Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pork & Sausage Jambalaya

After hearing The Catholic Foodie talk John Besh's cookbook, My Family Table: A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking, I requested it from the library. I’m always up for a book that encourages people to cook with their families on a regular basis, usually with basic recipes that can be adapted.

The book is all that with gorgeous photography added. Although not as long and more oriented to New Orleans style cooking, this book really reminded me of Julia Child’s The Way to Cook. Both have an easy-going, instructional quality that doesn’t stress too much over details while giving you the tools (and general recipes) to find your own way in the kitchen.  I’ve certainly gotta give Besh full props for not being afraid to show his two boys proudly holding two just-killed wild birds or showing a just dead chicken. Way to reconnect us to where food really comes from. I like it.

I was particularly interested in the Sausage and Pork Jambalaya and the Eggplant Dressing, although the Stuffed French Toast (stuffed with Nutella) seemed a bit over the top. Full disclosure, I am not really a fan of French Toast, but that’s another story.

As it turns out the Pork & Sausage Jambalaya is absolutely delicious. And simple. I am giving it as a sample to lure you into trying the book for yourself.

Now that I am rereading the recipe, I see that I should have used only half the bell pepper instead of the whole thing. However, that is what's so great about these recipes. Adapt at will, just as the people who came up with it would. They used what they had.

Also, I am confessing here and now that when I saw the recipe called for 3 cups of rice, I should have known it was to feed a large number of people. We have a lot in the freezer as a result.

Pork & Sausage Jambalaya
1/2 pound bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 pound smoked pork sausage, sliced (I used kielbasa)
3 cups uncooked converted Louisiana white rice (I used plain long-grain rice ... again, it's what I had)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
5 cups chicken broth
1 cup tomato sauce or canned chopped tomatoes
2 cups diced cooked pork (I had none on hand so bought a few pork chops, diced them and sauteed the meat in the bacon fat.
3 green onions, chopped

In a large heavy-bottomed pot, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until the fat is rendered about 3 minutes. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until browned. Add the bell pepper, celery, and sausage. Cook, stirring, for another 3 minutes, then add the rice, paprika, thyme, and red pepper flakes.

Increase the heat to high and add the chicken broth and tomato sauce, then the pork and green onions. Stir well and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 18 minutes. Remember the pork and sausage are already cooked, you're only making the rice at this point. Remove the pot from the heat and it's ready to serve! Season with salt and Tabasco. (We didn't need either. It was superb.)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cooking the Books: Weber's Big Book of Grilling

I've been meaning for some time to tell y'all about my personal 2012 Cooking Challenge. I have quite a few cookbooks and yet I cook from them so rarely. Many of them I have read numerous times but still have never been impelled to do more than cook the same two or three recipes that interested me originally.

This year I thought I'd make two-three dishes from a particular cookbook each week. If all goes well, I'll have provided much more variety to my usual round of "go to" default meals.

That should be a welcome change for all!

First up, was Weber's Big Book of Grilling. I remember trying it when it was new (2001, is it possible?) and hitting a dud first thing out of the box. The problem was that so many recipes looked great that I couldn't bear to get rid of the book, yet my first experience made me distrust it.

This time there was no such problem. Both the Pork Chops with Adobo BBQ Sauce and the Lamb Patties in Pita with Yogurt Dill-Mint Sauce were fantastic. The pork chops really didn't even need the BBQ sauce since they had a flavorful rub and the lamb patties had a fresh Mediterranean flavor that I couldn't get enough of. My favorite ... the lamb patties, which you may try for yourself.

Moroccan Lamb In Pita
Serves: 4

Direct/Medium grill

For the Seasoning Mix:
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground saffron threads

1-1/4 pounds ground lamb

For the Sauce:
3/4 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onions
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for the lamb patties
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

4 pita breads pockets
1 cup torn lettuce
1/2 cup diced fresh tomatoes

Make the Seasoning Mix
In a small, dry, heavy sauté pan combine the seasoning mix ingredients and cook over medium heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

In a large bowl combine the lamb with the seasoning mix and 3 tablespoons cold water. Lightly mix with your hands; don't overwork the meat. With wet hands, lightly shape the meat into four equal-sized patties, about 3/4 inch thick. Cover and refrigerate until ready to grill.

Just Before Grilling Make the Sauce
In a small bowl whisk together the sauce ingredients.

Lightly brush or spray the lamb patties with the extra-virgin olive oil. Grill over Direct Medium heat until the lamb is medium, 7 to 9 minutes, turning once halfway through grilling time. Grill the pita over Direct Medium heat until toasted, 30 to 60 seconds, turning once halfway through grilling time.

Slip the lamb patties inside the pita pockets along with a heaping spoonful of the yogurt sauce. Top with the lettuce and tomato. Serve immediately.