Does the Corridor Have Any Cajun Restaurants?
Well, it’s been a month since my girlfriend and I moved up to Iowa from Louisiana, and we’re getting a little homesick. Not for the oppressive heat or the horrible roads or corrupt politicians…but for that one of a kind Cajun cookin’. So off to Google and Yelp I went looking to see if there’s a Cajun place around here.
Wanna guess what the number one search result was…
You know… The national fried chicken fast food place.
Popeye’s is the closest thing Eastern Iowa has to Cajun?!? Really? Don’t get me wrong, their dirty rice is pretty dang tasty, but I certainly wouldn’t consider Popeye’s a Cajun restaurant. I mean, yeah it says Louisiana Kitchen on the side of the building, but I can guarantee that not one person in that place has ever stood by their Maw Maw while she slowly stirred a roux with a wooden spoon.
By the way… Maw Maw is a grandmother and roux is flour and oil cooked together slowly to flavor and thicken certain Cajun dishes. I didn’t want to lose anyone.
I get it, Iowa. You’re landlocked, so I’m not gonna get fresh shucked Gulf oysters, and crawfish are COMPLETELY off the list. But, it seems like a pretty trendy area around here. Where’s the love?! Even down in Iowa City where it’s a little more diverse… Popeye’s is my best bet.
So I guess I’ll just have to make it myself…Luckily I’m a pretty good cook…and I DID watch my Maw Maw cook, so I offer to you, my new Iowa buddies, my recipe for authentic Jambalaya.
Tom E. Gunn’s Jambalaya
2 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
2 chicken leg quarters
3/4 pounds smoked sausage
3/4 cup chopped celery (save the “scraps” for broth)
1 cup chopped onions (save the “scraps” for broth)
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (save the “scraps” for broth)
1 cup diced fresh tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
1 tbls dried parsley
1-2 tsp Louisiana Hot Sauce (you can find it at Hy-Vee)
1 1/2 cups rice
Salt & Pepper to taste
In a large stock pot, combine the water and chicken broth. Add in the onion, bell pepper, and celery scraps, one smashed garlic clove, salt and pepper, and the chicken. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to med-low and simmer for 30-40 minutes. When the chicken is done, remove it from the pot and place on a rack to cool. Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer and return it to the rinsed stock pot and keep on low heat.
Place a medium stock pot, Dutch oven, or large sauté pan on medium to med-high heat and add in the smoked sausage that has been cut into 1/4 inch rounds. Cook the sausage for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the sausage is heated all the way through, add the onions, bell pepper, and celery. Cook for another five minutes, stirring constantly. Add the garlic, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, and bay leaves. Cook for 5 minutes with the lid off, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are cooked through and have given off most of their juices.
Add the rice to the pot all at once and stir until the rice has soaked up most of the liquid in the pot, about 5 minutes. Start adding the broth that you made, a cup at a time, stirring after every addition. Once three cups of broth has been added, add 1/2 cup more broth, the dried parsley, and the Louisiana Hot Sauce. Stir well, cover and reduce the heat to med-low and cook for 20 minutes until the rice is almost done.
When the rice is almost done (there should still be liquid in the pot…if not, add a touch more broth) add in the chicken meat that you have cleaned from the leg quarters and roughly chopped. Stir until well mixed. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes until the rice is cooked and the liquid is soaked up.