I spent yesterday in the kitchen. It was Fat Tuesday and several of us who had gone to New Orleans in January put on a dinner to beat the band for a couple score of our closest friends. What fun! (to learn about the New Orleans trip, see my post from December 31 through January 7 and January 13) What fun! We served beans and rice, jambalaya, salad and bread. We did our shopping on Monday, picking up shrimp, chicken, sausage, bags of onions, celery, bell peppers, beans, #10 cans of tomatoes and tomato paste, rice, french bread, salad makings and some other things that I can’t recall at the moment.
We got together yesterday morning at 9 AM. First order of business was to get the beans and chicken cooking into big pots. For good measure, we threw in bacon with the beans and celery and onions with the chicken. Then we set out to slice and dice 20 pounds of onions, 12 bunches of celery, cloves of garlic, parsley and cilantro. We finished chopping about the time to pull the chicken was done. We pulled the meat off the bones, diced it up, threw the skins away, and tossed the bones back in the pot to make our broth. Good chicken broth is important for jambalaya. I took off to do some errands, while one guy watched the stove. He also browned the sausage for the beans and jambalaya. At some point, his wife came in and suggested (an understatement) that he remove the shells of the shrimp. My plan was to toss the shrimp, shells and all, right into the concoction, but it was too late. So instead, we boiled the shells for an hour or so in water to get out what flavor we could, and added the liquid to the broth.
In the afternoon, we added cans of tomatoes and tomato paste to the beans and plenty of chopped onions, celery, peppers, and other spices. Somehow, the cilantro and parsley got added here too. It should have been held till later, but that was just a little oversight. Then we went to work on the jambalaya, sautéing a peck of onions, celery and peppers. Then we added a can of tomato paste and caramelized it, tossing in a can of crushed tomatoes and a collection of spices and some cilantro for good measure, a bit of broth, the chicken and sausage and shrimp. We cooked this until the shrimp were done (I had to try several just to make sure), then added rice and about two times the amount of broth and as soon as it came to a boil, put a lid on it and let it cook on low. Our next task was to cook rice for the beans. This we did in large pots, using some of the left over broth to make it especially good. As the rice was cooking, other guys got to work making pitchers of ice tea and lemonade, perking an urn of coffee, cutting up the french bread (so that it would go further, it really should have been torn apart), and getting the salad stuff ready. One of the wives fixed lemon squares which we served as desert and we were ready to serve the feast at 6:15, a full fifteen minutes before kickoff.
Everyone left stuffed. After the meal we showed slides of what we saw and did in New Orleans and passed the hat, raising a fair piece to be taken down to New Orleans when some of the group returns to help rebuild. Since we were serving this in a church fellowship hall, no alcohol was served. But when I got home after cleaning it all up, I enjoyed a nice tall bottle of "The Poet" a porter made by a local brewery.