Friday, February 13, 2009

Gaff Factory: Shrimp Jambalaya and Broiled Pineapple

We weren't five minutes into cooking, and Mom was already worried about how she'd be portrayed on the internet. "Are you going to write on your blog that this was my fault?" See, the Jambalaya recipe calls for uncooked shrimp, but my mom grabbed the bag of cooked shrimp in the freezer aisle instead. It's a common mistake, and I blame not my mother but the companies that make the packaging so hard to distinguish. These packages need to say "RAW" or "COOKED" in bigger letters than they say shrimp. Making one label blue and the other red does not clear anything up. Get it together, seafood distributors of America. Luckily there were so many more goofs to be made during this meal, precooked shrimp was the least of our troubles. Surely it was not enough to derail our meal.

Family dinner! "I've been thinking of making the jambalaya from the book," Mom said when she called me at work. So here was my first chance to take the project on the road, to a whole new (and extremely well lit) kitchen. I came over after work and we got down to business. It's always fun to cook at my parents' place, because they have a dishwasher, the aforementioned lighting, a really nice stereo in the kitchen, basically they've just got it all figured out. And the company's not half bad either. The snacks provided while cooking (pictured below) are also far superior to those in our usual digs.

In a perfect world, the recipe works something like this: heat up some oil in a large skillet or pot, throw in diced onions and red peppers and let those brown. Then you add the rice, thyme, cayenne (Mom didn't have any so we used chili powder, which did the trick) and garlic. Then you add some canned tomatoes, and let that go for another few minutes. Then, you add the stock, and lower the heat a bit. This was where gaff number two came up, which I will take responsibility for (though I really blame a certain high quality supermarket in Red Hook, BK).

Not satisfied with the kosher salt I'd usually use to season such a mixture, I dug out a disposable plastic sea salt grinder from said Red Hook market. Somehow, my fervent grinding twisted the whole top off of the container, and about 1/3 cup of very coarse salt tumbled right into the pan. Kind of not good. I fished out as much as I could, and we decided to dilute with more water and more rice, a cup and a cup and a half at a time (respectively). I think we ended up adding 4-5 more cups of water than the recipe called for. It still tasted a little salty, but not as bad as it had before. So, you let the rice and stock bubble away for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, uncovered (surprising, right?) until there's just a small amount of stock left. At that point, you add the shrimp. We didn't, because our shrimp was already cooked. What we did was let the rice absorb the rest of the stock, and then stir in the shrimp after we'd taken it off the heat. This way we figured they wouldn't get all rubbery, just warmed through. Then we chopped up the parsley, which (gaff #3) we then forgot to actually add to the dish. Which is fine, because as he reminded us during dinner, Jonathan HATES parsley. He was pretty offended we'd thought of putting it in at all.

Anyway, all in all, it was pretty delicious. Yeah, it might have been richer without all the extra rice and water, and it could have been shrimpier if the little guys had actually cooked in the pot instead of just warming up in it. But it was pretty delicious overall, Reva and Steve kept the wine flowing, and, you know, there's something about a meal with your family that you can't get anywhere else. Next week, Mom wants to make pizza, so we'll see how that goes. I can say this: I will be sticking with regular salt (seriously, they don't have any of that sea salt left anyway).

Oh, and for dessert, we broiled some pineapple. Ever had grilled pineapple? Same idea: just stick it in the broiler until it gets nice and charred. It's a fruit that's just totally unleashed when you get a nice char on it. Brush it wish some vegetable oil before you cook it. I never thought to do it under the broiler but I certainly will be doing it again.


  1. For the record, I hate pineapple more than I hate parsley.

  2. I may be biased, but both the food and the company were outstanding!
    The Bittman book is now on my nightstand, so I can just pick it up and read.