Sunday, May 04, 2008

Roasted tomato risotto with rabbit and andouille

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
pinch salt
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)

Yankee Cornbread
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.


Anonymous said...

Phew! There's a lot to take in here. Whilst I've never eaten a real Jambalaya (only crappy fast food style ones whilst visiting the US) I can see the resemblance with risotto. I probably would use chicken (that's just me!). Now Jiffy mix is some kind of instant packaged cornbread mixture I assume? I like your version Heather. I sometimes note a "southern" influence in your cooking. And here I am expecting you to make a "flamekuchen" (god I hope I spelt that right!).

Sorry for being long winded but againyou have managed to capture my inner foodie on a whole new lwvwl (this is why I enjoy reading you..oh! and the fact that you swear and get away with it so well!).

PS Sorry about your mum.

Anonymous said...

Man I need to stop typing so fast "lwvwl" is supposed to read level.

Susan @ SGCC said...

That's a really interesting take on jambalaya. The risotto is a great idea. I'll bet it really absorbs all the other flavors. I love rabbit, but I can only find it frozen here. I usually make it cacciatore-style, but it must be wonderful in this dish!

Norm Schoen said...

Jiffy boxed mixes....I had completely forgotten about those. My Mom must have dozens if not hundreds of boxes of those mixes stuffed in the backs of closets and under beds at her and my Dads house. I think she cannot pass up the "4 for $1.00" specials at the Canned Food Store.
I like that you insist on homemade chicken stock. I made Arroz con Pollo this weekend and I spent the better part of a day simmering stock ( I too keep odds and ends in the freezer until I have enough for a real batch).
In case of a "The Stand" type of holocaustic event, be sure to head to Payette, Idaho as my parents probably have a larger dry goods larder than most Mormons keep on hand.

Brittany said...

jeez, I never knew there were so many rules to jumbalaya (cuz I'm a classic pacific northwesterner like that). I usually just throw a bunch of shit in a pot (well, not actual shit...)add shrimp and sausage, then tell the husband it's jumbalaya. He believes me because he grew up eating food very much like your mom's cooking (he also lost his mom to cancer a few years back. I am very sorry to hear about yours)- jiffy was a stock item in his childhood pantry...
This meal you've created looks amazing. I am now experiencing 1 am munchies and it's all your fault.

Peter M said...

It's good that you wrote about proper Jambalaya as purists would kick yer ass, otherwise. With that outta the way, you can go in any direction.

I like the use of rabbit in here but I would have liked some shrimp in here...ever hear of a shopping list? Too busy watching RR?

michael, claudia and sierra said...

i've never made anything cajun. i'm not sure why that is. i shy away from blackened food too. the whole genre evades me. but this recipe sounds wonderful. your slant on it appeals to me with the arborio/rabbit. like batali meets prudhomme...

as for your mom... too young to go. it would have been fun if you could have cooked for her some. i'll bet she would have loved it and been really proud of you.

Pixie said...

Jambalaya how I adore thee. I used to just go out and buy those prepacked jambalaya rice packs- those were the days ;). Like the use of rabbit in here.

glamah16 said...

Your Mama would be proud. Im liking the rabbit variation. This time of year always sucks for me. But I honor her memory with cooking.

peter said...

I keep three or four kinds of fat in the fridge (including the smoked duck fat.) Funny about the blue cornbread coincidence...

My Mom's birthday was May 18, so between that and Mother's day it's a shitty time. The boy and the garden help even it out, though.

Núria said...

Jambalaya sounds so flavourful! Note that I love rice, rabitt and veggies and there's no cheese adding at the end... perfect for me!
That glass of red wine is something esential in my kitchen too ;-)

Buen Provecho querida!

Judy@nofearentertaining said...

I love your take on Jambalaya and that corn bread looks great. I also liked the "fun facts"-strange choice of words there but I guess that's the Heather we know and love! Sorry about your Mom she was really way too young.

Heather said...

Peter from Oz - You should try making your own jambalaya sometime (omg, did you eat Popeye's in the US?).

Susan - I have never made cacciatore, but have always wanted to. I should peruse your archives. Frozen rabbit is fine!

Norm - Do they also have a stockpile of weapons? God one time we had a Jiffy biscuit mix that had weevils in it. My mom sent an angry letter and they sent us a free case of Jiffy mix. The banana nut muffins weren't terrible, if I recall correctly.

Brittany - My husband grew up thinking chili mac was "goulash", so yours is not alone. What they don't know won't hurt 'em.

Peter the Greek - Those purists are also still bitter about Katrina, so I'd just better not cross them.

CEF - Batali meets Prudhomme? What a great analogy. Don't be evaded by Cajun or Creole food! It's just American peasant cuisine.

Pix - Nothin' wrong with a little Zatarain's once in awhile!

Court - Thanks. I did get to cook for my mom a few times, and she knew that I enjoyed it more than she did. :)

Núria - I think jambalaya seems like it could be a Spanish dish! Or at least it could easily be made from ingredients found in your kitchen. :)

Judy - the cornbread is the best part. Someone pointed out that it looks green. I guess that's what yellow and blue makes.

Leigh said...

just when you thought you'd seen all the jambalaya dishes one could imagine, along comes this one...roasted tomato..rabbit...i'm there. wonderful. as always.

Anonymous said...

i totally have a crock of bacon fat in the fridge. saving my bacon fat is perhaps the best culinary decision i've ever made.

colon cancer killed my dad 3 years ago. it can suck my proverbial dick.

peter said...

I forgot to ask: did you hunt and/or gather that there lagomorph? It's a great twist on the tradition.

I ask because there's a source coming on line very soon right down the road...

Brittany said...

I too am a random throw shit in a pot jambalaya maker, but you have changed my ways. My brother often cooks with rabbit, so I will definitely be passing this recipe on for him to do the dirty work, and me to eat until my pants always.

Heather said...

Jube - Sorry! I totally didn't mean to leave you off the comment thingy. Dead moms are the pits, aren't they? :\ I didn't catch the bunneh myself, I have a great game and exotic meats purveyor here in Portland called Nicky USA (the only thing I hunt is mushrooms). What's your source?

Leigh - Aw, thanks. I always wonder what the non-Americans think of all the weird regional food we have, but some of it is pretty great. :)

Michelle - Sorry about your dad. Stupid cancer. If you and I ever get in the same room, we should have a bacon grease wrasslin' contest. Syd would fucking love that.

Brittany - Sounds like you have a pretty good system over there. If my brother weren't so busy ignoring his kids and making shitty rap beats, he'd prolly do the same for me.

Emily said...

I'm so sorry about your mom. I feel really sad. 11 days is too quick- I don't know what I would have done. You're a brave gal.

Thanks for clearing up some of this cajun/creole business.
This jambalaya looks delicious. Especially with lots of hot sauce.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Oh yummy! That meal looks terribly good!



Nilmandra said...

Love the cornbread! It looks fantastic, and that skillet is something on my to-buy list.

DocChuck said...

Interesting variation on the jambalaya. We fix jambalaya at least every two or three weeks, but have never tried rabbit. Will keep it in mind (but I will have a difficult time getting rid of the chicken).

On cornbread, I didn't know Yankees ate cornbread. But like you, I fix mine in my "egg skillet" . . . my inherited 10-inch cast iron skillet with a 50-year old seasoning patina.

Also like you, we ALWAYS keep a tub of bacon fat in the fridge. I like to thoroughly render a pound or two of bacon, save the grease (fat) and crumble the remainder for topping a salad, potato or just about anything else.

Oh, and we ALWAYS put minced jalapeno in our cornbread.

Great post.

Mama Mia said...

I love cornbread. All of your food looks great! I'm glad that I found your blog! I'll be visiting often :)

Anonymous said...


not only am I now convinced that my recent ingestion of jiffy cornbread was somewhat more than poor judgment, but I've been encouraged to learn more about the lagomorpha order of mammals. If only I'd thought to be so zoological in my research prior to our podcast on provencal rabbit stew (shameless plug, sorry)! Had I done so, I could have learned about the now-extinct Minorcan Giant Lagomorph - a 50lb rabbit - which would have made quite a jambalaya...!

Anonymous said...

... and my condolences about your mother's death. I too know the pain of losing my mother to cancer.

Thistlemoon said...

That corn bread looks great. I have a friend Nikki, who you kind of remind me of - she is a blues singer and spent lots of time in New Orleans - you should hear her when we start talking about jambalaya - she makes a killer one by the way- it is so fun!
Sorry about your mom Heather. I am sure she would have loved your cooking!
You rock! :)

Heather said...

Emiline - It doesn't take bravery to get past losing a loved one, just time.

Rosa - It was pretty tasty, thanks goodness for leftovers!

Nilmandra - Be sure and look in a resale shop or yard sales - that's the cheapest place to find a cast-iron skillet. They last forever!

Doc - I'm glad you found my jambalaya not-too-Yankified. :)

Lina - I'm glad you found me! Cornbread really is the best.

Jonny - Thanks for the podcast link - it's good to hear your and Amy's voices. Nothing wrong with a little self-promotion (why else do we blog?). Sorry about your mom.

Jenn - I love when I remind someone of a friend of theirs. Especially if it's a cool bluesy chick. :D You rock too, woman!

Norm Schoen said...

Ya know, even though weapons and Idaho go together like chili and cornbread, my folks, while very conservative, don't see it necessary to pack "heat"....that would be such a better story if they did.

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

I am of the opinion that rabbit (or opossum, or squirrel, or racoon, or nutra-rat) is a vital ingredient in a true jambalaya. Chickens are for city folk...