Jambalaya!

img_3252I was peeling shrimp. Minding my own business, when out of this feeble brain of mine- I heard this song running around,

‘ Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie, File Gumbo… me oh my oh! Gonna see ma cher amio…On the Bayou’.

Apparently Yvonne could either make a mean jambalaya or dance the night away in the lovin’ arms of Alabama born country legend Hank Williams, so you know I had to make a pan of Jambalaya. Since way before that song was written- we’ve all been trying our best to make sure Jambalaya isn’t just On the Bayou, but on our tables too!

img_3435Now, there might be dozens of recipes for Jambalaya and I’m sure I’d love them all! Still. If you’ve never made it, you might not realize, it’s a one iron skillet dish that’s easy to get on the table and can feed the multitudes. If you don’t need a big batch… Well, it’s even better the next day and also freezes well! And actually, most of the early Jambalaya recipes were from fishermen, so proportions aren’t exact. In fact, one very old recipe called for ‘clean Bay Water.‘ Okay, here’s something you need to know- they used exactly what they had on the boat and rarely gave proportions. Still. It’s that complex simplicity of a classic Jambalaya that still inspires.

img_3437Here’s my rendition of the Classic Jambalaya:

  • Allow one cup of uncooked, unwashed rice to a pound and half of peeled shrimp. (Leave the tails on for extra flavor)
  • In a large skillet, fry 3-4 pieces of Bacon. Remove and drain.
  • In hot bacon drippings, brown one large sliced onion, 1/2 cup chopped green pepper, 1/8 cup chopped celery. Quickly add chopped garlic- one or two cloves.
  • Add 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust at the end if needed), 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoons of thyme,  1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika, salt, pepper and stir to combine working quickly.  *As Eugene Walter always admonished….use fresh ground pepper, not that powdery stuff that loses it’s flavor before it hits the food! *At this point, feel free to add chopped smoked sausage.
  • Add 1 cup raw rice, 1 1/2 pounds shrimp and stir until shrimp turns pink.
  • Add enough boiling water (Start with 2 cups) over mixture. Add one bay leaf.
  • The rice will thicken the liquid, yet isn’t done until the grains are tender.
  • Simmer , adding more boiling water if needed.
  • Add more spices until you’re afraid to add anymore!
  • When all liquid has been absorbed ….Jambalaya!

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  • To make it extra good, squeeze the juice of a lemon over the Jambalaya after it’s done. And to make it real pretty, top with chopped green onion tops and parsley, even cherry tomatoes. Folks won’t mind if you crumble that bacon top as well! Some have been known to top it with grated sharp cheddar cheese- though I think that’s gilding the lily a bit too much.  And don’t forget to remove that Bay Leaf! This recipe will feed 4-6.
  • Jambalaya is great with garlic bread and a green salad, though equally good with fresh cornbread, baked sweet potatoes and steamed cabbage. Jambalaya doesn’t have tomatoes in it, though I’ve added a few cherry tomatoes on top of this Jambalaya for her beauty shot! And yes, you can make it in something other than an iron skillet! img_3437

Easy and delicious, is it any wonder Hank Williams wrote, ‘On the Bayou’ in celebration of Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie…oh me, here I go again!

Love y’all, Camellia

*Eugene Walter was another famous Alabamian, known for his book ‘Hints and Pinches’.  *Shrimp and shrimp boats were photographed at Alabama’s own Bon Secour Bay, and were obviously taken by me!′img_3434

SEC tips…

IMG_3370You know summer has taken it’s last gasp, not by the Heat Index but by the First Kickoff of the SEC…Southeastern Conference Football is major in the South! In fact football season is so important to us, it considered the height of poor taste to plan a wedding during football season! No, I. Am. Not. Kidding… There are rules for what we wear on Game Day- here at Camellia’s Cottage, of course we wear Officially Licensed SEC garments, team colors and particular to the ladies, there is a lucky Elephant Necklace, that must be worn with the elephant facing left- do not ask me why- it has just proved lucky! IMG_3410

All over the SEC region, there are certain foods which are considered ‘team foods’ – here in Alabama for Bama fans- Do I hear a Roll Tide? Since the days of Bear Bryant- our lucky foods are: Golden Flake Potato Chips Barber’s Onion Dip and Co-cola otherwise known as Coca Cola™! All are made or bottled right here in Alabama!

On game days, all over the SEC- Tailgate Food is served from the tailgate of an humble pickup truck, from RV’s, all the way to an Upscale Campus Affair- with food served on a sorority’s mahogany table draped with antique lace tablecloths, complete with a Chandelier hanging from a Live Oak tree! On some campuses, you might find a crazy fraternity serving …uh, cold drinks from a casket! It’s true. The food can be elaborate or simple- but always delicious and appropriate to the home team! When we watch games at home, there’s always popcorn, parched peanuts, cream cheese, party crackers and pepper jelly, chips with dip or celery sticks and…last week we had pit BBQ baby back ribs! Now, if you’re looking for actual football tips- you might be barking up the wrong tree here! I do, however, scream and holler during the games, it’s just more fun!

SEC stands for other lesser things too! For instance, the South Eastern Corner of the United States is:

  • The only region to be occupied by the Federal Government, where handsome men have worn military uniforms for years and to this day, the South Eastern Corner of the U.S.A. can proudly boast that our folks arguably sign up more often for military duty than any other region! We love our soldiers!
  • We have a history of courageous women who opened their doors to bears, raids and standing armies, faced tornadoes and hurricanes and they helped settle farms, homesteads, taught school, kept their families strong, yet are smart and beautiful all at the same time, with possibly more beauty queens than any other part of America… though it could be that we have more opportunities to serve as Peach Queens, Cotton Queens, Mardi Gras Queens and more… is there a Bo Weevil Queen? Anyway, we think we’re prettier for sure!
  • The South Eastern Corner is where children played in the dirt with silver spoons or found arrowheads in the backyard, learned how to fish before they were knee high to a grasshopper, little girls still wear Big Hair Bows, monograms abound, sandcastle building is second nature and all of them can charm the horns off a Billy Goat any day of the week!IMG_3408
  • The South Eastern Corner had more Dry Counties than any other part of the country, but still make the best Bourbon in the world. In fact we lay claim to the best Iced Tea and the best Soft Drinks (which we never call them!) Anyone who loves Coca Cola, Royal Crown and Pepsi would agree!
  • The South Eastern Corner is the only place in America where folks actually pull off on the side of the road near a homemade sign that touts ‘Boiled Peanuts’ and are excited about it! …Okay- it’s an ah-quih-ed taste! If you aren’t from here, let’s just say you probably won’t acquire a taste for ’em.
  • In fact, put a Barbed Wire Fence around the entire South Eastern Corner and eventually it will turn into a literal Nut House….peanuts, pecans, hickory nuts so hard you’d have to run an 18 wheeler over ’em to crack the shells… But where else but the South could George Washington Carver figure out how to enrich the soil and feed the masses with peanuts in this land flowing with Milk and Peanut Butter sandwiches?IMG_3411
  • The South Eastern Corner of the U.S.A. is where Church Choirs still sing with a Twang or fill the rafters with Soul; and where Gospel, Country, Beach Music and Motown are loved in equal measure.

I wouldn’t take anything for living in the SEC, for the football, the people and the good food! I have to admit – my personal favorite SEC stands for- South Eastern Cooking Tips! Here’s to Butter Balls and Spicy Shrimp and Shells!

Butter Balls are an old French method of food preparation for enriching sauces and gravy- keep these in the freezer and grab a few – you will be surprised what this simple little ball of flour and butter will do to make pan juices silky or definitely enrich the sauce for Spicy Shrimp and Shells! (Yes! the South Eastern Corner’s Food has a strong French Influence!) I made the Butter Balls recently, while I was cooking some bacon wrapped steaks to enrich the sauce. Let me show you…

Camellia’s Cottage Butterballs Soften 2 sticks of salted butter (if using unsalted butter add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt) lightly mix Butter into 1/2 cup of All Purpose Flour, do not use more flour! With a teaspoon or your clean hands, scoop up a small bit of the butter/flour mixture and shape into rough butter balls no larger than a teaspoon, placing on a parchment lined pan. Butter Balls take no time to make, but make a world of difference in your cooking! Freeze at least 4 hours. Carefully store in a freezer safe container. Use to enrich sauces, pan juices and gravies.IMG_3271

Spicy Shrimp and Shells is a quick and easy recipe, full of flavor. This dish can be elevated to Party Status, can be stretched to serve a crowd, is wonderful served for Sunday Supper or eaten cold as a most delicious and different Pasta Salad! Add garlic bread and sliced Summer tomatoes and you have a complete meal! Most of the ingredients are pantry staples and here, we keep shrimp in the freezer all the time!IMG_3401

Camellia’s Cottage Spicy Shrimp and Shells

  • Prepare 12 ounces of Seashell Pasta according to directions.
  • Steam 1 cup of chopped Broccoli, drain and set aside
  • Drain 3/4 -1 pound of  uncooked Gumbo Shrimp (approx. 65-70 per pound) peeled, tails removed if desired
  • On low heat, combine 3 tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet
  • Add 2-3 tablespoons of chopped garlic, zest of a whole lemon, 2-3 teaspoons of red pepper flakes, a good amount of freshly ground black pepper, add salt as desired.
  • Stir until butter has melted and spices are combined IMG_3395
  • Saute Shrimp in batches until pink- Do not over crowd shrimp.
  • Place all shrimp back in warm skillet add 1-1/2 cups of pasta water, steamed chopped broccoli and 3-4 Butter Balls-
  • Cook on low until Butter Balls have been absorbed. No more than a minute or two. (If you have not made Butter Balls, add 2-3 teaspoons of butter)
  • Squeeze the juice of zested large lemon over pan straining seeds.  (Caution- do not add lemon juice utntil the end otherwise shrimp will become tough) I often make thin slices of the squeezed lemon and add to the Spicy Shrimp Mixture, for extra lemon-y flavor.

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  • Drain Seashell Pasta. Put in large serving bowl, add Spicy Shrimp Mixture.
  • Sprinkle liberally with Parmesan Cheese, believe it or not- using the cheap type blends in best! Toss Spicy Shrimp and Seashells. Top with 1/2 cup of chopped green onion tops.
  • Wonderful with crusty garlic bread. Serves 4-6 depending on how hungry you are!IMG_3401

No matter what your favorite SEC team is, no matter where your favorite place to be in the South Eastern Corner, I know you’ll enjoy South Eastern Cooking Tips. Come back often to the Cottage for more! And always, I hope your SEC team wins unless they’re playin’ mine!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine. Parched Peanuts are a southern term for roasted peanuts! Continued prayers for victims of Hurricane Harvey and for those in the path of Hurricane Irma.