I love food and I love to cook. Over the years, I have collected quite a few cookbooks, each one unique. I’ve got cookbooks for every type of recipe—from simple to complex, baking to grilling, and vegan to beer-can chicken. I love to experiment, and there isn’t anything I’m afraid to try. (Steamed mussels in sabayon, anyone? I served them as the appetizer for a four-course meal.) I’ll try anything. I’m also comfortable concocting recipes myself.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned while experimenting with different cookbooks, it’s this: an emergency “go-to” recipe is invaluable. And in case there’s really is an emergency, the recipe should be simple, too. Check these out, next time you need a quick entrée.
Andouille Sausage Jambalaya
Andouille is the authentic Cajun sausage that was first made by Acadian immigrants over two hundred years ago in south Louisiana. It is fully cooked, and is one of the key ingredients in jambalayas, gumbos, and étouffée.
1 pound andouille sausage
1 tablespoon cooking oil
One large yellow onion, chopped
One bell pepper, chopped (I prefer red bell peppers because they’re sweeter than green)
Three stalks celery, chopped
One 16-ounce can stewed tomatoes
One 15.5-ounce can chicken stock
2 cups water
2 cups uncooked long-grain rice
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
Two bay leaves (remove before serving)
1/2 pound cooked and peeled shrimp (optional)
Cut the andouille in 1/2-inch wheels or bite-sized chunks. In a four-quart pot, add cooking oil, sausage, chopped onion, and celery; sauté for five minutes. Add the stewed tomatoes, diced bell peppers, chicken stock, water, and spices; bring the pot to a boil. Add the long grain rice and bring the pot back to a boil. Stir once, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for twenty minutes. Remove from heat and allow the covered pot to set for five minutes before stirring and serving. Serves eight.
Optional: to add an authentic Cajun flavor, stir in ½-pound cooked and peeled shrimp when the dish is removed from heat.
Technique: Brining Shrimp
Here is a technique I’ve used when cooking shrimp, with outstanding results. (This is an additional step; obviously, if time is of the essence—omit.) If you’ve ever wondered how restaurants manage to serve such succulent shrimp, while whenever one cooks (or especially, grills) them at home, they end up like shoe leather…the secret is brining.
- For each pound of shrimp, combine two quarts of water, ¼-cup kosher salt, and ¼-cup sugar in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together until the salt and sugar dissolve.
- Place peeled and deveined shrimp in brine solution, and allow them to sit for thirty minutes.
- Drain the shrimp in a colander and gently pat them dry with a paper towel. Proceed with whatever recipe you have at hand. If it’s the jambalaya, simply stir the shrimp into the dish for the last three or four minutes (depending on size of shrimp) of cooking. The heat from the ingredients is enough to cook the shrimp through. When they’re pink, they’re done.
As condiments, I always have several different hot sauces on hand—from flavorful and mild, to spicy and hot—for adding additional flavor to dishes. I do, however, steer away from sauces claiming they can degrease your driveway. These super-hot sauces will only kill the flavor of everything else.
If you need to whip together something quick for vegans or vegetarians, this pasta sauce is a personal favorite:
Romesco (Spanish Tomato) Sauce
- 12 to 15 hazelnuts, skins on
- 6 to 8 pitted green olives
- 4 medium tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 10 sprigs parsley
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
Chop the hazelnuts and olives coarsely in a food processor or blender. Remove them and set aside. Puree the remaining ingredients in a food processor or blender, then mix with the chopped hazelnuts and olives. Mix in cooked pasta of your choice. Makes nearly two cups of sauce.
Read: Seafood Skewers with Cajun Red Butter