Kitchen Accomplice: A taste of N'Awlins

By John Kirkendall

New Orleans, San Francisco, Chicago and New York – these are the places away from home I love to visit. Somehow these cities attract the finest chefs. My next soiree is to New Orleans. I am already thinking about where to eat and what to order – although, like Paris or the French countryside, it is nearly impossible to make a poor choice. Our hotel on this outing is in the heart of the French Quarter. While not a requirement for a memorable time, it does add a certain je ne sais quoi!

A bayou boat trip is always interesting and allows one to see exactly how vulnerable the city is to the vicissitudes of Mother Nature. The vegetation and wildlife are nothing like home and are good subjects for your camera. The boat leaves at the Mississippi River foot of Canal Street, said to be the widest street in America.

Meantime, back on terra firma, it is time to be thinking about menu selections. Who better to turn to than Emeril Legasse. He has created a legend for himself in New Orleans and as a master showman has become a national figure as a result of the Food Network. A sampling of his wares gives credence to his preeminence. The recipe I have selected for you today is not only emblematic of New Orleans but is simple – and downright addictive.

Emeril’s Jambalaya
This serves 4. A day or so ahead, you might like to mix up the seasonings, so that step is finished before you begin the food preparation.

Cajun Jambalaya
 Ingredients:
• 12 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped.
• 4 ounces chicken, diced.
• 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning, recipe follows.
• 2 tablespoons olive oil.
• 1/4 cup chopped onion.
• 1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper.
• 1/4 cup chopped celery.
• 2 tablespoons chopped garlic.
• 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes.
• 3 bay leaves.
• 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce.
• 1 teaspoon hot sauce.
• 3/4 cup rice.
• 3 cups chicken stock.
• 5 ounces Andouille sausage, sliced.
• Salt and pepper.

Directions
In a bowl combine shrimp, chicken and Creole seasoning, and work in seasoning well. In a large saucepan heat oil over high heat with onion, pepper and celery, 3 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes, bay leaves, Worcestershire and hot sauces. Stir in rice and slowly add broth. Reduce heat to medium and cook until rice absorbs liquid and becomes tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. When rice is just tender add shrimp and chicken mixture and sausage. Cook until meat is done, about 10 minutes more. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning.

Emeril’s ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast):
• 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika.
• 2 tablespoons salt.
• 2 tablespoons garlic powder.
• 1 tablespoon black pepper.
• 1 tablespoon onion powder.
• 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper.
• 1 tablespoon dried oregano.
• 1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.

Yield: 2/3 cup

Pralines (These are so darned good – and will make a delightful addition to your holiday fare!)
Cooking tips: Wear long sleeves to protect your arms from stray candy bubbles. Sugar burns are painful, so take care, especially with children around. (My rule is to keep kids out of the kitchen while this is going on. Burns are always bad, but at the holidays are particularly disruptive.) It’s better to start on a moderate heat setting and raise the temperature slowly than to cook the candy too hot and too fast. If a drop lands on your arm, rinse it off at once and rub the spot with an ice cube to prevent a burn. Use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature as you cook. And, traditional southern cooks say never make these on a rainy day!

Ingredients:
• 1 1/3 Cups white sugar.
• 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed.
• 2 cups pecan halves.
• 3/4 cup pecan halves.
• 3/4 cup light cream.
• 2 T unsalted butter.
• Pinch of salt.
• 1/2 t baking soda.
• 1 t vanilla.

Method
1. Preheat oven to 300. Place pecan halves on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast, turning once for 10 minutes.
2. Line two baking sheets with wax paper and set aside. Mix together white and brown sugar with baking soda in a medium sized saucepan.
3. Stir in light cream and place over medium to medium high heat. Cook, whisking occasionally, until mixture reaches 235 on a candy thermometer. This will take about 25 minutes.
4. Add the butter and stir until butter is fully melted.
5. Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla and pecans. Stir until slightly cooled, about a minute or so.
6. Drop quickly on your prepared baking pans and allow to cool completely.
7. Now, let the kids in! They will appreciate your labors as well as their burn-free skins!

Once cool these can be stored for 3 days in an airtight container. Makes 2 dozen.

Judge John Kirkendall is a retired Washtenaw County Probate judge. He presently serves on the Elder Law Advisory Board of the Stetson University College of Law. He has taught cooking classes for more than 25 years at various cooking schools in the Ann Arbor area and has himself attended classes at Cordon Bleu and La Varenne in Paris, as well as schools in New York, New Orleans and San Francisco. He is past president of the National College of Probate Judges. He can be reached at Judgejnk@yahoo.com.

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