Have you ever been been driving when suddenly a construction sign appears that you must merge immediately? I’ve been driving 22 years and have never seen a construction sign ominously appear while listening to Men Without Hats. Those signs are planted there. Further, they cannot be a surprise because there are typically preceding signs that warn us about the merge sign. If you are on the interstate, sometimes you have miles of warnings and multitudinous signs advising us of the dreaded lane closure sign.
The conscientious driver merges over to the safe lane as soon as they see the first warning sign. Or they merge over as soon as traffic allows. Then, there’s the other driver who rides the closing lane until the last moment so he can pass as many cars as he can. I hate that. How inconsiderate can someone be to play chicken with the big orange lane closure sign only so he can ‘cut ahead’ in line? Have you seen this person?
I’ve had many opportunities to teach these drivers the error of their ways. Invariably, they always want to cut in front of me right as their lane is closing. I knew it was going to happen, so I move up exceedingly close to the car in front of me. If the cars were standing still, a person wouldn’t be able to walk between my car and the car in front of me. How does this muddy four wheel drive pickup with big stupid tires think he is going to fit? He won’t.
These people try to horn in and I won’t let them. I’d rather end up in a fifty-seven car pileup than let this guy merge over. I really hate how these drivers try to take advantage in an unfortunate situation. I’m sure these same people cut in line at the grocery store. I hate that too, but that’s not what I’m hating on right now.
You would think these drivers would learn that they will never merge in front of me under these circumstances. Any other time and I will let anyone or everyone merge in front of me. I’m the guy driving two miles under the speed limit. I have all the time in the world to get to the pet store to load up on that fifty dollar bag of dog food for Molly.
Invariably, these guys give up on these impromptu games of chicken. I always win and they always merge right behind me. They are always making some mean face flailing their arms around. Then they give me the double bird as if the single bird isn’t satisfactory. I like that.
I like that so much that I give them thumbs up. I enjoy seeing their anger towards me so much that I roll my window down and stick my arm out the window so I can give an unfettered thumbs up. If they don’t seem to appreciate one thumb, they sure appreciate when I stick my second arm out the window for the coup de grace: the double thumbs up while my car is careening toward the closed lane filled with backhoes and hardhats. That’s fitting, since I’m listening to the Safety Dance.
I’ve been a fan of spicy cajun food my entire adult life. I began teaching myself to cook sixteen years ago and have enjoyed trying to make cajun dishes that were palatable. It is no coincidence that I started my cooking journey a week after I met my wife.
I’m sure it’s a typical story. I met Heather 12/11/2007. The following weekend she invited me over for dinner. Man, was I stoked! I love food. I can’t believe I met a woman who could cook.
I showed up for dinner at the appointed time and was surprised that we were eating Hamburger Helper. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with Hamburger Helper, but on a first meal at home you put your best foot forward. That night I decided that I was going to learn how to cook. The following weekend I began my foray.
That first meal was one I made one or two times prior. We had spaghetti with homemade sauce. It was quite tasty as I watched a friend make it numerous times. This friend was a good cook, but he never let me get any hands on experience. I watched him intently for two years as I was surfing his couch.
When I first started cooking, say the first five years, not all meals were as tasty as that spaghetti. I worked until midnight and the first year or two, I would go to Albertsons after work and make pot roast, pork chops, even chicken fried steak. I’d normally eat around four am and it was common for me to crank out some meal complete with mashed potatoes and gravy. Many of these meals were disappointments, and occasionally were downright inedible. Today, I rarely make something that embarrasses me to feed to my dogs. If I get distracted the dogs may have some awful treat to enjoy.
My culinary skills have vastly improved over the past three years. I have many friends who are professional chefs and they are always happy to give me cooking tips. I like to tell people that I’m finally becoming an adequate cook.
Today, I had to make jambalaya for a catering event. I’ve made it before, but I haven’t been happy with previous efforts. There is money on the line here so I have to make sure it is acceptable.
I looked through recipes and decided I could adapt this one. I made several changes and I hope you are happy with this endeavor. I hope you try it and tell me what you think.
I just remembered that I forgot bay leaves. I intended to add maybe seven to the pot. Remember that this recipe is for 50. You can use some fancy math like division to reduce the amount. I’d do it for you except I’m lazy.
Here’s the ingredient list:
5 pounds pork loin
15 pounds bone in chicken thighs (after deboning you will have around ten pounds of meat)
5 pounds sausage
3/4 pound bacon
2 large onions
3 bell peppers
1 bunch celery
3 heaping tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons white pepper
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp chili powder (I used New Mexico Hatch chili powder I ordered online)
1 tsp dried basil
2 tsp cayenne
1 tbsp dry thyme
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
10 cups rice
21 cups water
6-8 ounces chicken base
Add all dry ingredients in a bowl to add later.
Trim pork loin and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Marinate in soy sauce, mustard powder, and white pepper. I didn’t use a lot of any of these ingredients, just enough to coat. Marinate in refrigerator for two hours.
Place chicken thighs on baking sheets. Cover liberally with Tony Chachere’s cajun seasoning. Roast at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.
Remove chicken from oven and let cool. Meanwhile, chop vegetables. Since you have the knife out, chop smoked sausage into 1/4″ rounds.
Down Home is one of my favorite sausages. They manufacture it in Stonewall, LA, which is maybe fifteen minutes from where I live. I couldn’t find a website for the company, but I included a link to a radio station I used to work at where they give the down low on the Down Home. No, I have not received any plugola. If they gave me free sausage, there would be plugola, but I would tell you about it. Somehow, I don’t think it’s plugola unless it’s a secret, though.
Last thing to cut up is to cut up the bacon. Cut that into small pieces. Once cut, toss the bacon into a heated pot to render. Once partially rendered, throw in the marinated pork loin. After it is browned it is time to put the sausage in.
I was watching some cooking show a couple of years ago where this old man was cooking a monster pot of jambalaya outside. He kept saying that you want to cook the sausage so it is scabbed up. He’s right, you want scabby sausage. I was unable to do it this time because of the sheer volume, but when I have a manageable batch, I cook the sausage so it is nice and scabby.
Before you blow scabby chunks, let me explain. This old cajun may or may not have gotten all technical on us, but he was describing the maillard reaction. Chemistry stuff happens to the meat when you brown it. Think of a really nice crust on a steak. That crust is the scab this old coot was describing.
When you have a scabbed up pot of sausage, you want to add the vegetables and saute until soft and the onion is translucent. I wait until this moment to add the chicken. Remember that chicken? Well, we forgot to debone it. So, before you burn up a pot of meat, be sure to have deboned the chicken prior to firing up the stove. After it’s deboned, I spread it back onto a baking sheet, apply some more Tony Cachere’s, and let it crisp up some at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.
Now that we are back on track, don’t add the chicken until the vegetables are sauteed. This way, you can avoid tearing up the meat from over stirring and whatnot.
This is the moment to add your dry spices and Worcestershire sauce.
I add the base to the water and stir until well mixed. Then it’s time to add the rice and base-infused water.
Simmer the conglomeration of meat and rice for around 50 minutes while occasionally stirring. It is actually desirable to have the food stick to the bottom of the pan to get some crusty bits. Remember? Maillard reaction?
Once the water is absorbed, it’s time to eat. Enjoy.