Paper Chef #10: the New Orleans edition
We’ve been at a loss for words. I think we still are, to some extent, numb from the horrific events of this past week and not quite able to sit ourselves down and just write about food without thinking of the outrage of so many going without for so long. (Lord knows I’ve tried posting every day; tried and failed.)
But this month’s Paper Chef, with its New Orleans theme, has finally pulled us back to our neglected blog and reminded us that life can (and must) go on.
Chopper and I have never been to New Orleans and in fact just two weeks ago or less we were brainstorming a potential trip around the country and naming our must-see cities. New Orleans was at the top of my list. I still want to go, though I know it’ll be a while yet. I want to see the New Orleans that once was and will be again. I want to fall in love with her as so many of my friends have.
But that must wait, and in the meantime, we’ll give the city and her neighbors to the east as best a culinary tribute as we can muster, improvised with our own Northwest flair.
Paper Chef’s four required ingredients as selected by Owen of Tomatilla were sausage, beer, tomatoes, and shrimp. Owen’s further suggestion for this month’s competition: “participate in the Paper Chef this weekend specifically INSTEAD of going out to dinner one night” and then donate the money we would have spent to hurricane disaster relief.
Since we don’t dine out much (or spend much when we do) we decided instead to choose simple ingredients, raid the panty (or the freezer) if we could, and cook enough for several meals. It seemed most fitting: Jambalaya and biscuits and gravy; hearty meals we wish we could cook for Katrina’s refugees if we weren’t two thousand miles away. Dishes designed to fill us up on the cheap so our money could go where it mattered so much more. All told, we spent no more than $25 and our Paper Chef results fed three people for three lunches and four dinners.
And here’s where I have to stop and consider for a moment. It’s easy to congratulate ourselves: Seven meals and for only twenty-five bucks? Good going! As if there weren’t thousands upon countless thousands in this country alone who’d gladly take twenty-five bucks to feed a family of five for a week. If there’s one thing that’s shocked me even more than the gross incompetence of our government in this disaster, it’s the gross and willful ignorance of so many who truly believe that everyone who stayed in New Orleans stayed out of choice; who truly do not get what poverty means. Couldn’t they have walked, they ask. Why don’t they have cars? If they all had 40-hour-a-week jobs and weren’t so lazy, they could have been prepared. I am numb with fury over such thoughts, and I lack the eloquence to put into words how much it breaks my heart to know that a disaster of this magnitude isn’t enough to smack a little empathy into the damaged souls of the selfish.
Instead, I’d like to direct readers to these links. First, from writer John Scalzi on Being Poor. If you’ve been there, it’ll bring back memories. If you haven’t, it’ll open eyes. Second, this most excellent post and its follow-up from novelist Cherie Priest. Just go, read, you’ll be glad you did.
Last, closer to our virtual home, Amy of Beauty Joy Food is hosting a fundraiser. She asks participants (and you don’t need a food blog to join in) to write about New Orleans — food, memories, music, whatever — and then add this banner and fundraising link to your post:
We’ve no memories to share, but for this post, we’ve food. Good, hearty Southern food, Belly Timber style. Enjoy, share, live, and most of all, give.
Chopper’s Northwestern Jambalaya
(For this recipe, we raided our freezer for a hefty helping of Dungeness crab, leftover from a summer picnic — which we’ll cover in another post… soon… we promise! The bacon and rice were freebies, and Chopper saved us even more by making the andouille at home.)
- 1 pound homemade andouille sausage (see below)
- 1/4 pound bacon
- 1/2 pound 21-30 cooked shrimp
- 2 whole, cooked Dungeness crabs
- 4 medium sized fresh tomatoes, chopped
- 4 cups jasmine rice
- 1 pound dry red beans (soaked overnight)
- 2 pints light American lager
- 2 1/2 cups red wine
- 2 cups water
For the Homemade andouille sausage:
Pulse all ingredients together in a food processor until finely chopped, but not pureed.
- In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high, when oil begins to smoke add bacon, and cook until most of the fat is rendered out. Add sausage and cook until firm. Deglaze pot with a small portion of the red wine.
- When the wine is, for the most part, evaporated, add rice and stir until all the rice is covered in fat (and spices from the andouille), then add the beer, remaining red wine, water and half of the chopped tomatoes. Bring to a simmer.
- Take cooked whole crabs, remove top shell, then clean and de-gill, and break into quarters.
- When the mixture is still bubbling, but near done, add shrimp and crab pieces and bring to temp.
- Turn out entire dish onto a platter or large bowl, garnish with other half of the chopped tomatoes, serves… many.
(For this version, we snagged a bag of pablano peppers at the local farmer’s market, roasted and skinned them to be stuffed with jambalaya as a garnish.)
Stuffed biscuits with spicy gravy
For the biscuits
For the gravy
- Cook chorizo in a medium skillet. When chorizo is firm, add shrimp and tomatoes, season to taste with salt & pepper.
- Make biscuits, using standard method, substituting beer for other liquid.
- Once biscuit dough is complete, lay portions on a sheet pan lined with parchment. Create depressions within the portions of dough and fill with sausage, shrimp, and tomato mixture. Top with another layer of dough. Repeat until you run out of dough.
- Place biscuits in 400 degree oven.
- While biscuits are cooking, bring remaining sausage, tomato, & shrimp mixture back to medium-high heat.
- Add butter.
- When butter is fully melted, add flour and make mixture into a roux.
- Cook roux until the “popcorn” aroma has dissipated (meaning, the flour’s flavor has cooked away), then add milk.
- Reduce slightly until gravy has achieved desired consistency.
- Ladle over finished biscuits. Serve hot.
This recipe served six generous portions.