18 February 2008

Milk Calendar Mondays: Easy Jambalaya

Elizabeth of Blog From Our Kitchen noted in January's MCM post

"...I must say that I do get a kick out of looking at the "for the adventurous" section at the bottom of the recipe. I'm amazed at what is sometimes considered to be 'adventurous.'"
Sometimes recipe writers try too hard. Sure, their intentions may be innocuous--helpful, even--but every once in a while even the best-laid plans of mince and mandoline may be best left in that dark place where recipes never are never committed to paper (or pixels).

I fully understand many Canadians do not live in urban centres and may not have easy access to the same ingredients as those who live in larger cities. Heck, I live in one of our larger cities and I have trouble reliably finding chipotles in adobo sauce in our mainstream grocers. I also know that because not everyone was raised with Asian, Central American or even Mediterranean foods (among others), balancing culinary timidity with an honest curiosity of different flavours can be daunting.

Call them tamed, simplified or brutishly dumbed down, creating a non-offensive and easy version of a famed, complex and flavourful dish isn't an easy job. Add to that a pre-requisite ingredient normally absent in many other versions, and you risk a final product that's, at best, lacking. Yes, you could help someone out of their comfort zone and give them the courage to try different flavours, cuisines and cooking techniques, but sometimes you could simply be passing on misinformation.

Am I being a food snob? I don't think so.


Entitled "Easy Jambalaya" I was torn between two reactions: the lazy-I-want-it-now part of me was excited at the prospect of a jambalaya that didn't take hours to make...combined with...oh gawd, what did they leave out to make it appealing to the masses. Yes, it's easy and designed so anyone with access with the most basic kitchen can make this. But it's also boring and unsatisfying.

I made one substitution -- thought the can of crushed tomatoes was a can of stewed tomatoes...and then when I realised I had the correct quantity of tomato sauce, I used that instead of opening up a new tin...if anything, my substitution added more flavour to the dish.

As written, its flavours are dull and lifeless. There's no depth of flavour attained from browned chicken, quantities of smoked or andouille sausage. I'm used to sautéeing onions, peppers and celery until they've released their basic goodness. I'm also used to garlic and bay leaves. Yup...no garlic in this recipe--sacrificed in the name of the hoi polloi? Probably. Don't know why the versatile bay leaf was omitted.

I tasted it after it was "done." It wasn't. I had to doctor it--heavily to bring it to the barely passable zone. If I had some garlic powder I'd have tipped some in, but I did add some chicken stock, along with a plethora of spices and a good dollop of hot sauce. And that's why my photo looks so much different than what's in the calendar.

A friend was over to try it. As we ate we tried to figure out why it wasn't working for us. We both agreed that the milk should have been left out and a rich chicken stock would have been better. I prefer my jambalaya with sausage, chicken and shrimp. He wasn't specific with the type of meat, just the quantity...it needed a lot more meat--and I'm in full agreement. We both thought it needed garlic and more seasoning.

The "adventurous" recommendation of adding shrimp would not help this dish in the slightest.


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Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Sob... there is nothing sadder than a bad jambalaya. It's one of my passion foods and, though the version I make at home might not pass muster with real Cajuns, I'm quite proud of it -- and there's not a drop of milk in it.

Bron said...

That is sad, I've never had jambalaya, but have heard /read many good things about it... I will know not to try this one!

glamah16 said...

Ah well.Your trying with that Milk calender. But your mothers and your intial impressions of it are holding up.

Elizabeth said...

When I saw the recipe for this month, I thought of you, Jasmine. And I must say I wondered if you were going to manage to make the dish. I'm by no means an expert in cajun (or is it creole?) cuisine but... Jambalaya with milk?!

I really don't think it's being snobbish to criticize this version. I suppose that the Jambalaya was chosen because of Carnivale. But surely there are traditional dishes made for Carnivale that would normally have milk in them!

King cake? Bread pudding? Crepes?


P.S. I confess that we laughed like cats when we saw the shrimp and frozen sliced okra as the additions for the adventurous.

Annemarie said...

I've done a double-blink at several of words - no garlic? Milk? *blink blink*. There are no words. I shall seek comfort in my plateful of chorizo paella knowing that it was the forefather of the holy jambalaya, garlic and all.

jasmine said...

Hello all

Yes, this one was a definite dud. I will perservere as January's recipe wasn't too bad.

Elizabeth--you are probably correct in your guess. They do try and do seasonal recipes...but then, I'm sure they'll have objections to the overt Christian imagery in the King cake, the terminology of pudding and, of course, the fear of all things crepy..