We love New Orleans. We have been there several times and are always charmed by the food, culinary talent, and history of the city. We don’t spend much time on infamous Bourbon Street; been there, done that years ago. But there is so much more to the city. One of my favorite shops in The French Quarter is Lucullus.
It is a wonderful antique shop that imports all kinds of French antique cookware. I have a beautiful copper pot, circa early 1900’s, that I bought from the shop at least 15 years ago. The name of the shop has great gastronomic significance. Lucullus was a Roman general and politician in 80 BC. He was known for his decadent banqueting and interest in food. Today Lucullan means lavish, extravagant, and gourmet; ie, a Lucullan delight.
There are many wonderful restaurants in New Orleans. My first food epiphany occurred in New Orleans. I was newly married and we traveled there to a conference that my husband was attending. Our friends, John and Georgia, who were also attending the conference, had heard of a small restaurant that was supposed to have great food. We traveled across a bridge to reach it. I wish I could remember its name. It is long gone now. We just called our old friends and they remembered the name. It was called La Ruth’s. Thank goodness for friends whose minds are still sharp. There were only 30 seats but La Ruth’s was always busy. Both David and I ordered Trout Meuniere. Even today I can remember the taste of the buttery lemon flavored fish. I think that was the beginning of my understanding that food could be a transporting experience. We both still talk about that meal and have tried to duplicate the experience. We are still working on it. But sometimes there is only one first time; impossible to recapture. I wonder if Julia Child ever duplicated her first experience with Sole Meuniere.
Today New Orleans is home to many culinary legends. Among them is John Besh, a native son of Southern Louisianna. He has nine restaurants. Among them is La Provence in Lacombe, just outside of New Orleans. Set on picturesque grounds with an extensive kitchen garden, La Provence looks like a typical Provencal auberge. The stucco, tiled roof restaurant features an antique French bar, a huge stucco fireplace and oak beamed ceilings. It has a sophisticated menu of French and Cajun inspired dishes. But the closest thing you can find to Jambalaya would be a Quail Gumbo. Nonetheless the recipe that I am featuring today is a John Besh jambalaya that was featured in People magazine of all places.
I must give credit where credit is due. David found this recipe, bought the ingredients and cooked it. He is still smarting over the fact that I never mentioned that he made the Braised Short Ribs that we had at Christmas. Jambalaya is a Louisiana Creole dish with Spanish and French influences. Meats and seafood cooked with rice is reminiscent of the Spanish paella. The Provencal word Jambon, meaning ham, is more than likely the basis of the word’s origin. David included both chicken and pork in this dish, along with andouille sausage and shrimp. It was delicious.
It is good straight out of the pot. But I “fancied up” the presentation a bit. I saved some of the shrimp, sausages and sauce separately. After the jambalaya was done I placed a serving of it in a round bowl, packed it down and then inverted it into an individual serving bowl. I surrounded it with sauce and sausage pieces and placed three shrimp on the top. I sprinkled it with snipped chives for a little color. This makes a lot so it is good for company.
JAMBALAYA (Adapted from John Besh)
3 slices of bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 lb andouille sausage, sliced
3 cups uncooked, converted Louisiana white rice
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2-1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
5 cups chicken broth
1 cup tomato sauce (I used Rao’s Marinara sauce)
1/2 pound peeled and deveined shrimp (More for presentation)
2 cups diced cooked pork and chicken
3 green onions, chopped
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, cook bacon over medium-high heat until fat is rendered, about 3 minutes. Add onions, stirring often until browned. Add green pepper, celery and sausage; cook, stirring often, 3 minutes longer. Add rice, paprika, thyme and red pepper flakes.
Add chicken broth, tomato sauce, pork, chicken and green onions; bring to a boil, stirring well. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 18 minutes until rice is done. (Add shrimp after rice has cooked for about 5 minutes into the process.) Remove from heat. Seasons with salt and hot sauce.