Monthly Archives: March 2011

Mardi Gras Jambalaya

I don’t normally celebrate Mardi Gras, unless it’s as an excuse to eat cakes with plastic babies inside.

This year, I attended a dinner party where everyone brought a different Mardi Gras-themed dish. We had “King’s Cake,” dirty rice, gumbo and my shrimp-andouille-chicken jambalaya.

Having never made jambalaya before, I expected it to be more like a thick stew or gumbo. However, it was lighter in color and more of a rice-stew, wonderfully spicy and full of a complexity of flavors that kicked me in the pants. Totally makes up for the fact that it took all day to prepare, created a huge mess and almost made me lose my mind. Honestly, all the searing, then browning, then sweating, then simmering, then skimming, then shredding … it seemed impossible that I could make this ahead and bring it to the party.

But the results, and the amount of leftovers, made it worth everything (and I mean that). Even the green and red bell pepper added a good flavor, but didn’t make me gag (I hate those things). Emeril wrote the recipe well, adding the shrimp just at the end, when you’ve taken it off the heat, so they slowly cook through and are just perfect. You can smell them mixing with the other rich flavors, but it’s not overpowering or fishy.

My only regret is the rice. I played with the portions a bit to fit in my not-gigantic Dutch oven, so the rice didn’t cook perfectly. But that’s more of a texture thing.

I highly recommend making your own “Essence,” I will definitely be using this bold spice mix on other things.

Here it is, adapted from Emeril Lagasse,

Mardi Gras Jambalaya


  • 5-pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs or thighs/legs (he used duck)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound andouille sausage, diced
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery hearts
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons Emeril’s Original Essence, recipe follows
  • Two 28-oz. cans peeled whole tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 3 bay leaves, fresh or dried
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1-2 quarts low-sodium chicken stock (or water, if you run out) – just use what fits in your pot
  • 2 c. long-grain white rice (I adjusted, down from 3 c. If you get 2 qt stock in your pot, use the whole 3 c.)
  • 1 pound small shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup chopped green onions (green and white parts)
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Emeril’s ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast):

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Yield: 2/3 cup


Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Heat the vegetable oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and sear for 5 minutes. Turn and sear on the second side for 3 minutes. Remove from the pot and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining chicken.

Add the sausage to the fat in the pot and cook, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes (there will be lots of liquid, just leave it). Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, salt, cayenne, 1 tablespoon of the Essence, and black pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, garlic, and bay leaves and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes.

Add the thyme, stock, and chicken (as much as you can fit in your pot – I had to stew my meat in batches). Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally for 50 minutes.

Remove chicken pieces from the jambalaya and cool slightly. Skim off the fat. Discard skin and bones and shred meat.

Add the rice and bring back up to a simmer, cover and cook until the rice is barely tender, about 10 minutes.

Return the chicken meat to the mixture. Season the shrimp with the remaining 1 tablespoon Essence. Add the shrimp to the pot, return to a simmer, and cover. Remove the pot from the heat and let sit, covered, for 15 minutes.

Add the green onions and parsley and stir gently. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Adjust the salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. Serve directly from the pot.

I know you’ll enjoy this, friends! xoxo

Monkey Bread with Browned Butter and Cream Cheese Glaze

Monkey bread is like a bunch of little cinnamon rolls held together by a caramelized sugar coating. Individual balls of yeast dough are dipped in browned butter, then rolled in cinnamon and brown sugar and dropped into a beautiful Bundt pan. That’s right, I’m on Bundt pans again.

I chose a Smitten Kitchen monkey bread recipe and used my beautiful copper Bundt pan for it.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Cooks Illustrated…

Monkey Bread with Browned Butter and Cream-Cheese Glaze


4 tablespoons (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) unsalted butter, divided (2 tablespoons softened, 2 tablespoons melted)
1 cup milk, warm (around 110 degrees) – to me this is HOT!
1/3 cup water, warm (also around 110 degrees)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 package or 2 1/4 teaspoons rapid rise, instant or bread machine yeast
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
2 teaspoons table salt

Brown Sugar Coating
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick or 4 ounces), melted

Cream Cheese Glaze
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons powdered sugar, plus extra if needed
2 tablespoons milk, plus extra if needed
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Get oven and pan ready: Adjust oven rack to medium-low position and heat oven to 200°F. When oven reaches 200, turn it off. Butter Bundt pan with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Set aside.

Make dough: In large measuring cup, mix together milk, water, melted butter, sugar, and yeast. Let sit until foaming, about 10 min.

Mix flour and salt in standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Turn machine to low and slowly add milk mixture. After dough comes together, increase speed to medium and mix until dough is shiny and smooth, 6 to 7 minutes. Turn dough onto lightly floured counter and knead briefly to form smooth, round ball.

Coat large bowl with nonstick cooking spray or a tablespoon of neutral oil. Place dough in bowl and coat surface of dough with more cooking spray or oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in warm oven until dough doubles in size, 50 to 60 minutes.

Make brown sugar coating: Melt butter in small saucepan over medium, until browned and nutty-smelling, about 7-10 min. Place melted butter in one bowl. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in a second one.

Form the bread: Flip dough out onto floured surface and gently pat into an 8-inch square. Using a bench scraper or knife, cut dough into 64 pieces (8 strips cut into 8 pieces each).

Roll each piece of dough into ball. Working one at a time, use fork to dip balls in melted butter, allowing excess butter to drip back into bowl. Roll in brown sugar mixture, then layer balls in Bundt pan, staggering seams where dough balls meet as you build layers.

Cover Bundt pan tightly with plastic wrap and place in turned-off oven until dough balls are puffy and have risen 1 to 2 inches from top of pan, 50 to 70 minutes.

Bake bread: Remove pan from oven and heat oven to 350°F. Unwrap pan and bake until top is deep brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes (no longer, or you’ll have trouble getting it out) then turn out on platter and allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

Make glaze: Beat cream cheese with powdered sugar until smooth and light. Add milk and vanilla. Adjust with more powdered sugar or milk to get desired consistency.

Drizzle the glaze over warm monkey bread, letting it run over top and sides of bread. Serve warm.

This is best served warm, so if having leftovers, heat in microwave for 10-15 seconds. Finger-lickin’ good.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Mexican Chorizo Tacos

There’s something about warm spring weekends that make me crave tacos – the spicy meat steaming on a soft corn tortilla with crunchy, fresh toppings. I unfortunately do not live near a taco truck, so have started making these easy and tasty snacks/meals every couple of weeks or so.

The Mexican chorizo taco idea came from watching famed South-of-the-border chef Rick Bayless on public television (I had no idea how many great Public TV cooking shows exist!). He was talking about the beautiful simplicity of a the taco – I immediately went out and purchased a bunch of taco fixins.

You’ll notice in the pictures that I used maybe a little too much onion (for my taste), but it was still delicious.

Mexican Chorizo Tacos

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 8 oz. Mexican chorizo sausage, removed from casings
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
  • 10 corn tortillas
  • Mexican cheese blend, shredded (optional)
  • Mixed greens, or baby spinach
  • 1 T EVOO

Heat large skillet over medium; add oil. When hot, add onions and sautee until beginning to brown. Add chorizo and break up with a wooden spoon.

Cook chorizo until the chili oil begins to sizzle and loosen the meat – 4-5 min. Set aside.

Heat tortillas using package instructions (sandwich them between damp paper towels and microwave for 30-45 seconds). Sprinkle with cheese, if using, then chorizo mixture.

Top with greens for an added crunch.

These are wonderful with a cold beer or margarita on a warm spring day. Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Garlic-lemon Spaghetti with Fried Egg

I’ve been researching the odd pairing of spaghetti and fried eggs for more than a year now. The discussion rose to a fever pitch when I recently posted on Twitter that I had quail eggs and I didn’t know what to do with them – chefs and foodies answered the call, many suggesting I put them in some sort of pasta dish. Like in a ravioli, or spaghetti with a fried egg on top, the runny yolk becoming a creamy sauce that you swirl your pasta in.

I had to try this, and I loved it. Grant said he would wash 1,000 dishes if he could eat meals like this all the time (well, obvs!). The beauty is how simple it is – garlic and olive oil season pasta with toasted bread crumbs and a fried egg on top. I jazzed it up with fresh lemon zest and parsley. Lemon zest brightens up ordinary pasta and parsley adds a certain freshness.

Then the fresh bread crumbs – wow! I cooked mine on a stove top instead of the oven, so they slowly absorbed the flavor of the olive oil. We were literally licking the extra crumbs off our plates.

I highly recommend this recipe – perfect for a weeknight or a lazy Saturday dinner. Just do NOT overcook the eggs. You want these babies all runny-like.

Garlic-lemon Spaghetti with Fried Egg

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 2 slices high quality white sandwich bread, torn into pieces (I used leftover buns from BBQ sandwiches – like Wonderbread – yum!)
  • 6 T EVOO
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 lb. spaghetti
  • 1/4 c. grated Parm-Reg cheese, more for serving
  • 2 large eggs, cracked into a small bowl
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • Handful parsley, chopped

Pulse bread in food processor until you have coarse crumbs. Transfer to bowl and stir in 1 T EVOO, pinch salt and pepper. Heat medium skillet over medium and add the crumbs, stirring until toasted – 10-15 min. (Note: they will still be soft, which I prefer. Baking them makes them crunchier) Set aside.

Start water for pasta. Meanwhile, heat medium nonstick skillet over medium and add 2 T EVOO, the garlic, pepper flakes, 1/8 tsp salt and a little cracked pepper. Cook until garlic foams and is straw-colored, 8-10 min. Pour into small bowl and set aside. Wipe out pan. Keep pan on low heat until you’re ready for the eggs.

When water is boiling, add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving a bit of the cooking water. Toss pasta with garlic-oil mixture, 2 T EVOO, cheese and 1/4 tsp salt. Cover and set aside until eggs are ready.

When the skillet is hot again, add 2 T EVOO and eggs. Season with S&P, then cover and cook until the whites are set but yolks still runny, 2-3 min. Uncover and remove from heat.

Time to serve! Loosen pasta with reserved water, if needed, and divide between two bowls. Sprinkle each with bread crumbs, then top with fried egg. Finish with chopped parsley, lemon zest and additional Parm-Reg cheese.

YUM, people!

I wish I had a picture of the yolks running into the pasta – it really has a wonderful rich-but-smooth flavor. Even the whites are absolutely delicious. I can honestly say I would never have though to put eggs on top of pasta, but it’s my new favorite thing.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo