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Ninjambalaya



Some of my Cajun friends insist that jambalaya, made properly, needs to take all day.  I say they live on a throne of lies, because they've never had beef with this.

The trick is to find good sausage.  Either Boudin or (if you can't find any or just don't like the stuff) a good flavorful pork sausage.

In the biggest pot you've got, toss in the sausage (chopped), and the "holy trinity" of Cajun cooking:  1 carrot, 1 onion, 1 bell pepper (I like to use poblanos instead, but I'm also livin' in Texas, ya'll).  If you've nabbed a good sausage, this will smell like magic before you even apply the heat.

Turn the heat under your pot and stir occasionally until the onions become translucent. 

Now for the quickie part:  add one twelve-ounce can of tomato sauce (NOT marinara, you jerks) or crushed tomatoes and one WELL RINSED 12 oz can of kidney beans.  Add six cups of water (or chicken stock) and three cups of rice, put a lid on it and bring it to a boil.  ONce it's boiling, kick the heat down and stir occaisionally until the rice is done.

You'll need: 

Wonton wrappers
frozen, canned or fresh (roasted) butternut squash **
1 tube sage sausage
10 leaves fresh sage, coarsely chopped
fist full of hazelnuts
stick of butter

Cook up your sausage and mix it with your sage and butternut squash.  Drop dollops onto your wonton wrappers, wet to seal and give it a blanket.  Seal up those edges.

Drop them in boiling water until the wonton wrappers are done (they should float). 

Melt butter over low heat until it just starts to brown.
In another pan, roast hazelnuts.

Serve with extra sage for garnish, a sprinkle of hazelnuts, and some of the brown butter.
 Another from the everything-in-the-oven category:

Preheat the oven to 350.

Place four pork loin chops (butterflied) into a pan.  Salt and pepper to taste and coat with your supermarket variety balsamic salad dressing.  Easiest to use are those handy or horrifying spray-salad dressings.

In a seperate vessel, add four cups (two cans) chicken stock, one cup corn meal, three garlic cloves (minced), half an onion (minced), and about a cup of frozen spinach.  Add salt and pepper to taste and a generous splash of lemon juice.  To avoid choppy type prep, omit onions and garlic (it will still be yummy).  With a wire whisk, stir generously.

Wrap three or four shucked corn cobs in tin foil with some salt and pepper and butter or margarine.  Place on a cookie sheet.

Cover polenta and pork chops.

Stick everything in the oven.

Set your timer for ten minutes - you will need to stir the polenta every ten minutes or it will burn to the bottom.  If the liquid in the pan with the pork chops disappears, add a little more dressing.

After about forty minutes, everything will be ready.  After about a half hour, check the pork chops for doneness.  Pork is finished when internal temperature is 165 degrees F (it cooks when you take it out of the oven).  Don't worry if the other items aren't finished - let the meat rest a bit so the juices can be reabsorbed into the meat.

Total Cookery:  45 minutes, depending on prep
Pre-heat oven to 350.

Lay out one piece of tin foil (about a foot long) for each diner.  Pour about 1/3 to 1/4 cup of plain couscous onto the tin foil.  Place a portion of mahi-mahi (salmon and trout also work well) on top, and smush couscous around the fish.  Add salt and pepper, about half a lemon per pouch, fresh herbs (oregano or dill work well), and a small amount of vegetable oil (or a pat of butter).  Add sliced zucchini, mushrooms, and any other veggies on hand.  Additions like capers or sundried tomatoes work well too.

Wrap the tin foil, pinching edges for a seal.

Place in oven for 20 minutes, or until fish is done.

Shrimp, Asparagus, and Lemon Rice

Make rice as per directions on the bag, but instead of water use a combination of chicken broth and lemon juice as the cooking liquid. Also throw in the zest from one lemon before cooking.

Thaw 1 pound of pre-cooked shrimp under cold running water in a colander. Mince 2 cloves of garlic and 1 shallot, and saute in a bit of olive oil. Season the shrimp with salt, basil, and a little pepper. Put in skillet, and saute for 3-5 minutes. Add a splash of lemon juice and a splash of dry white wine and let the liquid reduce for 5-8 minutes.

At this point, wash and trim your asparagus. In a separate skillet, heat some more olive oil. Saute the asparagus until it's bright green and slightly tender. Remove from heat, plunge in an ice bath to stop cooking, and season with salt.

Stir a generous handful of chopped parsley into the rice. Serve and enjoy!

If you prefer, lemon juice can be exchanged for lime juice, and the parsley can be switched for cilantro.

Time: 20 minutes
 Pre-heat oven to 350.

Trim fat and mystery bits from three chicken breasts.  Wrap each one in slices of bacon and place in a baking dish or pan.  (an alternative:  generously coat chicken in a creamy salad dressing like ranch, creamy bacon, or blue cheese)

In a loaf pan, add one can cream of chicken or mushroom soup, three cups or so frozen green beans, salt and pepper (to taste).  Mix up.  Top with french fried onions.

Dice two sweet potatoes and place into an additional pan.  Coat lightly with oil (spray oil works if your bottle oils are looking low), salt, pepper and paprika.  Toss. 

Put chicken, green beans, and potatoes into the oven (it should be finished pre-heating by now) for 30 minutes. 

Total Cookery:  35 minutes

Rockin' Carrot Soup

Pre-heat the oven to 350.   In a large pot, get 3 cups of chicken stock boiling. 

Peel four garlic cloves.  Place on a piece of tin foil, drizzle with olive oil.  Wrap the tin foil around the garlic.

Peel one small onion.  Place on a piece of tin foil, drizzle with olive oil.  Wrap the tin foil around the garlic.

Stow garlic and onion tin wads in the oven.

Toss one medium bag baby carrots into the chicken stock.

After about twenty minutes, stab the carrots with a fork.  If tender, carefully transfer the contents to a blender.

Add three tablespoons of butter, 1/2 - 1 cup of half and half (or milk - it all depends on taste.  Milk can be completely omitted) to the blender.  Puree.  

Remove onion and garlic from oven.  Unwrap and add to blender.

Add salt and pepper to taste.  Season with any of the following:  dill, ginger, curry powder, paprika, basil, oregano, rosemary.  Blend again to mix.

Fantastic in the winter.  For extra heartiness, add some (unpeeled) diced potatoes to the stock with the carrots before boiling.

Total Cookery:  30 minutes.