As 2015 ends, I’m thinking of this year’s loss of chef Paul Prudhomme, one of this country’s most welcoming chefs and supreme master of highly seasoned food.
More than three decades ago, Prudhomme taught us to embrace bold flavors and to cook with generosity. I had the privilege of cooking with him several times; his command of the spice cabinet affects nearly every dish I make today. Many of us will long remember the day he prepared fresh crabcakes for more than a hundred people in the Chicago Tribune newsroom.
Prudhomme’s first cookbook, Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen, has had a place in my kitchen since its debut. I’ve made every gumbo, poultry, fish recipe and pecan goody in the book. In his memory, I suggest a jambalaya party for New Year’s Eve.
One-pot jambalaya allows the cook to serve well-seasoned food that pleases a crowd. The dish is not hard to make if you are comfortable with a knife for some chopping.
Converted rice, the preference among many New Orleans cooks, proves nearly indestructible. The version here features chicken and andouille sausage with a bit of smoke from bacon and ham. The base of the jambalaya can be made up to several days in advance. Simply add the rice about 30 minutes before you want to serve.
First, a cocktail
I’m starting my jambalaya party with a sparkling version of the classic New Orleans sazerac cocktail. It’s best enjoyed super cold — simply put the glasses in the freezer for a couple of hours. Alternatively, fill glasses with ice until they are cold, then dump out the ice and fill with the cold cocktail.
Chilled cooked shrimp or fresh oysters on the half shell set a stylish tone. Order oysters in advance; plan on two or three per guest. Store them set over a bowl of ice covered with a damp towel in the refrigerator for up to a day. Never store them in a closed bag. Some fish markets will open the oysters for you, but it’s best to open them just before serving.
For safety, secure the oyster on a work surface by placing it on a towel. Hold another towel over the oyster to protect your hand, then slip the tip of an oyster knife into the hinge of the shell. Twist the knife to pop it open. Place the opened oysters on a bed of ice. Serve the oysters with lemon wedges and hot sauce, or make a tangy topping out of minced shallots floating in champagne vinegar.
Red beans and rice
For healthful eating in the new year, I am making another dish I enjoyed at K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen: red beans and rice. A cousin to hoppin’ john, which is eaten on New Year’s Day to bring luck throughout the year, my version of red beans and rice uses heirloom beans and brown rice.
I’m crazy about the jumbo, gorgeous, mottled heirloom Christmas lima beans, such as those from Zursun Idaho in Twin Falls, Idaho, or ordered from Rancho Gordo. Simmer the beans with vegetables, then puree some to make a creamy dish. Served with aromatic jasmine brown rice, this hearty dish will satisfy for lunch and dinner any time of the year.
With both dishes, I like to serve Louisiana-style hot sauce — not the Asian-style sauces I use on eggs and fries. I bring bottles of Crystal hot sauce home from New Orleans; it goes with everything.
As we enter a new year, I wish you the same sentiment that Paul inscribed to me in his book, “good cooking, good eating and good loving.”
You can find simple syrup in the mixer aisle of most liquor stores, or make your own by boiling 1 cup sugar in 1 cup water until dissolved. Cool and refrigerate for months.
1 teaspoon simple syrup (or light agave syrup)
1/4 teaspoon Peychaud’s bitters
1/4 teaspoon ouzo, Pernod or other anise-flavored liqueur
1 1/2 ounces rye whiskey
1 to 2 ounces chilled club soda
Lemon rind twist
Put syrup, bitters, liqueur and whiskey into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well, 30 seconds. Strain into small, chilled coupe glasses. Top off with club soda. Add lemon twist and serve.
Yield: 1 drink
Red Beans and Rice 2016
Trader Joe’s fully cooked pork carnitas taste great here instead of roast pork or ham. For the beans, you may sub cranberry beans or red beans.
1 pound heirloom Christmas lima beans
10 cups unsalted vegetable or chicken broth (or water)
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
2 carrots, trimmed, peeled, halved, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 small jalapeno or serrano
2 bay leaves
2 small fresh thyme sprigs (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon salt plus 1 teaspoon
2 cups long grain brown jasmine rice
12 ounces (3 to 4 cups) shredded cooked roast pork or ham
1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Red hot sauce
Put beans into a large (4- or 5-quart) saucepan. Add cold water to cover. Heat to a full boil. Turn off heat and let stand 1 or 2 hours. Drain well.
Return soaked beans to pan. Add 8 cups of the broth and the celery, onions, carrots, garlic, jalapeno, bay leaves and thyme. Heat to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and partly cover the pan. Cook, stirring often and adding remaining 2 cups broth as needed, until beans are tender, about 2 hours. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt. Simmer 15 minutes more.
Meanwhile, cook rice in 2 2/3 cups water with the remaining 1 teaspoon salt in a rice cooker according to the manufacturer’s directions. (To cook rice on the stovetop, bring the rice, salt and 3 1/2 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook, covered, until water is absorbed, about 40 minutes.)
Ladle 2 cups of the beans and their cooking liquid into a blender; puree smooth. Drain off the liquid from remaining beans; return beans to pot. Stir in pureed beans and pork. Heat through on low heat. Taste and adjust salt. Serve bean mixture over a scoop of rice in warm bowls. Sprinkle generously with cilantro. Pass hot sauce.
Per serving: 440 calories, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 23 mg cholesterol, 75 g carbohydrates, 26 g protein, 934 mg sodium, 15 g fiber
Yield: 8 servings
Chicken and Andouille Sausage Jambalaya
For converted rice, look for Uncle Ben’s Original or Riceland Gold parboiled rice.
1/2 cup chopped smoky bacon, about 6 slices (6 ounces total)
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 medium-large onion, chopped (about 6 ounces)
1/2 each, seeded, chopped: red bell pepper, green bell pepper
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon each: smoked paprika, thyme, salt
1/4 teaspoon each: black pepper, cayenne
5 cups chicken broth
1 can (14.5 ounces) tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup tomato paste
12 ounces diced smoky ham
12 ounces cooked chicken andouille sausage, thinly sliced
3 cups converted rice
Chopped fresh parsley
Louisiana-style hot sauce
Cook bacon in a large (7-quart) Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat until it starts to render its fat, about 3 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add chicken. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken starts to brown, about 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove bacon and chicken to a plate. (Refrigerate covered up to 3 days.)
Add oil to pan. Add celery, onion and bell peppers. Cook and stir until wilted, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic, paprika, thyme, salt and peppers; cook 1 minute. Add broth, tomatoes and tomato paste. (Base can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated covered up to 3 days.)
Reheat base, if necessary, to a simmer. Stir in chicken mixture, ham and sausage. Heat to a simmer. Stir in rice and return to a simmer. Cover pan tightly and cook over low heat until rice is tender, 20 to 23 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand covered for 10 minutes. To serve, fluff with a fork. Spoon into wide bowls. Sprinkle with parsley. Pass hot sauce.
Per serving: 562 calories, 16 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 130 mg cholesterol, 65 g carbohydrates, 34 g protein, 2,060 mg sodium, 1 g fiber
Yield: 8 servings