Spanish Paella

PaellaSo how can you have a week dedicated to rice and not touch on paella? Originating in the Valencia region on the east coast of Spain, paella is widely regarded as Spain’s national dish, as well as the identifying symbol of the Valencians. The three best known types of paella are Valencian paella, seafood paella, and mixed paella, but there are many others as well. Valencian paella is believed to be the original recipe and consists of white rice, green beans, meat (chicken and rabbit), white beans, snails, and seasoning such as saffron and rosemary. Another very common but seasonal ingredient is artichoke. Seafood paella replaces meats with seafood and omits beans and green vegetables. Mixed paella is a free-style combination of land animals, seafood, vegetables, and sometimes beans.

The dish earned it’s name from the pan in which it is prepared. Derived from the Old French word paelle for pan, which in turn comes from the Latin word patella for pan as well. Valencians use the word paella for all pans, including the specialized shallow pan used for cooking paellas. Paelleras are traditionally round, shallow and made of polished steel with two handles. As most North American home kitchens don’t have paelleras hanging around, a large, oven proof skillet will do as a replacement.

The recipe below is a bit of a twist on a traditional paella, as there is chicken and sausage, but no fish or shellfish. A key ingredient that is present though is saffron. It adds an essential taste and colour to the dish that is a must! Due to the high cost of saffron, you can use Mexican saffron rather than Spanish or European, as it tends to be cheaper. Just note that you need to use a bit more, as the flavours are not as intense. If you can’t find kosher chorizo sausage, you can use a substitute such as a smoked paprika or spiced sausage. The recipe below will serve 8 very happy people.

Ingredients:

Chicken:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
2 teaspoons dried oregano
salt and black pepper to taste
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 2 inch pieces

Rice:
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 cups uncooked short-grain white rice
1 large pinch saffron threads
1 bay leaf
½ bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped*
1 litre chicken stock
1 (398ml) can of diced tomatoes
2 lemons, zested**

Sausage & Vegetables:
½ tablespoon olive oil
1 pound chorizo sausage, casings removed and sliced/diced
1 large Spanish onion, diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
½ cup frozen green peas

* Click here to learn how to properly clean parsley.
** Click here for tips on zesting.

Directions:

In a medium bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons olive oil, paprika, oregano, and salt and pepper. Stir in chicken pieces to coat. Cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet or paella pan over medium heat. Stir in garlic, red pepper flakes, and rice. Cook, stirring, to coat rice with oil, about 3 minutes. Stir in saffron threads, bay leaf, parsley, chicken stock, diced tomatoes and lemon zest. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat ½ tablespoon olive oil in a separate skillet over medium heat. Add the cut up sausage to the skillet and saute until the fat begins to render from the meat. Once the sausage is cooked/heated through, using a slotted spoon, remove it from the pan, but keep the majority of the fat/drippings in the pan. Return the pan to the heat, and add the marinated chicken and onion, cooking for 5-7 minutes. Add the bell pepper and cook for another 5 minutes. Once the chicken is almost fully cooked, return the sausage to the skillet, along with the peas, and mix to incorporate.

Combine the meat/vegetable mixture with the semi-cooked rice, and place in the preheated oven for 10-20 minutes, until the rice has completely finished cooking and has begun to get a bit crispy. Serve hot!

Corn, Rice, Tomato & Arugula Salad

Corn, Rice, Tomato & Arugala SaladThis is a great light salad that is even better the second day, as the flavours have had a chance to meld. If you can find fresh corn, it’s definitely worth it! This recipe will serve 6.

Ingredients:

1 cup rice
4 ears of fresh corn, husked & silks removed (or one 341ml can of corn niblets)
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes cut in half
1 cup fresh arugula leaves or spinach*
1 fresh jalapeño, seeded and thinly sliced (optional)
1 cup red onion, cut into thin slices (approximately ½ small red onion)

For Dressing:

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

* Click here to learn how to clean arugula and spinach.

Directions:

Prepare the rice according to package directions and cool. Cook corn in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain. Let ears cool, and then trim the corn off the cob by cutting closely to the cob in long strips. Carefully lay aside. Combine cooled rice, halved tomatoes, onion, jalapeño and arugula in a serving bowl. Carefully arrange corn strips on top of rice mixture and drizzle the salad dressing over all. Refrigerate at least an hour before serving.

Rice Stuffed Bell Peppers with Feta Cheese

Stuffed PeppersThis is a great dish for a weeknight, and will make those in your household that don’t eat meat very happy! Here’s a tip, when selecting bell peppers, choose those with 4 bumps or “legs” on the bottom to cook and select those with 3 or less bumps or “legs” to eat raw. This recipe will serve 6.

Ingredients:

1 cup wild rice blend
6 large bell peppers, tops trimmed off about ½ inch, cored and seeded
1 (341 ml) can of corn niblets
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped*
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped*
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
4-5 Kalamata olives, minced (optional)
1 ½ cups of your favourite tomato sauce
2 green onions, sliced*
Salt and Pepper to taste
Garnish with 2 sliced green onions, and remaining warmed tomato sauce, if desired.

* Click here to learn how to properly clean these herbs.

Directions:

Cook the rice according to package directions. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a large pot of water to boiling and par-boil prepared green bell peppers for 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pepper. They should be softened but not cooked through. Drain and place in shallow baking dish coated with non-stick spray.

Stir feta cheese, corn, herbs, garlic, olives, green onions and salt and pepper to taste into cooked rice. Divide the mixture among the bell peppers and top with 1 cup of the tomato sauce. Bake until heated through, about 30 minutes. (May take longer according to the size of peppers. Insert a knife into the middle of the rice mixture and leave for a few seconds. Remove the knife and touch to see if it is hot. The knife should be hot to touch if the peppers are completely heated through.)

Garnish with additional sliced green onions and remaining warmed tomato sauce.

Salmon & Brown Rice Potstickers

Salmon & Rice PotstickersRice is nice! And this recipe makes a great appetizer, or if you’re like me, and get addicted, can easily wind up making a meal out of them! In this recipe I’ve called for Salmon, but you can easily substitute with a different fish, or different protein all together. They would be equally as good with chicken or tofu. This recipe will make about 24 potstickers.

Ingredients:

¾ cup of long grain brown rice, fully cooked
1 package wonton wrappers
¾ pound salmon (or other protein)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce**
1 cup fresh parsley leaves, loosely packed*
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons of ginger, finely chopped
½ tsp black pepper or chili flakes (optional)
½ cup grated carrots
½ cup minced water chestnuts
2 tablespoons vegetable oil for cooking
water, for steaming the potstickers
garnish: toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onions*

* Click here to learn how to properly clean fresh parsley and green onions.
** If using meat instead of fish or tofu, please click here to learn about the use of Worcestershire Sauce with meat products.

Directions:

Add salmon, oil, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, garlic, ginger and pepper or chili flakes into food processor and pulse to make a chunky paste. In a bowl, mix together the salmon paste, carrots, water chestnuts and cooked rice. Fill the wonton wrappers as directed on package sealing the edge with a dab of water on your finger.

If you’re not making the potstickers right away, refrigerate or freeze them on a baking sheet lined with parchment until ready to use.

Heat a small amount of oil in a sauté pan, and lightly brown filled potstickers on one side. Flip, and add water to cover bottom of pan. Cover and steam about 4-5 minutes. Top with sesame seeds and green onion and serve with your favourite dipping sauce.

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan PieThere is nothing like a good pecan pie! This southern classic gets a kick from the chocolate layer and the hit of bourbon! You can make this dessert dairy free by using margarine instead of butter, and alcohol free by omitting the bourbon. Make sure that you get a deep-dish style pie shell though, or else you might get some spill over! This recipe will serve 8.

Ingredients:

⅔ cup white sugar
1 cup corn syrup
2-4 tablespoons bourbon* (depending on taste)
3 eggs
⅓ cup melted butter/margarine
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups pecans (either halves or pieces)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (9 inch) refrigerated deep pie crust (brought to room temperature)

* Click here to see a list of kosher alcohols.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat the sugar, corn syrup, bourbon, eggs, butter/margarine, and salt together in a mixing bowl until smooth and creamy. Fold in the pecans. Line the bottom of your pie crust with the chocolate chips, then pour the pecan mixture into the pie crust. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. If desired, cover the edges of the pie with aluminum foil strips to prevent excessive browning. Bake in until the centre sets, about 60 minutes. Cool before serving.

Dirty Rice

Dirty RiceNo, before you get all worried, I’m not suggesting you eat the rice that you swept up as part of your Passover cleaning! Dirty rice is a traditional Creole dish made from white rice which gets a “dirty” colour from being cooked with small pieces of chicken liver or giblets, green bell pepper, celery, and onion, and spiced with cayenne and black pepper. Parsley and/or chopped green onions are common garnishes. Dirty rice is most common in the Creole regions of southern Louisiana; however, it can also be found in other areas of the American South. This recipe will serve 6 as a side dish, and 4 as a main.

Ingredients:

2 cups uncooked rice
4 cups chicken stock
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium/large onions, diced (about 1½ cups total)
2 medium green bell peppers, diced (about 1 cup total)
2 stalks celery, diced (about 1 cup total)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ pound ground beef
½ pound chicken giblets or livers**
2 bunches green onions, chopped*

* Click here to learn how to clean green onions.
** If you are using livers instead of giblets, please ensure to following the directions found in this article on how to Kasher your raw liver.

Directions:

If using Giblets:
Place the giblets in a pot, and cover with water, bring to a simmer for 30 minutes with 1 bunch of green onions, salt and pepper.

If using Liver:
If using raw liver, please Kasher it according to the instructions provided in the link above. Once the liver is cooked (either purchased cooked or cooked through the Kashering process), follow the same steps as the giblets, however only simmer until warmed through, not for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a colander, rinse rice several times until water runs clear. Place rice in a large pot and add chicken stock. Bring to a boil then cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Do not overcook.

In a pan, sauté the garlic, onions, bell peppers and celery in vegetable oil until soft for about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf and cayenne and add to rice. Cook the ground beef in a sauté pan and add to rice.

Finally, let the giblets cool enough to chop into small dice then add to rice mixture. Mix rice well and let simmer on lowest heat for an additional 30 minutes, stirring continuously, until flavors meld. Serve hot garnished with the second bunch of green onions.

Chicken & Sausage Gumbo

Chicken & Sausage GumboSure, you may have heard of Gumbo, but do you know where it got it’s name from? Well, we can’t be 100% sure, but we do know that the dish we know as Gumbo originated in southern Louisiana from the Creole people during the 18th century. It typically consists primarily of a strongly flavoured stock, okra, meat or shellfish, a thickener, and seasoning vegetables, which can include celery, bell peppers and onions. Gumbo is often categorized by the type of thickener used: the African vegetable okra, the Choctaw spice filé powder (dried and ground sassafras leaves), or roux, the French base made of flour and fat. The dish likely derived its name from either the Bantu (Native African) word for okra (ki ngombo) or the Choctaw (Native American) word for filé (kombo). The dish is the official cuisine of the state of Louisiana. The recipe below actually uses all 3 types of thickeners, though the filé powder is optional (more for taste rather than a thickener). In my mind, 3 is better than 1! This recipe will serve about 6 people.

Ingredients:

⅓ cup and 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¼ cup and 2 teaspoons oil or fat rendered from cooking sausage*
2 stalks celery, diced
1 small/medium onion, diced
1 small/medium green bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
6 ounces sausage, sliced
1 pound chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
4 ¾ cups stock (chicken, beef or vegetable)
1 ¼ teaspoons white sugar
salt to taste
2 ½ teaspoons hot pepper sauce, or to taste
¼ teaspoon Cajun seasoning blend, or to taste
1 ½ bay leaves
¼ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
½ of a 398ml can crushed tomatoes (about 200ml)
¾ cup tomato sauce
¾ teaspoon gumbo filé powder
2 ½ teaspoons oil or sausage drippings
1 cup frozen cut okra, thawed
2 ½ teaspoons vinegar

* Cook’s Note: This recipe calls for the use of sausage; you can use any type you like, though if using a raw one, I suggest either completely removing it from the casing and cooking it up like ground meat, or cooking it whole with the casing still on, then slicing it up thick and adding it to the pot later. Just be careful when stirring the dish later that if you’ve cut up the sausage that it doesn’t crumble and break up too much! Remember, save the drippings from cooking the sausage, and use it in place of oil in this recipe. It adds so much more flavour than regular cooking oil!

Directions:

Make a roux by whisking the flour and ¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons oil/sausage drippings together in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat to form a smooth mixture. Cook the roux, whisking constantly, until it turns a rich mahogany brown colour. This can take 20 to 30 minutes; watch heat carefully and whisk constantly or roux will burn. Remove from heat; continue whisking until mixture stops cooking.

Stir the vegetables into the roux, and mix in the sausage and chicken breasts. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat, and cook until vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and set aside.

Bring the stock to a boil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot. Whisk the roux mixture into the boiling stock. Reduce heat to a simmer, and mix in the sugar, salt, hot pepper sauce, Cajun seasoning, bay leaves, thyme, stewed tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Simmer the soup over low heat for 1 hour; mix in 2 teaspoons of filé gumbo powder at the 45-minute mark.

Meanwhile, heat 2 ½ teaspoons of oil or sausage drippings in a skillet, and cook the okra with vinegar over medium heat for 15 minutes; remove okra with slotted spoon, and stir into the simmering gumbo. Continue to simmer until flavors have blended, 45 more minutes. Just before serving, stir in 2 more teaspoons of filé gumbo powder. Serve over hot rice.

White Fish Étouffée

fish etouffeeSo here is another classic Cajun dish called Étouffée. Most commonly prepared with shellfish like crawfish or shrimp, it was back in the 1950s that crawfish etouffée was introduced to restaurant goers in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, however the date of invention of this dish has been shown as early as the late 1920s. Originally crawfish étouffée was a popular dish mainly just in the bayous and backwaters of Louisiana amongst Cajuns in the area, but in the early 80’s a popular Bourbon Street restaurant called Galatoire’s brought the crawfish étouffée dish into the limelight. Even amongst the French Creoles this Cajun dish was a hit. Our recipe uses firm white fish, rather than shellfish, but is just as good! This recipe will serve 6.

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ½ tablespoons flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bunches green onion, sliced*
1 large onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 pound firm, white fish, cut into large chunks (like Cod, Halibut or Flounder)
1 teaspoon tomato paste
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
1 ⅔ cups vegetable or vegetarian chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
rice to serve

* Click here to find out how to clean green onions.

Directions:

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat, stir in the flour until dissolved, and keep stirring until it turns a rich reddish-brown colour. Add the garlic, onion, green onions, green pepper and celery. Sauté until the vegetables become transparent, about 5-10 minutes. Mix in the tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, cumin and Cajun seasoning. Once combined, add the chunks of fish, being careful not to break up the fish too much. Cook for an additional 10 minutes. Add the broth into the vegetable-fish mixture, taste for salt and pepper, and then let simmer until thickened, about 35 minutes. Serve over rice.

Sausage & Chicken Jambalaya

Sausage & Chicken JambalayaThis one dish meal is great for a weeknight, and can be made as spicy or mild as you like. You can use any type of sausage that you like, though if using a raw one, I suggest either completely removing it from the casing and cooking it up like ground meat, or cooking it whole with the casing still on, then slicing it up thick and adding it to the pot later. Just be careful when stirring the dish later that if you’ve cut up the sausage that it doesn’t crumble and break up too much! This recipe will makes 6 servings.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons oil, divided
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
¾ pound sausage, sliced into rounds
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 onion, diced
1 small green bell pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (398ml) can crushed Italian tomatoes
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 ¼ cups uncooked white rice
3 cups chicken broth

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large heavy Dutch oven over medium heat. Season the sausage and chicken pieces with Cajun seasoning. Sauté sausage until browned. Remove with slotted spoon, and set aside. A lot of oil will naturally render when you are cooking the sausage, so you can use this very flavourful oil to now cook the chicken pieces in. If you find that you don’t have enough oil from cooking the sausages, you can always add a bit more oil to the pan. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and sauté them until lightly browned on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon, and set aside.

In the same pot, sauté onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic until tender. Stir in crushed tomatoes, and season with red pepper, black pepper, salt, hot pepper sauce, thyme, basil and oregano. Stir in chicken and sausage. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the rice and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Serve hot!

Our Southern “Canadian” Heritage

Cajun MapSo there is a cultural demographic located in the southern United States know as Cajuns (pronounced KAY-jun). This group of people celebrate a rich and fascinating history, filled with their own language, music, religious leanings, and of course, foods! So what does Canada have to do with this? Quite a lot actually.

Back in the day (y’know, around 1710), the British overtook the section of what was then called French Acadia (now the maritime area of Canada). Over the next 45 years, the Acadians (pronounced Ah-KAY-dee-yans), loyal to the French, refused to sign an unconditional oath of allegiance to Britain, and in fact did everything they could to participate in militia operations against the British. The British, not appreciating the local rebellion, began to deport the Acadians from Acadia, in what became known as “The Great Upheaval” or “Le Grand Dérangement”.

While some moved to France, or other parts of Canada, a large contingent moved to the region of Atakapa, in present-day Louisiana. Over time, the term “Acadians” became “Cajun”, and the Cajun people flourished in the warm climate of Louisiana and it’s Bayous. While there are endless topics that I could focus on within the Cajun world, this week, I’m going to zero in on the food! So this week, look forward to Jambalaya, Gumbo, Dirty Rice and more!