Sunday, November 27, 2011

4th Book Club Selection: Committed, by Elizabeth Gilbert

    I am fairly certain I can assume that all of you have heard about/read the best selling memoir and now motion picture Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. Well, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage is her follow up memoir, and my 4th 9er Domestic Book Club Selection.

    I read Eat Pray Love about three years ago when it was announced as an Oprah book club selection. I found the novel captivating and unable to put down. I remember reading the entire thing in a day. So when she published Committed, I was instantly interested. Although it is a follow up novel to Eat Pray Love, it isn't necessary to have read the first to enjoy the second.
    At the end of her bestselling memoir Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert fell in love with Felipe, a Brazilian-born man of Australian citizenship who'd been living in Indonesia when they met. Resettling in America, the couple swore eternal fidelity to each other, but also swore to never, ever, under any circumstances get legally married. (Both were survivors of previous bad divorces. Enough said.) But providence intervened one day in the form of the United States government, which-after unexpectedly detaining Felipe at an American border crossing-gave the couple a choice: they could either get married, or Felipe would never be allowed to enter the country again.
    Having been effectively sentenced to wed, Gilbert tackled her fears of marriage by researching the topic in it's entirity, trying with all her might to discover through historical research, interviews, and a lot of personal reflection what this stubbornly enduring old institution actually is. Commited is told with Gilbert's trademark wit, intelligence and compassion, and attempts to "turn on all the lights" when it comes to matrimony, frankly examining questions of compatibility, infatuation, fidelity, family tradition, social expectations, divorce risks and humbling responsibilities. Gilbert's memoir is ultimately a clear-eyed celebration of love with all the complexity and consequence that real love, in the real world, actually entails.
    This book was a nice conclusion to the previous memoir written by Elizabeth Gilbert. Although I did say the books could be read independantly, I do think it is necessary to first read Eat, Pray, Love even if just to develop a relationship with the characters.
    Committed, was written in a similar style to previous memoir, but was more of Elizabeth reflecting on her dissaproval of marriage rather than her search to find herself. This book takes on a completely different tone than her last, but I still enjoyed it nonetheless.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Cajun Cooking at it's Finest: Part III

    This is a recipe I had been dying to try. During this past summer vacation I even made a batch of Homemade Andouille Sausage, just so I would have all the appropriate ingredients. I made it for the first time about two months ago, but I just didn't have the time to post the recipe. It was so good, I have made it about three times since, and now I am completely out of sausage.
   I figured if I wanted to share it with you, it would have to be now.
This Chicken and Andouille Sausage Jambalaya is delicious. If you get around to trying it, you will not be disappointed.
    In my quest to find this recipe, I came across a few facts that I found interesting about Jambalaya.

     Jambalaya is a meal that is native to Louisiana, and it takes on two forms. The first is the Creole, or “red jambalaya” version. The second is the Cajun version. The main difference is that Creole jambalaya includes the use of tomato and the Cajun does not.
     It’s unclear as to where the word jambalaya comes from. Some say the word derives from the French word for “ham” (jambon), “in the style of” (à la manière de) and ya (which refers to rice in certain West African languages), resulting in jambon à la ya. Others say the word is rooted in Spanish as a combination of “ham” (jamon) and paella. However the dish’s name came about, what is clear is that the dish is a very personal one and renditions of it are made according to how it’s been made at home for generations.
    During Mardi Gras celebrations, a day also known as Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day, many New Orlean's natives gather around their table's to eat this dish. Mardi Gras is a tradition created by French settlers and is intended as a day of indulgence before the fasting period of Lent starts. And can you think of a better meal to have before fasting, than a delicious and messy pot of rice, chicken, and sausage?

Chicken and Andouille Sausage Jambalaya:
(Loosely adapted from Emeril Lagasse's Recipe)
A delicious, One Pot Meal!
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups chopped onions
3 cups of chopped bell peppers (traditionally only green peppers would be used, but I add all sorts)
2 cups of chopped celery
3 teaspoons salt
3 Tbsp's. of Emeril's Creole Seasoning, aka. Bayou Blast (I always end up adding extra. I like spicy food.)
1 lbs. Andouille Sausage (about 6 links) cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 1/2 lbs. chicken breast (about 3 large breasts) cut into 1 inch cubes
3 bay leaves
3 cups medium grain white rice (basmati works really well)
6 cups water
1 cup chopped green onions

1) Heat the oil in a large cast iron dutch oven/ or a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.
2) Add the onions, peppers and celery along with 2 tsp's of the salt and 1 Tbsp. of the Creole seasoning. Stirring often, brown the vegetables for about 20 minutes, or until they are soft and beginning to caramelize.
3) In a large bowl, add the cubed chicken breast and the remaining Creole seasoning. Stir to combine, and let sit for about 5 minutes to marinade.

5) Add the marinaded chicken to a preheated pan and brown for 8-10 minutes. Set aside.
6) Scrape the bottom and sides of the pot to loosen any browned particles. Add the sausage, chicken and bay leaves. Cook for 5-10 more minutes, stirring often.

7) Add the rice, and stir for 2-3 minutes to coat evenly.

8) Add the water. Stir to combine, and cover.
9) Cook over medium heat for 30-35 minutes, without stirring or removing the lid. After the allotted time, the rice should be tender and the liquid absorbed.
10) Remove the pot from the heat and let stand, covered for 2-3 minutes.
11) Remove the bay leaves, and serve.
12) Garnish with the chopped green onion.
* This recipe makes 16 servings.
    There is usually quite a bit of Jambalaya leftover. I often portion out the leftovers into medium sized freezer bags, and put them in the freezer for later. Once the rice has thawed, just fry it in a pan as though it were fried rice. This way there is no wastage and you are left with a convenient meal for a busy week night.

You may also like:
Chicken, Chorizo and Shrimp Paella
Chicken, Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo