Sunday, September 26, 2010

Boom Boom Pow

Recently I’ve been experimenting with recipes from a cookbook I found called Rice Cooker Meals. Because the author and publisher is from Louisiana, many of the recipes are Louisiana favorites – jambalayas, crawfish and shrimp pastas, sauce piquantes, etc. The cool (and very obvious, given the name of the cookbook) twist is that all of the recipes are cooked entirely in a rice cooker, requiring only about half an hour to cook.

My first try, a shrimp fettuccini, led me to the realization that my rice cooker is too small. While mine is perfect for making enough rice for a couple of people, most of the recipes require the regular 8-cup or larger size. After consulting my mom (a very common occurrence when I’m in the kitchen), I cooked it on the stove, using the cooking method of a rice cooker. So even if you don't own a rice cooker, you can take advantage of this creative cookbook.

I picked a pot that has a little lip so that when covered the steam can escape just as it would in a rice cooker. (If you don't have a pot like this, you can set the lid so there is still a crack. I've used a metal binder clip on the side of the pot to create this crack in between the pot and the lid.) I followed the recipe’s instructions, set the stove on high, and when the food began to boil, I put the lid on, lowered the temperature to medium-low (low, but still boiling), and set the timer for the amount of time the recipe says the rice cooker takes. And voila! My makeshift rice cooker worked like a charm, and the meal was a success!

Today’s try was a recipe for Black-eyed Pea, Chicken Breast, and Turkey Burger Jambalaya. According to the author, this recipe is the perfect representation of his cookbook – using ingredients he has on hand to whip up something quick and delicious. And for me this was exactly true. I only chose the recipe because I happen to have all the ingredients. I once again used my makeshift rice cooker, threw the ingredients in, and crossed my fingers while it cooked up. 

When the timer buzzed and the liquid still hadn’t quite boiled out to the jambalaya consistency I was looking for, I just took the lid off and let it cook on low for another 5 or so minutes.

Yum. One of the best things about this cookbook is the Louisiana flair, so the dishes all turn out with the zest of Cajun cooking that has us packing Tony’s in our carry-on when we travel. If you didn’t get the love-for-spicy-food gene or if you’re from the North, you can adjust this recipe with the kind of Rotel you buy (go for mild or get plain diced tomatoes without green chilies), how you season the meat (stick with salt and pepper or something without the cayenne like Cavender’s Greek Seasoning).

Recipe: Black-eyed Pea, Chicken Breast, and Turkey Burger Jambalaya

1 (12-oz.) chicken breast, diced
1 turkey burger patty, crumbled
1 tsp. Cajun or Creole seasoning, or to taste
1 tbsp. plus 1/2 stick butter, chopped
1 (15.5-oz.) can black-eyed peas with jalapenos, with liquid
1 (10-oz.) can diced tomatoes with green chilies, with liquid
1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1 1/4 cups (10 oz.) uncooked medium-grain white rice
1 cup water

Season chicken and turkey with Cajun seasoning; brown in skillet or rice cooker with one tablespoon butter. Add with all remaining ingredients to the rice cooker, stir well, cover and press down COOK switch. Once meal is cooked, and the COOK switch pops up to WARM mode, let is stand covered 10-15 minutes before serving.

Cooked for 30 minutes and made up to the 6-cup level.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Welcome to the Jungle

I’ll start this off with the phrase my friends and family often hear when I serve a new dish:

I’m not making any promises.

I’m no cooking expert, and I don’t pretend to be. I’m just a girl from South Louisiana who likes food. OK, so that’s a lie. I LOVE food. And I also happen to love to cook, which is not always the case when you love food (e.g. my husband).

As a first-year teacher, first-year wife, and first-year off my parent’s bank roll, my cooking tends to be on the less-expensive, less-time consuming end of the spectrum during the week, leaving the weekends for an occasional culinary adventure.

So if you are looking for delicious recipes, be they quick and easy to make and with simple ingredients that are probably already in your pantry or the more adventurous, I’ve-just-been-watching-Top-Chef recipes – this blog is for you.