…Son of a gun, we’ll have big fun on the Bayou!
My last move with my parents was to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where I graduated from high school (Shout out to my fellow Woodlawn Alumni). It was a move I didn’t want to make, leaving my beloved Atlanta, the summer between my freshman and sophomore years. Looking back, I’m grateful; it was a time of great self-discovery.
Boggled over what elective class to take at my new giant high school of 1600 students, I ended up on the school newspaper staff under the tutelage of Pearl (PJ) Johnson, arguably the best teacher I’ve ever had. I learned that I loved to write and learned how to take a stand for what I believed in through my writing of several editorial pieces during my three years on the staff. I also served on the Yearbook staff for two years and started out as a journalism major at Louisiana State University.
Another thing that made the sweltering summers I spent there bearable was learning about the culture – in Baton Rouge, a fusion of Cajun and Creole cultures. And, of course, enjoying the awesome food associated with these cultures.
I haven’t lived in Baton Rouge since 1984, when I moved back to my beloved Atlanta, but I still keep track of the calendar to see when Mardi Gras – Fat Tuesday – will occur. It’s the last big party before Lent, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday on the Christian calendar. Today is Mardi Gras and though I won’t be attending any fancy balls or parades, my Krewe here in rural Kentucky will be celebrating with supper of Cajun, not Creole, but Cajun Jambalaya, and I thought I’d share the recipe I use, so you, too, can have a taste of Louisiana.
Cajun Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya
This recipe is my variation of a Jambalaya recipe from River Road Recipes I, the first in a series of Louisiana cookbooks created by the Junior League of Baton Rouge.
First, you make a roux! A roux is the foundation for many Cajun and Creole recipes, adding both flavor and thickening. For the Jambalaya, melt Three Tablespoons of bacon grease in a large pot. Add Three Tablespoons of flour and stir constantly over medium heat until the roux reaches a medium brown – about the color of caramel. I’ve included a video of Chef Paul Prudhomme preparing a Roux below. If you watch the video, you want a roux about the color of his ‘medium’ roux.
Oops, forgot the meat! Before you start on your roux or while you’re stirring the roux, brown together in a skillet and set aside:
1 Pound Hot or Smoked Sausage (I like Hillshire Farms Hot Links), sliced into 1/4″ rounds
1 Pound Boneless Chicken Breast, cut into 1″ cubes
Once the roux is done, add to the pot:
2 Medium Onions, chopped
1 Bunch Green Onions, chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
And, cook until soft.
Then, add to the pot:
2 Cups Rice
2 1/2 Cups Water (yes, this is the correct amount)
1 Teaspoon Salt (or to taste)
1/4 to 3/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper, depending on how hot you like it!
2 Tablespoons FRESH Parsley, minced
Add the meat with drippings, stir to combine the ingredients and bring to a boil. Then cover pot and lower heat to a simmer. Cook for one hour and do NOT – I repeat – do NOT take the lid off during the cooking! After one hour, take the lid off and cook a few minutes more to dry the rice a little. Serves Six.
So, you may be wondering, what do Mardi Gras and Jambalaya have to do with cultivating the authentic you? Well, not much, really. Except, that maybe you’ve never eaten Jambalaya before and now you have the opportunity to try something new.
And, trying something new allows you to discern what you like and what you don’t like.
And, when you know what you like and don’t like, you learn about you.
And, the more you learn about you, the more you can be the YOU you really want to be.
Please leave your comments, questions and ideas below. And, remember, “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” -George Eliot
Happy Mardi Gras!,