so, in honor of my long suffering husband's birthday (i have to admit to stealing that little term of endearment from the podchef), i cooked up a mess o' new orleans favorites and threw him a little belated mardi gras shindig at our place last weekend. on the menu was jambalaya, red beans and rice and bread pudding. green salad and french bread were added as an afterthought. not a meal for anyone on the atkins diet...or any kind of diet for that matter. here's our friend kent spokesmodeling the final product (oh, vanna):
so, on to the gory details. the jambalaya featured chicken, sausage and shrimps (or "swimps" if you're from the 9th ward). and i must admit to something on the jambalaya: it's not exactly made from scratch. yes, i make jambalaya from a box. a zatarain's box, to be exact. i say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. i do add about twice as much meat as the recipe calls for, but other than that, it's pretty much good to go on its own.
the red beans and rice were from scratch. sorry zatarains, but parboiled beans just do not do it for me. basically, i use emeril's red beans recipe from his "louisiana real & rustic" cookbook, which i'll paraphrase here: soak 1 pound of small red beans (not kidney beans) overnight, then drain and rinse. saute some chopped onion, bell pepper and celery (the trinity) in the pot with about a half pound of cubed ham and a half pound of sliced smoked sausage and some cayenne, thyme, salt and a bay leaf or two. add the beans and some chopped garlic, cover with water and simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. at that point, mash about one third of the beans against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon, and then continue to simmer for another hour and half (stir a little more often). serve over white steamed rice with plenty of crystal hot sauce. yum. (fyi, the small pots on the back of the stove were the vegetarian versions of each dish for our friend, gwen, who is so nice, i'll cook her a separate pot of food.)
the bread pudding was a bit of an adventure, never having made it before. i used another emeril recipe, that he apparently stole from someone called steve. i decided to do a double batch and it ended up being so much i had to bake it in my giant turkey roasting pan. i was a little rushed because i was making it in the evening and didn't want to stay up all night, so i had to cut some corners. first, i didn't buy the bread in time to let it get stale, so i made my own stale bread in the oven. i used a light french loaf, btw. the other thing i regret was cutting the amount of time the bread soaked in the milk/egg mixture. i let it soak the minimum hour; next time, i think i'll let it go for the full two. anyway, i baked it the night before, so i had to warm it up in the oven prior to serving. i misted it with brandy from a squirt bottle before popping it back in the oven, so the top didn't dry out and, since that a squirt bottle full of brandy is a really alton brown thing to do, i guess i can say it also brought a little flavor to the party. as for serving, i made the sauce emeril has in his recipe, but in my opinion, it was pretty crap. it may be traditional, but i found it too cloying and kind of boring. the next night (for the leftovers), i made a simple caramel sauce (burn the sugar, add cream) and added some brandy. that was so f'ing good and i really wish i had done that for the party because it took a good dessert to the next level.
at any rate, it appears that a good time was had by all and the grub was much enjoyed, but the abundance of louisiana beer (abita and blackened voodoo) may have had something to do with that. there was that moment i call "food silence," where it gets real quiet while everyone stuffs their faces. i assume that's a good thing.