Okay, for all intents and purposes, this is jambalaya. For those of you that are unfamiliar with southern American cuisine in general (and Creole cuisine in particular), jambalaya is a rice dish traditionally prepared with sausage (such as andouille), chicken and seafood. Cajun jambalaya usually doesn't include tomatoes, and tends to rely more on game proteins. Sticklers will tell you that andouille is really Cajun and not used in Creole cuisine, which tends to use less offal (of which andouille is usually made). Mine usually leans toward the Creole side, but this time I bent the rules a bit. Also, I didn't have any shrimp or shrimp stock at hand.
Fussier than a traditional jambalaya, this time I used arborio rice instead of a plain long-grain rice, and rabbit instead of my usual simple chicken and shrimp. Sure, the andouille smiles through in ubiquity, but takes a back seat to a lagomorph. I really wasn't trying to be fancy or anything, it's actually just what I had in my coffers.
Derail: Mother's Day is right around the corner. Fun fact: my mom has been dead for three years. She died tragically at the age of 49, only 11 days after being diagnosed with colon cancer. Okay, that's a heavy bomb to drop, and really seems waaaay outta left field, but I suppose it bears mention. I'm not upset or anything, so relax. Besides, I feel like sharing.
Another fun fact: my mom was kind of a shitty cook. This is primarily because she didn't really like cooking (she was a line cook at a dingy jazz club-cum-sports bar for some years), but also because my family was always really poor. She did make a dish when I was a kid that she called "Shrimp Creole", which featured bay shrimp (she must've made this on the day we got food stamps). She probably learned it in Home Ec and just kept it in her little tin box of recipes. It tasted like the sort of thing American girls in the late 60s were taught to cook in public schools, so that they might one day impress a man and land a husband.
Most of my culinary identity is founded on taking the dishes of my childhood and kicking them up the proverbial notch. So I make jambalaya and cornbread - just not with Minute Rice or Jiffy mix.
Roasted tomato risotto with rabbit and andouille
This really is just jambalaya if you add shrimp, use chicken instead of rabbit, and use long grain rice instead of arborio rice. This recipe probably serves 8, but it's great leftover. The leftovers would also probably make really excellent arancini, if you were so inclined.
1 lb. small tomatoes (like those hothouse toms), quartered
2 tbsp. minced shallot
1 tbsp olive oil
Arrange tomatoes in a baking dish and sprinkle with shallot, salt and oil. Roast at 400 for 30 minutes or until browned and squidgy.
Half rabbit fryer (half saddle, 1 front and 1 hindquarter - should include the liver, heart and a kidney)
2 strips thick-cut bacon, diced
1/2 smallish onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1/2 each green and red bell pepper, diced
~1/2 lb. andouille sausage (~8-10" long), sliced into 1/4"-thick slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups (or so) arborio rice
1 cup budget white wine
6 cups chicken stock, simmering
a handful of parsley, chopped
salt to taste
Seasoning (feel free to shoot from the hip a little, people - it's how you learn):
fat tsp or two smoked paprika
tsp chili powder (I make my own by grinding dried mulato and ancho chiles)
several cracks black pepper
two or three fat pinches chili flake
fat pinch of fried thyme, crushed
few dashes Worcestershire sauce
few dashes bitters
few dashes hot sauce
coupla drops liquid smoke
While the tomatoes are roasting, pan-roast the rabbit (not including the organs) for a few minutes on each side so you can get the meat off the bones. If you're very clever, you're using this time to have a glass of wine and get your prep done. Really, you should be multitasking here. If you were, by now you'd be saying to yourself, "Oh, look, the rabbit is ready".
Pull the meat from the bones and dice the loin and leg meat, liver, kidney and heart. Since the tomatoes are still roasting (because you're so fast at your prep, look at you go!), go ahead and throw those bunny bones in the pot of chicken stock that I just know is simmering on the stove (you are making stock from scratch, right? I mean, that chicken carcass in your freezer isn't going to simmer itself!).
Render the bacon until browned, and add the veg. Saute for a minute or two over med/med-high until glossy. Add (and brown) the andouille. Add the arborio rice and dry seasonings (listed below). Stir the rice a bit and cook for a minute, then add the bunny organs, wet seasonings, wine and tomatoes. From now on cook the rice as though you were making regular risotto (we've been through this already). Five minutes from the end, add the rabbit meat to warm and cook through. Add the parsley and salt at the end. If you're feeling sassy, add a knob of butter at the end to soften things up a bit.
Serve with hot sauce and cornbread (recipe follows)
This is my bastardization of Joy of Cooking's northern cornbread recipe, cooked southern style in a cast-iron skillet with bacon fat. I know it's not traditional southern cornbread, but at least it's not a box of Jiffy mix.
1 tbsp bacon fat (please tell me you keep a tub in the fridge like me)
1-1/4 c cornmeal (I used blue and yellow)
3/4 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar (optional, but I like it)
2 large eggs
2/3 c buttermilk
2/3 c milk
3 tbsp melted butter
1/2 c frozen corn (I also like to add minced jalapeños, but didn't this time)
Stick a 10" cast-iron skillet with the bacon fat in the oven that's preheating to 425. Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients (eggs and milks). Add wet to dry, mix, and stir in the melted butter and corn. Pour batter into now-hot skillet and bake for 20-25 minutes, until browned on top and toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle.
Toasted leftover cornbread makes a great open-faced sammich with thick bacon, melted sharp cheddar and roasted peppers.
Shout out to my girl Yen: thanks for your mom's recipe. I think your email is bouncing me, because I've sent you a couple. That, or you're ignoring me.