Flavor-packed Louisiana Creole Food – Jambalaya

Because Mardi Gras is such a big celebration is New Orleans, it’s not uncommon to see Cajun and Creole food prepared around Fat Tuesday, even if you don’t live in Louisiana. We may be past Fat Tuesday, but I’ve been thinking about making Jambalaya for the last couple weeks and finally had a chance to do so.

Jambalaya is a meat and rice dish traditional in the Creole and Cajun cultures of Louisiana. While they have a lot of similarities – both are spiced and rely on the “Holy Trinity” of onion, celery, and bell pepper – there are differences between Creole and Cajun food. The Creoles were descendants of French and Spanish colonists who had mixed French, African American and Native American ancestry. Creole food is considered “city food” and contains ingredients such as tomatoes, butter, and herbs. The Cajuns were French Canadians expelled from Nova Scotia who eventually settled in the bayous and intermarried with everyone there. Cajun food is considered “country food” and uses no tomatoes, oil instead of butter, and lots of peppers.

Jambalaya is one of my dad’s favorite foods to make, and I also love making it! Because my jambalaya is a mash-up of a number of different recipes, I don’t think I’ve ever made it the same way twice, but I have definitely overheard my husband bragging about how good my jambalaya is. This Creole-style “red” Jambalaya is the version I made most recently.* Every time I make this, I am flabbergasted at how flavorful it is – every mouthful is amazing. Maybe someday I’ll try a Cajun “brown” Jambalaya, but for now I love this version enough to keep making it again.

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Marie Cooks Skyrim: Chicken Dumplings

Fantasy is often stereotyped for excessive descriptions, including descriptions of food. Who could make it through The Chronicles of Narnia without wanting to find out what Turkish Delight tastes like? Or read A Game of Thrones without craving a bowl of beef and barley stew? I am certainly not the only one who has thought so… you could create a library of cookbooks written solely to give people a taste of fictional worlds. The summer before last, I was at the Renaissance Faire and was tempted by a bookseller and several fantasy-themed cookbooks by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel. It should be obvious how my checkbook fared against that temptation.

My recreation of Skyrim’s chicken dumplings is adapted from this book. The filling is flavorful – sweet from the carrots and roasted leeks, spring-like from the dill and fennel, balanced with richness from the cream. I’ve made these 3 times already, and will definitely keep making them.

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Chicken and Leek Pie on St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day was always important in my family when I was growing up. My father’s grandmother was from County Cork before she came to America, and my dad takes a lot of enjoyment from his Irish heritage. For a number of years I practiced Irish stepdancing, so March meant that my mom drove me around to numerous St. Patrick’s Day parties at Irish-American Clubs, pubs, museums, and churches where we were part of the St. Paddy’s Day show. My dad would play the Chieftains (well, we did that year-round) and mom made corned beef and cabbage. Corned beef and cabbage is an Irish-American dish that originated with Irish immigrants in New England and I, for one, love it! This year, however I wanted to try something different. I wanted to try something that might be more familiar to someone in Ireland. After a little searching around for a recipe, I landed on chicken and leek pie.

The preparation for this recipe was different than anything I had ever done, before, but I found that it smelled and tasted wonderful. I liked it even better cold the next day!

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Balsamic Chicken

So, heads up, I don’t buy into fad diets or fad workouts or weight-loss shakes or any of that sort of snake oil. “So why do you have a weight-loss cookbook in your kitchen, Marie?” you ask. Good question. Many years ago when I was still living at home, my mom decided that my dad was going to go on the South Beach Diet. Although I am of the sort that prefers my protein and carbs and fat and flavor all be cooked together in one dish, and although many people have heard me complain about dinner consisting of a “slab of meat with a side dish”, The South Beach Diet actually introduced me to the handful of meat recipes I will gladly eat. The Marinated London Broil, the Easy Chicken In Wine Sauce, and the Balsamic Chicken actually ended up being favorites.  I find that the chicken leftovers in particular get a second life as they work well for chicken salad or chicken sandwiches or almost any other dish that requires pre-cooked chicken. I made the Balsamic Chicken last Sunday and had left overs for the next couple days and I was very happy each night.

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Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

When I was in my middle school years, I was really into Scholastic’s Dear America diaries and the Royal Diaries series which give historical-fiction accounts from the point of view of teenagers.  The summer I turned thirteen, I read one on Jahanara (the daughter of Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal) and subsequently became obsessed with Indian culture for a season. I picked up all the books on India that I could from the library and asked my parents to take me out for Indian food as my birthday treat, initiating a long-abiding love for Indian cuisine.

This recipe is adapted from thekitchn – they say that it can be refrigerated for 3 to 4 days or frozen for 3 to 4 months, but I’ve always had the entire pot disappear within a day. Every single time I make this my apartment smells amazing and Joe gets very excited because he can’t wait to scoop it up with naan and eat it. I made this for friends last night and they were equally enthusiastic. Continue reading “Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala”

Slow Cooked Chicken and Tomatillos

This recipe comes from a flyer stuck inside a CSA box that one of my neighbors gave to my mom years and years ago. It’s one that I frequently use when having guests over for dinner because it’s unique, easy, and – most importantly – absolutely delicious.

The flyer credits the cookbook “Mexican Every Day” by Rick Bayless as the source. Let me just say, this is NOT American-style Mexican food covered with taco seasoning and lots of cheese (not that I don’t love lots of cheese!) It has a tangy flavor balanced by earthy potatoes; the chicken is always, always juicy and falls apart under your fork in just the way you want it to do.

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Simple Chicken Cacciatora

This past year at the holidays, I received a cookbook from a friend (Hi Morgan!) Last weekend I spent several hours leisurely perusing the many recipes and imagining how good they would all taste if only I would ever take the time to actually make them. This weekend, I tried my hand at the first one. This recipe isn’t a traditional cacciatora in that it’s oven-roasted rather than braised; frankly, however, this method seems easier to me so I’m likely to make it on any given night of the week rather than one that requires multiple steps. This recipe is tart and yet has it’s own richness. Joe and I ate the whole thing. Continue reading “Simple Chicken Cacciatora”