Monday, August 29, 2011

Jambalaya, farkashert

Kosher jambalaya?   Not impossible, but since pork is pervasive in Cajun food, and in just about all cooking from the  American South, you have to be a little flexible.  I worked out this variation with chicken and some kosher sausages that I like (OK, I am addicted to them). Over the next couple of months I also hope to post some other farkasherte Southern dishes like a pulled barbeque made with chicken thighs.  

This method combines Cajun seasoning with Spanish technique, so that the rice is not mushy and you are left with soccarat, the wonderful crust that you sometimes get at the bottom of a pan of cooked paella.  Most recipes for jambalaya that I have seen use long grain rice and cook it covered in liquid for 45 minutes.  This adapts a paella-method, which cooks the rice stove-top or unconvererd in the oven (or on an open fire), or, as I do here, a bit of both.  I thought the results were quite good.  I hope that you do too, and don't miss the pork. 


  • 1-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 12 ounces spicy sausage, cut into half inch pieces (see below)
  • 3 tablespoons spice mix
  • 1 chicken cut into 8-12 pieces or 8-12 thighs
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, white and some green, trimmed and sliced
  • 4 stalks of celery, trimmed, strined and chopped
  • 4 green frying peppers or 2 large green bell peppers, seeded, deribbed and chopped
  • 1 jalapeno chili, chopped (optional)
  • 8 - 12 cloves sliced garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika
  • 2 1/2 cups medium grain Spanish rice (I use Montisia, from near Tarragona, since it is the cheapest of the Spanish rices at the local market)
  • 15 ounce can chopped our diced tomatoes (I like Muir Glen fire roasted with green chili here)
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken broth (I used Manishewitz out of a box, you could use homemade)
  • salt to taste
  1. You will need a dish that you can cook on the stove and that will withstand very high oven temperatures. It shouldn't be too deep, since evaporation is key to this method of cooking rice.  A classic paella pan works well, but is difficult to negotiate on the stove.  I used a large, oval enameled cast iron casserole, about 2 inches deep. The pan should be large and deep enough so that it won't boil over, which may set off your  A large  5-6 quart flameproof casserole would probably work as well, but you run a greater risk of mushy rice.
  2. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Remove the racks or adjust them so that they are on the highest shelves, since the pan will rest on the bottom of the oven. (If you have an electric over, put one rack on the lowest shelf.
  3. Put a little oil in the cooking dish, and brown the sausage pieces well on all sideson medium-high heat for about 10 minutes.  Watch the fat so that it doesn't smoke, and adjust the flame accordingly. Remove to a bowl when done.
  4. Meanwhile, dredge the chicken pieces in the spice mix. If you are calorie counting, take off the skin first, but after making this both ways we agreed that the skin adds more than just grease and it is worth accounting for the extra calories.  (See below)
  5. Add as many pieces of chicken as will fit comfortably to the pan, and brown well on all sides. Remove pieces to dish as they brown, and add the remaining pieces.
  6. Add all of the vegetables except the chili and garlic to the fat in the pan, and cook on high heat until they begin to caramelize.   
  7. Add the chili and garlic and cook for a minute or two.  Add the bay leaf, thyme, and paprika and mix well.
  8. Add the rice and mix in until it is well coated with the fat, and then saute another minute or two.
  9. Add the tomatoes and cook on high for a few minutes until most of it is absorbed.
  10. Add the broth, along with the accumulated chicken juices (euphemism for fat). Stir the sausage into the rice, arrange the chicken pieces on top, bring to a boil, and cook uncovered over high heat for 5 minutes.
  11. Transfer the pan to the bottom of the oven, and cook for 25 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.  If you would like, you can move it to a higher shelf at the end broil for a few minutes to crisp the chicken skin.
  12. Cover the pan very loosely with foil, and leave in the oven at least 5 minutes.
  13. Serves eight.

Sausage:  This and the tasso ham are the challenges, since there are no real kosher equivalents.  I just leave out the tasso.  One could try pastrami, but the flavors of coriander and mustard seed would be outof place.  I use Lower East Side  brand Spicy Beef and Red Pepper Sausage, made of course in Newark.  It is like a spicy frank, but with coarser meat, and I find it quite tasty.  You could substitute any of the spicy kosher sausages, precooked or otherwise, though I would avoid ones with North African flavors.  Neshama makes a kosher andouille which would probably be very nice, though I am hooked on the LES spicy beef. A semi-dry turkey cubano would also work.

To skin or not to skin? This is really acceptable if you skin the chicken, particularly if you use thighs which are more difficult to overcook.  However, leaving the skin on adds a lot.  Many flavors are fat-soluble, and the extra dose of chicken fat carries the spice very nicely.  The skin, especially if crisped at the end is delectable.  And, finally, much of what we mistake for moisture in food is actually salivation, our own physiological reaction to fat.  Every week I have eaten this dish, I have lost weight, even making it with the skin on.  Your call. 
Spice mix:  Using a clean coffee grinder reserved for spices, grind fine 3 dried red chili peppers, 1 tablespoon dried thyme,  2 teaspoons each black peppercorns, dried oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon each of sea salt and smoked Spanish paprika.  You will use 2-3 tablespoons for this recipe, and save the rest for other uses.  You could also use a prepared cajun spice mix.

Timing, pans ovens and racks:  The precise timing and method that I have given has worked for a very large skillet a bit deeper than a paella pan, and  rectangular enameled cast iron dish.  It is impossible to be precise here.  Sometimes you just have to go with your good sense and wing it.  The pan should uncovered and be relatively wide relative to its depth. If you like your rice crusty, the bottom of a gas oven works best.  If you don't, or have an electric oven, put it down close near the heat source.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Kecap terong: Indonesian eggplant with sweet soy sauce

This dish is inspired by Maya, who will probably not eat it.   When she tastes it, she will probably say "it is too sweet, and I am kind of off eggplant."  But we are having it because of what I call the Maya principle, which is that you get to make and eat what you want when you are at home.  When you are in a restaurant, you eat their cuisine. (I am talking about the ethnic restaurants that we usually go to, and not what Maya used to call "exotic" places like IHOP.) You eat Turkish food in a Turkish restaurant, Mexican food in a Mexican restaurant, and Galitzianer food in a Galitzianer restaurant.  My inclination at home is to try and prepare an ethnically and regionally consistent meal (themed to the headlines if possible) but over time, Maya has worn me down and convinced me that I don't have to do that.  We had a bumper crop of eggplants from our CSA so tonight for Shabbat dinner with our farkashert Jambalaya (recipe to follow soon, I promise) we are having Indonesian eggplant with sweet soy sauce.  We were going to have it South Indian style (I thought that the spicy peanut sauce would bring a certain harmony to the Southern main dish) but that seems to contravene the Maya principle a bit.  Besides, the Indonesian variety has a much smaller calorie/Points impact (btw I am back on Weight Watchers, another reason I have been posting less) so it seemed like a better choice.  Like the Southern Indian version, it is adapted from Julie Sanhi's Moghul Microwave. Eggplants do very nicely in microwaves.

Kecap terong:  Indonesian eggplant in sweet soy sauce

  • 1 to 1.5 pounds eggplants, ideally the long thin Asian ones, if not a regular one will do
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 3 tablespoons kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce -- you may substitute 5 teaspoons soy sauce and 4 teaspoons sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce or Bragg's aminos
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1-2 fresh red chili peppers

  1. If using Asian eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices.  If using a regular large eggplant, cut into quarters the long way and then into slices.
  2. Quarter the onions and slice.
  3. Mix together the spices in one dish, and the soy sauces and lime juice in an other.
  4. Heat oil for 2 minutes in a 2-3 quart microwave-safe casserole.
  5. Remove casserole from the microwave, toss the eggplants and onions with the oil.  Sprinkle with the spices and toss again.  
  6. Cover with a piece of paper towel and zap for 4-5 minutes.  Time is difficult to determine since it is a function of the power of the microwave, the shape of the dish, and the density of the eggplants.  It is also a function of the preference of the diners.  My wife likes her eggplants very tender, so I tend to cook for the longer time period.
  7. Removed from the oven, and pour over the liquids.  Add the chilies now, sliced, if you are using them. Cover with the casserole lid.
  8. Return to the oven, zap for another 4-5 minutes. 
  9. Leave at least 5 minutes fore serving.  This reheats well, and is ideally served with white rice, but we will be having it with Jambalaya.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Vietnamese red cabbage salad

Other than the recipe for spiced pecans that I posted earlier , I have been very negligent about keeping up my blog this summer. We have had a busy June and July sort of running a graduate dormitory, so I am trying to get back into the swing of things. A lot came together for us Memorial day weekend.  First, we went to San Francisco for our cousin Mina's bat mitzvah.  I won't go into all the liturgical and other details of the trip, but the dinner was amazing.  I am not sure if the Slanted Door, one of the leading high-end Vietnamese restaurants in the city, usually does catering, but they did on this occasion since the bat mitzvah has been friends with the daughter of the owners since they were in nursery school.   Since the reception was at the JCC, it was farkashert, or at least there was no high treyf, which suited me just fine.  There were cold salad rolls, dumplings stuffed with mung bean puree, vegetarian radish cake, tofu and mushroom curry, mackerel with caramel, sauteed bok choy, and red cabbage slaw with grapefruit and spiced pecans.  The slaw tasted like it had a soy-based dressing, rather than one based on fish sauce, so it was strictly vegetarian.  Fish sauce represents particular kashrut problems and is virtually impossible to get prepared under supervision.

Harry and Seth
We came home from San Francisco on Memorial Day, and Harry returned from nine months in Israel the following morning at 5:30.  We went to pick him up at JFK, and one of his friends, Seth Engelbourg (see picture) who had been with Harry on Kibbutz Keturah and shared an apartment with him in Jerusalem, stayed with us that night.  They hung around in the city that day, came home for dinner, and then went out to see the Spiderman show which they said was so bad that it was actually funny.  For dinner, we had Semur Daging, sauteed bok choy, and rice.  I was also going to make a gado gado to go with it but it turned out that Seth is allergic to peanuts.  So I tried to improvise the Vietnamese cabbage slaw from the bat mitzvah.  Instead of a fish sauce based dressing, I devised a vegetarian nuoc cham  based on Bragg's aminos which tasted very similar to what the Slanted Door had made.  The dinner was in general a success (and they consumed an incredible amount of food) but the salad played to somewhat mixed reviews, at least for the returnees. Seth said "The salad is pretty good,  but the dressing is too focused on the chili; there is nothing else going on there. Maybe it also could have used some crunchy noodle for contrast, or maybe some crisp fruit."  Everyone is a Top Chef judge nowadays.  Anyway, I worked on it a bit, tweaked the dressing and the salad, and added grapefruit and spiced pecans which it was made with originally and which I had not used on the first occasion I made it.  You could also add toasted ramen.  I think the improved version struck the right notes and  I hope that Seth would like it.

Vietnamese red cabbage salad, in the style of the Slanted Door:

I still need to get the hang of food photography -- excuse the sponge, peeler, and Osem's package.

  • Small red cabbage (1-1.5 pounds)
  • 1/4 small white cabbage (optional)
  • 1 grapefruit , 1 mango (ideally slightly underripe) or 2 oranges
  • 4 scallions, all of the white and some green, chopped
  • Cilantro, about 1 cup chopped
  • 1/2 cup candied pecans (optional, see my recipe for spiced candied pecans use about 1/6 to 1/4-- you can substitute toatsed ramen if you want)
  • Vegetarian nuoc cham  ( use most of my recipe for vegetarian nuoc cham )

  1. Remove the outer leaves of the cabbages, shred the cabbages very fine and put in a large bowl.  Ideally, use a mandoline on its finest setting. (Belinda and Alex, parents of one of our summer residents, got me one as a present, so it is my new toy.) 
  2. Prepare the grapefruit or oranges.  Slice off the top and bottom with a very sharp knife so that it sits flat on the cutting board.  Slice off the peel and pit to expose the flesh.  When you are done, you should be left with the fruit with little or none of the white pith.  Take the fruit in your hand, and use a very sharp knife to remove the fruit segments, leaving the membranes behind.  Remove the seeds and put them in a bowl.  Be real careful doing this.  When you are done, take the grapefruit carcass and squeeze the juice onto the cabbage.  If you use a mango, just peel it and shred the flesh.
  3. Toss the cabbage with the nuoc cham, about 1 cup, and set aside until read to serve.  IF the cabbage was very fine they will be soft.  Otherwise, the are better if they sit a bit in the dressing.
  4. Top with the cilantro and scallions.   Scatter the pecans and fruit on top. 
  5. Serve as is, or topped with grilled chicken or tofu.

Spiced candied pecans

I know this is my first recipe in a while.  Excuses will follow, but I feel particularly bad for my niece who spend most of her summer in the Ukraine (in a place she insists on calling L'viv) and Poland.  (Does she write Warsvawa in her blog, or whatever they call it?  I don't think so.)

This recipe is based very closely on Julie Sanhi's cookbook Moghul Microwave, which adapts Indian recipes for microwave use.  I have been using it intensively for years, and have actually reverse engineered many of her recipes, (such as her mattar paneer) which are quite good, for the stove top since I find that many are both easier and come out better using conventional methods.  I have continued to make a few in the microwave.  I find that it does really well with fish dishes and eggplant (less stirring means less breaking up), and makes okra far better than other methods -- crisp and with no slime.  I tried making these candied pecans on the stovetop and it was a disaster, so it was back to the microwave.  I vary the spice mixture considerably from what she uses, and you can vary it further still.

Spiced candied pecans

  • 8 ounces shelled pecan halves, roasted (toast for about 5 minutes in a 250 degree oven if not yet toasted)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon pareve margarine (substitute butter if you don't care whether or not these are pareve)
  • spice mixture (see below), about 2-4 teaspoons
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  1. Stir together the sugar, water and margerine in a microwave-save casserole, cover with paper towel, and zap on high for 4 minutes (until it is a syrup.)
  2. Immediately add the spice mixture and the baking soda and stir well to combine.
  3. Stir in the pecans and coat well with the mixture, and immediately pour out onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.  Separate the nuts as much as you can.
  4. Let cool and break apart any clumps.  Stored in a covered container, it keeps for a few weeks at room temperature and ages in the freezer.
  5. These make a great snack with drinks, and are really nice in a number of salads -- a Vietnamese red cabbage slaw recipe  to follow soon.
  6. Makes about three cups.

Spice mixture:  I generally take 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, 1 teaspoon whole cuminseed, 1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seed,  1/2 teaspoon ajwain, and 1-4 dried red chilies and whirl them in a coffee grinder reserved for spices until they are ground.  I use the entire amount in the recipe.  Decrease the peppercorns and omit the chilies if you don't want it spicy. You can use the equivalent amount of ground spices, but you will find it hard to find ground ajwain, which adds a nice funky thyme-like aroma.  You could try using garam masala, a Northern Indian spice mix used to finish off dishes, or ras al hanout, a Moroccan equivalent.  For pastrami pecans, you can try equal amounts of peppercorns, coriander seed, and mustard seed, though dry roast these in a skillet first.