Friday, February 27, 2009

Cook-Through Bloggers Unite!

When I started this project, I knew that I'd learn a thing or two about cooking and eat some good food. Little did I know that I'd make some new friends, too!

Today, I met Melissa from Cooking Gourmet live and in person, and we even cooked together! Let me explain how this all came to be.

At my office, we have regular staff lunches where the employees all get together and someone gives some sort of presentation. Maybe it's something relating to our business, or something in the community. Other times, the presenter will share something about their interests outside work. We've had presentations about dog training, trips to Europe, and even a tutorial on fantasy football. When it was my turn to make one of these lunch presentations, I decided to talk about The Project. And, since I've been looking for an excuse to meet Melissa (we both live in Massachusetts), I decided to invite her to be a part of my presentation. She took me up on my invitation (what a great sport she is!) and we had an excellent time.

We gave a little talk about cook-through blogs and shared some of our experiences working on The Project. And then, we cooked together. We made The Book's recipes for Tapenade and Green Olive Tapenade. I'll blog about these two recipes soon.

I can't thank Melissa enough for making the trip up to my office and helping me out with my presentation. It was a hit. I got a lot of positve feedback afterwords.

Last year, Melissa met Teena. Now, she's just got to head up to Canada to meet Kevin, and she'll have a hat trick!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

111. Chocolate Souffle (p. 840)

The seeds of this Project were sown a year ago when I decided to make the Chocolate Souffle recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking for a homemade Valentine's Day dinner with my wife. So, I thought that it was only fitting that I should make this recipe from The Book for this year's Valentine's dinner.

Souffles always fill people with dread and fear. The recipe itself isn't very hard, though. All you do is melt some chocolate and then stir some egg yolks into it, then fold in some beaten, sweetened egg whites and bake. The hard part is dealing with the anxiety. Will it rise? Or even worse, will if fall? Resisting the urge to open the oven door for a peek takes a level of willpower that most of us don't possess. (Seriously, if you want to make 24 minutes feel like an eternity, put a souffle in the oven and try not to check to see if it's collapsed.)

Well, the good news is that my souffle didn't fall. That's probably because it wouldn't have had too far to go since it didn't rise all that much. I'm not quite sure what happened. Maybe I beat the egg whites too much? Not enough? As The Book says, "the trick is to know when to stop beating" the egg whites. No matter, it was still airy, rich and delicious. Maybe I'll just have to make this an annual tradition and keep at it until I get it right.

Date Cooked: February 14, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Medium
Rating: B+

110. Sauteed Potato Balls (p. 565)

The Book contains several recipes for elevating the pedestrian potato to something impressive. The Parsley Leaf Potatoes are one example, this recipe is another.

There really isn't much to this recipe. Just take a couple of russett potatoes, peel them, and, with a melon baller, scoop out as many balls from the potatoes as you can. As you scoop out each ball, plop it in some cold water to keep them from turning brown as you work. Once you're done, par-boil the potato balls. (I also turned the Swiss-cheese-looking scraps into mashed potatoes that I stashed in the fridge for another day. Waste not, want not!) To sautee the potatoes, melt some butter in a skillet, add the potatoes and cook until they are crispy and browned, shaking the skillet back and forth frequently to keep them moving.

I served these potatoes with my Fish en Papillote. It was a nice pairing. The potatoes were crispy and buttery on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. They were pretty, too, I guess. I was kind of hoping for perfect little potato spheres, but, either my melon baller isn't sharp enough or the potatoes I used were too hard. I could only manage to get the potato balls to be somewhat spherical. This recipe is somewhat similar to a potato preparation in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but Julia Child would have you whittle baby potatoes into little ovals: a lot of work. The melon baller makes for much easier preparation. The other nice thing about this reciepe is that you can do some of the work in advance. You can cut out the balls and par-boil them a day in advance, and sautee them right before serving.

Date Cooked: February 14, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Medium
Rating: B+

Sunday, February 22, 2009

109. Fish en Papillote with Tomatoes and Olives (p. 302)

I decided to make a romantic dinner for my wife for Valentine's Day ... No small feat with a seven-week-old baby, but I decided to give it a try anyway.

I picked this recipe* because it looked elegant but relatively easy. Basically, all you do is put the ingredients on a piece of parchment, wrap it up, cook, and enjoy.

The recipe calls for red snapper, but Whole Foods didn't have any. No worries, since The Book says that you can substitute tilefish, halibut, cod, haddock, salmon, striped bass, white sea bass or mahimahi. I decided to go with the halibut, and it worked out just great.

I seasoned each of the halibut steaks with a little salt and pepper and topped each with some sliced tomato, sliced kalamata olives, a little red pepper flakes, some thinly sliced orange zest, a couple of sprigs of parsley and a little bit of butter. I folded the edges of the parchment to make a nice, tightly-sealed envelope. Into a very hot oven for just a few minutes (I pre-heated the baking sheet before putting the fish in the oven).

After they cooked, the parchment had browned a bit. I carefully took them off the baking sheet and put them on a couple of plates. I slit the paper open, and a whoosh of orange-scented steam came out. Inside the little package was a perfectly-cooked halibut steak swimming in a flavorful, buttry sauce.

This was a very delicious dish. The fish was excellent: sweet and firm with a nice flavor. The sauce was nice, too. The olives gave it a nice briny-ness, the orange zest gave it a nice citrus zip, but not the pedestrian lemon flavor that you'd always be expecting. The red pepper gave it some bite ... maybe a little bit too much heat, though. I'll probably use just a little less next time. The other thing that I'd do differently would be to seed and chop the tomatoes rather than slice them. The sliced tomatoes were pretty, but they didn't cook enough and they gave off too much liquid.

Even though we didn't get to sit down and eat together (we had to take turns tending to the baby), it was still a romantic dinner in its own way. Parenthood brings with it a whole host of challenges, not the least of which is trying to find some time for mom and dad. But, romance comes in all different shapes and sizes, and I wouldn't have wanted to spend my Valentine's day any other way.

Date Cooked: February 14, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Medium
Rating: A-

*This recipe isn't online.

Friday, February 20, 2009

108. Triple-Chocolate Fudge Brownies (p. 689)

What's in this recipe?* Chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate. They are, after all, triple chocolate fudge brownies.

This is the second of the four brownie recipes in The Book that I've made so far. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Homemade brownies are so easy to make, and so delicious, I'll never, ever make boxed brownie mix again.

To make these brownies, I melted some bittersweet chocolate and some unsweetened chocolate with some butter in a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water. No fancy double boiler necessary. After the chocolate and butter have cooled just a bit, I mixed in some sugar and vanilla extract, and then a few eggs, one at a time. Finally, some flour, a bit of salt, and a generous helping of semisweet chocolate chips (I used big chocolate chunks). I spread the batter into a buttered 13 by 9 inch baking dish and cooked them until a toothpick came out just about clean.

These brownies were excellent. They were moist, chewey and, of course, chocolatey. The Book says that the brownies keep for three days in an airtight container at room temperture. I guess I'll just have to take their word on that since my brownies didn't last that long.

Date Cooked: February 8, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: A

*The recipe on epicurious is exactly the same as the one in The Book, except that The Book's recipe is doubled. I wonder if, after the original recipe appeared in the December 1996 issue of Gourmet, readers wrote in to complain that they ate all of the brownies in a single sitting and needed to make another batch right away. To avoid such problems, maybe the editors of The Book just went ahead and doubled the recipe.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

107. Chicken and Rice Soup (p. 122)

A lot of people have been talking about the Great Depression these days. When Herbert Hoover promised Americans "a chicken in every pot," I wonder if he had this recipe in mind.

This is, without a doubt, a recipe for our times. It is simple, cheap and delicious. Really, this soup couldn't be easier (The Book calls it "the simplest soup ever made from scratch"). All you need to do is throw all of the ingredients - including a whole chicken, brown rice and some onion, carrots and celery - in a pot and simmer it for an hour. As the soup simmers, the soup makes its own stock. When it's done, just take the chicken out of the pot, pull the meat apart and put it back in the soup. That's it.

This is also a very economical recipe. The only thing I needed to buy to make this soup was a chicken (and I even had a coupon!). I already had all of the other ingredients in my cupboard and refrigerator. And picking up on the waste-not-want-not theme, I supplemented the soup with whatever leftover vegetables I had on hand: a bit of green cabbage, a zucchini, some frozen green beans and corn. Not only was it thrifty and resourceful to add the extra veggies, I think that it made the soup all the more wholesome and delicious.

Speaking of delicious, this was one of the best soups I've made as part of The Project. The broth was fresh and bright, the veggies were delicious, the brown rice gave a nice substance and texture, and the chicken was perfectly cooked. It was tender and moist. I will definitely make this soup again, maybe even as soon as next week.

Date Cooked: February 8, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: VERY easy
Rating: A

UPDATE: 2/23/09
I made this soup again yesterday. This time, I added some zucchini, summer squash, red bell pepper, brocolli, and a whole mess of frozen veggies: corn, green beans, and even some snow peas. The result was just as good as the first time I made it. It was a little sweeter than last time, I think because of the red pepper and the rather large amount of frozen corn that I used. Delicious just the same.

Friday, February 13, 2009

106. Raspberry Jam Tart with Almond Crumble (p. 787)

If you're looking for a delicious, impressive-looking dessert for your next dinner party, but your short on time, this recipe is the one for you.

It really is very easy. All you do is grind some sliced almonds, sugar, butter, flour and salt in the food processor until it resembles beach sand. Reserve about a cup of this "sand" for the topping. Then pulse two tablespoons of beaten egg into the remaining almond-sugar-flour mixture until it comes together. You need to beat the egg, measure out two tablespoons and discard the rest. I can only imagine the amount of trial and error it took the Gourmet test kitchen cooks to figure out that you need exactly two tablespoons of egg.

Then you take the mixture and press it evenly into a removable-bottom tart pan and bake it for a little while. Then, take it out of the oven and spread some raspberry jam over the tart shell. I used jam made by the Trappist Monks. Finally, you mix some more sliced almonds in with the reserved "sand," sprinkle it over the jam and bake for a little while longer.

This was a great dessert. The tart crust was sweet and tender with a nice almond flavor. The jam was sweet and tangy and the almond-crumble topping gave the tart a nice crunch. The Book suggests serving the tart with vanilla ice cream. This is not optional in my opinion. The ice cream is the perfect compliment to this dessert, and I think that it would be missing "something" if you had it without.

This recipe marks my first project-related injury. As I was trying to remove the tart from the pan, my finger got pinched between the removable bottom and the sharp edge of the pan's rim. There was some pain, and yes, there was some blood, but none on the tart, thankfully). It healed pretty quickly, and I'm back in fighting form and ready to cook some more.

Date Cooked: January 31, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: A-

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

105. Guacamole (with Tomato) (p. 9)

I had guacamole for the first time when I was a freshman in high school. Our debate team went to a tournament at Harvard (yes, I was a bit of a nerd in high school), and our faculty advisor took us to a Mexican restaurant in Harvard Square for dinner. I remember getting my plate of food and seeing "a big blob of brown stuff" and "a big blob of green stuff" on the plate. As unappetizing as these things looked to an uninitiated fourteen-year-old, I gamely gave them a try anyway. I've never been a picky eater, and I've always been willing to try just about anything once. With those first bites, I became a life-long fan of guacamole and refried beans.

This recipe* is pretty easy. I started by mashing some chopped white onions, a minced serrano chile, and some kosher salt into a paste using my mortar and pestel. I transferred the paste to a larger bowl and, using a potato masher, I mashed the paste together with four perfectly ripe avacados (my lucky day at the grocery store). Then I squeezed in some fresh lime juice and tasted it to make sure that the salt, heat and acid were just right, which they were. The Book's basic guacamole recipe ends here.

I opted to enhance it with some chopped, seeded tomato to make one of the several variations suggested in The Book ... Guacamole with Tomato. The other variations are a bit more exotic: Radish and Cilantro Guacamole, Fall-Winter Fruit Guacamole (with apple, grapes and pomegranate seeds), and Summer Fruit Gucamole (with grapes, peaches and raspberries). These other variations sound "interesting," but I'm sure that I'll give them a try someday.

This guacamole was superb. The texture was smooth, creamy and decadant. The flavor had the buttery mildness of ripe avacado with just the right amount of saltiness and a little zip of lime juice and just a hint of heat (I used a lot less of the minced serannos than The Book calls for). The tomato added some nice substance and interest. I want some more right now.

Date Cooked: February 1, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: A

*The recipe in The Book isn't on, but this one is close enough, just add some lime juice.

Monday, February 9, 2009

104. Fresh Tomato Salsa (p. 896)

The Superbowl was last Sunday. And you know what that means ... chips and dips! We watched "The Big Game" at my sister-in-law's house on their huge-mongous hi-def TV. I made this recipe for salsa, and some guacamole that I'll write about in my next post.

The salsa recipes in The Book are intended to be used as condiments for grilled meats, so in order to use them as party dips, you need to double the recipe.

To make this salsa, I chopped some plum tomatoes. The Book says that you can seed the tomatoes if you want, or you can leave them in. I chose to leave them in. Then I minced a serrano chile. The Book calls for two, but since serranos rate 10,000 to 23,000 on the Scoville Scale, I decided to keep it pretty mild. I chopped some white onion, which The Book says is better than yellow onions for recipes calling for raw onions because of its "sharper, cleaner, brighter flavor." Finally, I chopped some fresh cilantro. I mixed up all of these ingredients, and that's it. The Book calls for adding three tablespoons of water, but I omitted this because I though that it would make the salsa too watery.

This was a pretty good salsa. I served it with some multi-grain tortilla chips. It was fresh, simple and clean tasting, and it had just the right amount of heat. This could easily be a party stand-by.

Date Cooked: February 1, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: A-

Saturday, February 7, 2009

103. Sauteed Dessert Crêpes (p. 791)

It was Candlemas the other day. What's that, you say? In the Christian tradition, it's the celebration of the presentation of the baby Jesus at the temple forty days after Christmas. In other traditions, it's observed as the mid-point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox (a.k.a. Groundhog Day). In France, people eat crêpes on Candlemas. Tradition says that if the cook can flip a crêpe while holding a coin in the other hand, the family is assured of prosperity throughout the coming year.

I've never made crêpes before, so I thought that I'd give them a try. I didn't try the coin trick, because this way my first time, and I figured that I'd need both hands, but just the same, I think it's a pretty auspicious sign for a prosperous new year that the crêpes came out all right.

The batter was pretty easy to make. It's just a couple of eggs, some flour, milk, a little bit of Cognac, and a pinch of salt. The Book says to put about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the batter in a hot crêpe pan or skillet. Because I didn't read the recipe carefully enough, I used a 10" skillet instead of the 7-8" skillet The Book says to use. As a result, it took about 3 to 4 tablespoons of batter to coat the bottom of the pan. It only took a couple of seconds to cook each of the crêpes, and they slid right out of the pan with the help of a rubber spatula. I was pretty impressed.

As each of the crêpes cooked, I folded it in quarters and put them on a plate. When they were all done, I melted some butter in the skillet and arranged the crapes in the pan and sauteed them for a little while until they were nice and golden on the bottom. I served them, as The Book suggested, sprinkled with some sugar and topped with some sliced fresh strawberries.

These crêpes were pretty good. They were light and tender and buttery. The sprinkling of sugar gave them a little bit of sweetness, and the sliced fresh strawberries were a necessary touch (although The Book says that they're optional).

Now, this recipe* is in The Book's Pies, Tarts and Pastries chapter, but I made it for breakfast last Sunday. Dessert for breakfast? Well, first of all what are crêpes but thin pancakes? And what are pancakes but a breakfast food? And anyway, I'm a grown-up, and if I want to eat dessert for breakfast, I can. So there! But, if I had made this for dessert, I would have been pretty dissapointed. These were a bit too light and not sweet enough for a dessert. Also, the fresh strawberries were nice, but if this is really going to be a dessert, they need some kind of sauce. Finally, I'm not sure what the purpose of adding the Congnac is, but if you ask me, Grand Marnier would hav been a better choice because it would have given the crêpes a nice orange flavor.

Date Cooked: February 1, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Easier than I thought it would be!
Rating: C+

*This recipe isn't on

Friday, February 6, 2009

102. Turkey Chipotle Chili (p. 388)

Continuing on the theme of "cook something big on the weekend so we don't have to cook during the week," I made this recipe because it looked like it would freeze well and because I knew that it would be good for three or four meals.

Actually, between the food I cooked and froze in advance, the cooking that I've been doing on the weekends, and the meals that a co-worker's wife has been making for us (she's a saint!), my wife and I haven't had to cook dinner on a weeknight since my son was born five weeks ago. It's made such a big difference.

The first thing that I did to make this chili was to puree some canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and some fresh tomatillos (I was surprised to find fresh tomatillos at the grocery store in January. The Book says that canned are OK, too.) and put them aside. Next I cooked up some chopped onions, minced garlic and cumin. I added four pounds of ground turkey (this is a meaty chili) and cooked it until it was no longer pink. Then I added the two purees, some chicken broth, a bay leaf and some oregano. After that had simmered for a while, I added some chopped green bell pepper and chopped canned green chiles and simmered for a while longer. Finally, I added some canned white beans that had been drained and rinsed. Once it was heated through and seasoned with salt and pepper, it was ready to eat, topped with a dallop of sour cream and a sprinkling of shredded cheddar cheese.

This was a nice, hearty, meaty chili. The use of tomatillos insted of tomatoes gave it a nice bright and tangy flavor. I didn't think that the chipotle and adobo flavor were strong enough, and when I make this again (this recipe is a keeper), I'll add more to give it some of additional heat and smokiness.

Date Cooked: January 25, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Medium
Rating: B+

Thursday, February 5, 2009

101. Best Rice Pudding (p. 827)

If this recipe* is the "Best Rice Pudding," then what does that mean for the other rice pudding recipe in The Book (Dried Cherry and Raisin Rice Pudding, p. 827)? Is it the "second-best" rice pudding, or (perish the thought!) the "worst" rice pudding? I'm sure that any offense to the other rice pudding recipe was unintended by The Book's editors.

Well, I'll just have to wait until I've made both rice puddings until I can say for sure that this one really is the "best," but for the time being, I can vouch for it being pretty darn good.

I can't remember the last time I had rice pudding, but I know that I like it. It's sweet, creamy and starchy. It's one of those great comforting, old-fashioned dishes that makes you feel warm and happy.

To make this dish, I started by making some white rice flavored with butter, salt and lemon zest. (Before I went any further, I tasted the rice, and made a note to myself that this lemony-buttery rice would be good with some grilled fish.) Next I simmered some whole milk, sugar and half of a vanilla bean sliced in half lengthwise. I've never cooked with real vanilla beans before. I've always been scared off by the price (more than $8 for two beans at my local mega-mart!). I suppose I have to admit that it really did make a difference. The vanilla flavor in the finished pudding was delicious and intense, and not at all like the flavor you get from vanilla extract, even the good stuff.

Finally, I stirred in the cooked rice and some raisins and simmered until most of the liquid had absorbed and it had the texture of risotto.

The Book says to cool until just warm before serving. I made this the day before I was going to serve it, though. So, I cooled it to room temperature and put it in the refrigerator overnight. Just before I served it, I put the pudding in small bowls and heated it up in the microwave for about a minute. A little dusting of cinnamon on top, and it was ready to enjoy.

This pudding was great. Nothing fancy, just a simple, comforting, warming dessert with a wonderful creaminess and texture. The intense but smooth vanilla flavor and the plump, sweet raisins make this pudding special. My wife had some of the leftover pudding the next day cold. I tasted it that way, but it wasn't for me. I preferred it warm.

Date Cooked: January 24, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: B+

*There are lots of rice pudding recipes on, but this isn't one of them.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

100. Brown Sugar Fudge (p. 695)

My one-hundredth recipe! I've still got a looooong way to go, but it's a milestone just the same. And to celebrate, how about something sweet?

Growing up, most holidays involved someone bringing out a white cardboard box of chocolates and fudge from Priscilla's Candies in Lawrence. I always went for the chocolate fudge, and turned my nose up at the favorite of the older folks ... penuche ("puh-noo-chee"). Now that I'm older myself, and a bit wiser, I've grown to realize that this sweet, rich, caramel-y fudge should not be overlooked.

The Book refers to this confection by it's Southern name, Brown Sugar Fudge. Because I'm a New Englander, I'll call it by its (proper) regional name, penuche. Whatever you call it, you make it by bringing some light brown sugar, evaporated milk, butter and salt to a boil and then simmering it until it reaches 238 on a candy thermometer - soft ball stage.

The words "candy thermometer" and "soft ball" were almost enough to make me pass this recipe by. I've never made candy before, and my candy thermometer is an old-school, hand-me-down mercury thermometer encased in a brittle-looking glass tube. But, heck, I'm a man on a mission, and I have to make this eventually. And, anyway, what's the worse that could happen?

So, I cooked the sugar and milk mixture until the thermometer was around 240 degrees (there was no way to know for sure that I was at exactly 238 on my antique thermometer). As it cooked, I kept testing it according to the advice in The Book, drop a small amount in a bowl of cold water, if it holds a soft ball when pressed together, it's ready. The first few of my tests resulted in blobs of caramel dissolving in the water. I was getting discouraged, when all of a sudden, there it was, a soft ball!

Then I transferred the hot sugar and milk mixture to a bowl and beat in some vanilla extract and confectioner's sugar. Finally, I stirred in some toasted chopped walnuts into the fudge. This step is not in The Book's recipe, but the Priscilla's penuche I remember from my childhood had nuts, and that's how I was going to make it. So there!

I spread the fudge into an 8-inch square baking dish and put it in the refirgerator for about an hour. Before I spread the fudge in the pan, I lined it with a piece of heavy-duty foil with the ends overlapping the sides of the pan to form a little sling that I'd be able to use to lift the fudge out of the pan after it chilled .... a little trick I learned from an episode of America's Test Kitchen. After it was nice and hardened, I lifted the fudge out of the pan using the foil sling, and I cut it into 64 pieces.

This fudge was awesome! It was sweet, decadent and creamy. The toasted nuts gave it a nice crunch and additional flavor dimension. Even though this fudge was very rich, it was so good that we couldn't help eating piece after piece. It was a good thing that I brought the fudge to my in-law's house for my wife's grandmother's birthday dinner, otherwise, the two of us could have eaten all of the fudge ourselves ... probably in one sitting.

Since this fudge turned out so well, I'm looking forward to making the other candy recipes in The Book, but not until I get a proper candy thermometer.

Date Cooked: January 17, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Medium
Rating: A

Monday, February 2, 2009

99. Lentil and Brown Rice Stew (p. 276)

Continuing my theme of cooking on the weekend for the week ahead, I picked this recipe because The Book says it serves 6 to 8, and since there's just 2 of us (my son's not going to be eating solid food for a while now), I knew that we'd get a least three meals out of one day's worth of cooking.

I also picked the recipe because it looked like a hearty vegetarian meal (sort of ... it's got chicken broth) packed with all sorts of wholesome ingredients. That, and it looked really easy to make. Basically, all you do it throw all of the ingredients - including canned tomatoes, chicken stock, lentils, brown rice, carrots, onions, celery, and flavorings like garlic, thyme and a bay leaf - into a pot and simmer for about a hour. Then I stirred in some parsley and some smoked turkey sausage that I had leftover from the jumbalaya I made the week before. The sausage isn't in the recipe, but the blurb in The Book suggests that "adding about a pound of smoked sausage makes a great dish even better." How could I not add sausage?

This stew was good. It didn't change my life, but it was a very satisfying weeknight dinner, and I'd make it again. The combination of the rice and lentils gave it a nice substance and texture. The flavor was good, if difficult to place. I don't know if it was the thyme and bay, or the flavor from the sausage, but the stew made both me and my wife think of barbecue sauce. Strange, no?

This stew did well in the freezer and microwave.

Date Cooked: January 17, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: B+

Sunday, February 1, 2009

98. Chicken and Sausage Jumbalaya (p. 369)

These days I'm looking for recipes that offer a big return on the time investment. This recipe* was exactly what I was looking for. This dish made enough food for dinner three nights in a row ... and it was so good that we didn't mind the repetition.

I was surprised to learn that jumbalaya traces it roots to paella. I guess it makes sense. Both are hearty dishes of meat, vegetables and rice with a rich stock. I also learned the difference between jumbalaya and the other classic Louisiana dishes, gumbo and etouffee. In the former, everythng is cooked together, but in the traditional preparations of the latter, the rice is cooked separately.

To make this dish, first, I browned some chicken pieces, and by some, I mean five pounds! (I told you this recipe makes a lot of food.) Then I browned some sliced smoked turkey sausage in the oil and rendered chicken fat. The Book calls for andouille sausage, but because my wife won't eat pork, I opted for turkey sausage. Once that was done, I set aside the meat and drained off almost all of the fat and cooked onions, celery, green peppers and garlic. Then, I put the chicken back in the pot, along with some chopped canned tomatoes, chicken stock, water and cayenne. I simmered all of this for a while.

Then, The Book's instructions get a little confusing. I had to read it a few times, but once I figured it out, it made sense. First, you take the chicken out of the pot and put it in a bowl. Then you measure the cooking liquid and vegetables to make sure that it's seven cups. If more, cook it down, if less, add water. Then add uncooked rice to the seven cups of vegetables and cooking liquid. Arrange the chicken on top and bake it for about a half hour.

Cooking the rice in the same liquid that the chicken and vegetables simmered it gives it a wonderful richness. Baking the rice instead of cooking it on the stovetop was great, too. The even heat of the oven makes sure that each grain of rice is cooked perfectly.

This was an excellent, hearty stick-to-your ribs meal. It reheated well, and as I said, it was so tasty, we didn't mind the repetition of eating it night after night. It would also make a crowd-pleasing meal for a party.

Date Cooked: January 11, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Medium
Rating: A-

* This recipe is not online.