"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Monday, February 6, 2012

What's a Midwestern girl to do?

When Marcus was a mere tadpole at KinderCare, he brought a flyer home one day. It was for "International Potluck Day." All his little schoolmates were to bring a dish that represented their cultural heritage, meaning all of the moms would be cooking, since who trusts a four-year old to light the oven?

So there I was, trying to figure out what "cultural heritage" I could whip up. I mean... look at me.

My cultural heritage is Welsh, Scottish, Irish, German, Dutch, and Swedish, with a slight smattering of Sioux and Cherokee. I try not to mention the Native American connection, because I'm reasonably sure only half of you believe me.

Dale's got the whole southern, Louisiana/Texas African American thing going, but I didn't know how many little kids like gumbo or red beans and rice. I can make a few of these meals, but they always taste like a pale, Midwestern girl had her hand in the mix. I've taken to calling my forays into other cultural tastes "Gringa" food. So I serve Gringa tacos, Gringa dirty rice, Gringa stir-fry, etc.

That year, I wimped out and made macaroni and cheese.

Years later, Marcus started bringing home flyers from his high school choir for their holiday potluck. Again, it would be the parents cooking - this time because our teenagers have too much homework. I decided I was going to push my little ethnic envelope and make something different. No Midwestern meat and potatoes, no mac 'n cheese, no fried chicken.

I found a recipe in the Southern Living Slow Cooker cookbook, called Loaded Jambalaya. There were a billion ingredients and it was really hard to do. I know, that sounds crazy. I mean, "slow cooker" and "difficult" should not be in the same breath. But it called for boned, skinned chicken and chopped onions and green peppers and celery and garlic and parsley and green onions.

The chopping! The chopping!

I rallied. I spent all morning prepping the damn thing. You gotta brown the chicken and saute the veggies - what the hell? What's the point of the whole "slow cooker" idea?

It turned out to taste okay, if a little bland, which is okay for a Gringa Jambalaya, as I had already christened it. But I made plans. If I cooked it again, there would be changes...

By the third time, I got the recipe where I wanted it. Spicier, and not as much chopping. My son pronounced it a winner. Here it is:

Gringa Jambalaya

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken (use breasts, thighs, whatever looks good in the store and has already been boned & skinned), cut into pieces.
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp red pepper
2 Tbsp veggie oil (you can use olive oil)
1 large onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped (use any color you want)
2 celery stalks, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (14 1/2 oz) can diced tomatoes
1/2 to 1 pound andouille sausage (yes, must be andouille)
1 (14 oz) can chicken broth
1 pound medium-size shrimp
1 Tbsp hot sauce (Tabasco, Frank's, whatever you like)
2 cups cooked rice

1. Toss chicken in salt & pepper.
2. Heat oil in skillet. Add chicken and cook until brown. Spoon chicken into slow cooker.
3. Add onion, green pepper, celery, garlic to skillet and saute until tender. Add to slow cooker.
4. Add tomatoes (Undrained), sausage, and broth to slow cooker.
5. Cover and cook on LOW 5 hours.
6. Cook rice and set aside.
7. Peel and de-vein shrimp, if necessary. Add shrimp, rice and hot sauce to slow cooker.
8. Turn cooker to HIGH and cook for 15 minutes or until shrimp turn pink.

Et, voila! La Gringa strikes again. I also make a mean mac 'n cheese.


DeAnna Cameron said...

Yum! I'll definitely be giving it a try.

Tameri Etherton said...

Gringa jambalaya. You crack me up. Well, I suppose if Marcus wanted something fancier, he could've learned to cook, right?

Whenever my kids had the international day thing I would let them pick what nationality they wanted to be. It always confused the teachers!

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Gayle Carline said...

Thanks, Chris! I'll be at a horse show in Burbank most of the day, but I'll definitely get it when I get home.

DeAnna - Hope it works out for you, too!

Tameri - Marcus can cook, if you count scrambled eggs cooking. What nationality would that be?

Pearl - um... thanks.

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