinner on the table with minimal effort.

I like to call this a partially homemade soup. There are so many ingredients that you can simply combine from a few cans or frozen items. This makes it pretty easy to assemble on a weeknight, that's for sure. AND, it also lets me work on one of my New Years resolutions - use all my canned goods that I buy because it's on special and rarely use. AND, use all the stuff I froze from the summer...yea, more on that in future posts. You all will have to check my progress on that. And, yes, I know, the desire is there to simply donate all those cans to the food bank, but this is a challenge!

This soup is pretty versatile. You can substitute chicken for the beef, or just leave it out and add more beans. You can add more vegetables. You can buy tortilla chips instead of frying up some cut up tortilla's...but it is a great way to get rid of those few tortilla shells laying in your fridge!

Taco Soup

1 lb lean ground beef or turkey
1 small onion, diced
1 t. vegetable oil
1 packet Taco Seasoning mix
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. smoked paprika
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 16 oz can low sodium chicken broth
1 cup corn (you can use fresh, canned, or frozen here)
1 jalapeno, optional
1 15 oz can your choice of beans - I suggest pinto, red, or black, drained
1/3 c. corn meal or corn flour
Juice of 1/2 lime, or 1 t. vinegar


Corn tortillas, cut in strips and fried or baked
Sour Cream
Cheddar Cheese

In a medium to large soup pot, brown ground beef and onion in the vegetable oil. Add all remaining ingredients except corn flour and lime juice and let simmer over medium heat until mixture comes to a light boil. Sprinkle corn flour over soup while stirring to thicken. Add lime juice and taste. Add more seasonings to taste.

Serve with optional garnishes.