One of my favorite things while traveling is hunting for great food. A chef friend told me Gonzales is jambalaya country and if you believe what the water tower says, Gonzales is the jambalaya capital of the world. I’m happy to announce that I have found some delicious jambalaya at The Jambalaya Shoppe.
My research revealed this little gem and I was pretty certain that I was in for a treat as these restaurants are popping up around south Louisiana. We opted for a bucket of chicken and sausage jambalaya and since the weather was nice, we ate at one of the two picnic tables in the parking lot.
I do have to admit that this is the second restaurant in the region I have eaten at over the past couple of days that wasn’t spicy. I love spicy food, and we don’t have many options for fire eating in Shreveport. I’ve always been told I have to go south for sinteringly hot cuisine–maybe this is reserved for New Orleans. Regardless, I happened upon a gem.
The original location is not much more than a shack–typically a good sign when you are searching for deliciousness. That standard holds true in this case. The sausage was delightfully scabbed, and the morsels of chicken were plenty. And the flavor profile? It held a subtle complexity that I will explore again this evening. I was ravenous at lunch and didn’t thoughtfully enjoy this delight, but I’ll savor it tonight.
My only complaint is that it needed heat. Naturally, I added Tabasco, but I would have appreciated more heat. Make that two complaints–we do not have a Jambalaya Shoppe here in Shreveport. I hope my second complaint is properly addressed soon.
I’m a gravy animal. I like gravy on anything. In my world gravy deserves the coveted foundational spot on the food pyramid. But the pyramid I grew up with has been has been replaced with something bizarre. I first encountered this new layout at Kroger when I saw some strange crop circle-esque food diagram.
I couldn’t decipher this new age pyramid as there is no base to build on. That’s not a proper food pyramid. I learned about nutrition from Slim Goodbody, the stalwart, creepy body suit wearing crusader. Mr. Goodbody may not be a gravy advocate, but I’m not deterred.
I’m such a gravy proponent that years ago I used to have listeners consume a thirty-two ounce glass of cream gravy when I was a disc jockey. If you are a radio personality and need a game that is devoid of originality but will make some listeners say, “Eww,” you can steal this bit that I undoubtedly stole from some unimaginative liner jock who used it as a vehicle to giveaway blue plate lunches during his lunchtime request hour. It’s amazing the lengths some people go to score a CD from some never was band like Zug Izland. Remember that band? Me neither.
I’m definitely no expert on sauces, but I have gained enough experience to make a half decent gel of grease and flour. Making roux for gumbo is a skill I have yet to perfect. Gravy is easy. At least for me, death-defying dark roux is not only challenging, but all of that stirring can be exhausting.
I love a really dark roux, but I have had gumbo where the roux was scorched. Needless to say, that restaurant isn’t around anymore. When I make a roux, I always plan on making it the color of dark chocolate. Once it looks like peanut butter I start getting nervous, and I invariably chicken out when the roux almost looks like milk chocolate.
Justin Wilson terrifies me with this über-dark roux. I can’t find the rest of the clip to see if the gumbo turned out. I’m certain it was perfect, but next time I set out to make a dark roux, I’ll have to battle another bout of flop sweat or I’ll get tired and ditch the whole gumbo idea and bust open a can of biscuits and make a pan of cream gravy.
When I’m headed east on a road trip, I’m usually ready for lunch around Ruston or Monroe. We initially stopped in Ruston to try Ponchatoulas, but there was no way we could park this humongous trailer. It was time for Plan B.
We had just about given up when we saw an interesting Texaco. The sign claimed Cuban sandwiches that were “pure awesomeness.” Call me skeptical, but that’s a pretty bold claim.
It was a typical gas station with a small deli. This one specialized in Cubans and Honduran tamales, but had other delights as well. I ordered a cup of gumbo and seized upon the Cubano Caliento–a Cuban made with ghost pepper cheese. The sandwich man asked me twice because he didn’t want me to cry. Undaunted, I went forward with my decision.
The gumbo was really nice. It was thinner than I like, but it had incredible taste. There’s something atypical about the flavor. I can’t put my finger on it, but it works.
The Ghost Cuban was amazing! It was a little short on ham, but the pulled pork was perfectly seasoned. The ghost cheese was warm, but not death-defying hot. It was perfect. I finished my sandwich twenty minutes ago, and my esophagus is still simmering.
This is a diamond in the rough. The cheesy sign is an accurate representation. Their Cubans are pure awesomeness.
I don’t feel like I have been all that productive this week as I have been dealing with a flare up. It’s just one of those things. One day you feel decent, the next day you feel like you got hit by a truck. Gone are the days where I feel like a rockstar. I’m just glad for the days where I don’t shuffle like an old man.
My kids tell me to hobble like the wind which reminds me of soft rocker Christopher Cross. I’m then reminded of a quote from Butthead. Regarding soft rockers, he said, “They decided to rebel against their parents by making even softer rock.” That’s the mark of ultimate rebellion. Nevertheless, “Ride Like the Wind” and “Sailing” have been stuck on my mental playlist for 34 years. I try to push it out with Metallica or Dave Brubeck, but Christopher Cross usually wins the Battle of the Bands inside my brain.
Around 11:30 last night I was inspired to make chicken fricassee…with chocolate. I nearly jumped into my soccer mom minivan to score some chicken thighs and chocolate last night, but I was able to resist the temptation until this afternoon. I know, chocolate chicken just doesn’t sound all that appealing. It’s not like chocolate fondue or anything, just enough to add a touch of panache. My biggest critics are my kids and they thought it was great. If my kids like it, it’s a big win for me.
6 chicken thighs
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 cup flour (for dredging the chicken)
2 slices bacon
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup flour
5 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 ounce 70% dark chocolate
1 tablespoon chicken base
3 tablespoons A1 steak sauce
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 pound linguine (or pasta of your choice)
Seasoning Blend for Chicken
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Rinse chicken and remove excess fat and skin. Pat dry with a paper towel. Rub seasoning blend into chicken and coat with mustard. Allow chicken to marinate for 30 minutes.
Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.
Render fat from two slices bacon in a cast iron dutch oven. Remove and add 1/2 cup vegetable oil. When heated, add chicken, skin side down. Cook in two batches. Allow chicken to fry over medium heat for four minutes and turn. Allow to fry three minutes longer.
While chicken is frying, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Remove chicken and pour 3/4 cup flour into pot. Combine oil and flour to make a roux. Turn heat down to low and stir continuously until roux is a dark brown, about the color of milk chocolate.
Once the roux is sufficiently dark, add sliced onions. This will stop the browning process. Saute until onions begin to soften and add garlic. Continue to cook until fragrant and onions are soft.
Add water and stir until roux has completely dissolved, resulting in a smooth gravy.
Add bay leaves, chocolate, steak sauce, thyme, black pepper, white pepper, chili powder, paprika, oregano, parsley flakes, and cayenne. Blend well and and taste. Make adjustments if necessary.
Mince the two slices of bacon and add to the gravy. Also, introduce the par-fried chicken to the pot. Cover and place in oven for 45 minutes.
About fifteen minutes before chicken is ready, prepare pasta according to the directions on the package. Enjoy.