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JAMBALAYA PASTA:

There's something about Southern cooking, which always manages to appeal your heart. So many influences and some many cultures resulted in food which fits the bill of soul food. Jambalaya is a perfect example !! Rabbit meat Jambalaya is closest to my heart when it comes to Southern food. But one does not have the luxury of having game meat, always. So a quick and easy Jambalaya Pasta can warm up any Winter night. Moreover, since I have a weakness for everything French, Creole food is quite an obvious favorite.

Restaurants in New Orleans all scream to serve the most authentic Jambalaya.Its always a super feast every day, when one is in that part of the country. Seasoned with a heady dose of Creole seasoning, poultry, shrimps and sausages are caramelised  and braised with onions and bell peppers. But I had run out of shrimp, so  just used some boneless chicken and some random sausages, I had in the freezer. Short grained rice is the ideal choice.Pasta is a good alternative for people like me, who don't always have a good track record of cooking rice dishes.

Louisiana boasts of both Cajun and Creole versions of Jambalaya, and there are loyalists of both camps. Cajun and Creole refer to two different spice blends native to Louisiana, which resulted from the cultural amalgamation. What I generally stir up at home, is a pasta version of a normal Creole Jambalaya. I must confess that I don't create my Creole Spice blend from scratch, and reach out for the store bought concoction. The ready made version already has salt added to it, so if you are cooking with it, keep a tab on that. If you feel you want to increase the heat quotient in your Creole seasoning, then you could add in some Paprika and Cayenne Pepper, without compromising on the overall taste.

So bring forth a taste of Louisiana to your table.


PASTA JAMBALAYA: 

Ingredients: 
Boneless Chicken: 1/2 lb: Diced
Sausages: 1/2 lb
Bell Pepper: 1 large: Chopped finely
Onion: 1: large: Chopped finely
Creole Seasoning: 2-3 tbsp
Thin Spaghetti: 8 oz: Cooked al dente according to package instructions
Olive Oil: 2- 3 tbsp
Diced tomatoes: 1 can (if you are using fresh tomatoes, then blanch the tomatoes and chop them)
Chicken Stock: 1/2 cup
Pasta water: 1/2 cup
Cream: 1/2 cup
Paprika: 1/2 tsp
Garlic: Chopped: 1 tbsp

Procedure: 

Boil the Pasta according to package instructions along with a pinch of salt till they are al dente(have a bite to them). Drain and keep aside. I add a dash of canola oil while boiling my pasta. Reserve half cup of the pasta cooking water

In a large pan, add in some olive oil and brown the chicken pieces with some Creole seasoning. Once they are caramelised, take them off the heat and keep aside.


In the same pan, add in the chopped onion, bell pepper and sausages, and cook them till the onions get soft.


Toss in the chopped garlic, and cook for another minute.


Add in the chopped tomatoes, the rest of the Creole seasoning, Paprika,the chicken pieces and the chicken stock. Cook uncovered, till the chicken pieces are cooked and sauce has started to thicken.


Add in the cream and cook on low heat for another couple of minutes.



Add in the pasta, the pasta water and mix well. Check for seasoning. Bump up the salt, if you feel its needed.  Cook for another couple of minutes and serve hot.



Bon Appetit !!!



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CHICKEN BHARTA BY THE MAN :

Chicken Bharta! Yet another delicacy from the man's kitchen !

A friend of mine recently joked about the fact that I am penning down more from the Man's kitchen than my own. Well, he has been cooking a lot more, these days, was my quick retort. The man is trying his best, to come up with delicacies which are favorites of mine. So being a  foodie, the least I can do, is pen down, what he is making for me. That is too small a price to pay for staying away from the kitchen and enjoying great home cooked food.! 

I had been planning on writing about this fabulous Chicken Bharta he had made, but a few seasons just flew by. Culinary tales from last summer are finally finding a place this winter. Talk of being super late. Since the man is on a  cooking spree, I thought, I better buck up and started penning down.

Chicken Bharta always reminds me of the Airport Dhaba, on Jessore Road, near Kolkata Airport.Winter nights in Kolkata often meant a drive with the family to this eatery on the highway, and Chicken Bharta always found a place on our table.Velvety shredded chicken in a rich and thick gravy. Garnished with a handful of chopped hard boiled eggs and some nuts, it was goodness on a platter. A total crowd pleaser at any time and a big favorite of the entire Chatterjee clan.My personal favorite was a butter naan, to go with some hot and spicy Chicken Bharta, though here, I make do often with some buttered Pita bread. So whenever Deb makes some Chicken Bharta, it always brings a smile on my face. Too many good memories associated with one tasty dish. The best part of the story is that, it happens to be one of Hubby's favorites too. So I don't have to coax him too much to make it more often. Talk of a win-win situation. 



CHICKEN BHARTA: 

Recipe adapted from Pam's Cookbook
Hubby sends in a Huge Thank You for Pam !!

Ingredients: 
Boneless Chicken: 1 lb
Red onion: 1 large: chopped
Tomato: 1 large: Chopped
White Vinegar: 1 tbsp
Ginger-Garlic Paste: 2tbsp
Green Chillies: 2-3: Finely Chopped
Turmeric Powder: 1 tsp
Paprika: 1 tsp (Hubby skipped normal Red Chili Powder)
Cayenne Pepper: 1 tsp  (Hubby skipped normal Red Chili Powder)
Coriander Powder: 1 tbsp
Garam Masala: 1 tsp
Eggs: Hard boiled: 3
Canola Oil: 2 tbsp
Cashew Paste: 1 tbsp
Butter: 2 tbsp(optional)
Cilantro: Freshly Chopped: For garnish
Cashew: Finely Chopped: For garnish
Salt: To taste

Procedure: 

Mix the chicken with some turmeric,some paprika, vinegar, salt and water, and cook in a pressure cooker, till the chicken is cooked. Shred the chicken with a couple of forks, once they have cooled. Keep aside. Keep the chicken stock in a separate bowl.



In a a large non stick pan, add in some canola oil , and once its hot, add in the chopped onions,and cook them, till they start to caramelize around the edges. Add in the ginger-garlic paste and the chopped green chilies and cook them for a couple of minutes.


Add in the dry spices and the chopped tomatoes next and mix well. Cook till you can see oil being released from the masala. The key is to cook it, without burning it.


Add in the shredded chicken and the reserved chicken stock. Mix well. Cook uncovered till it all comes to a  boil and then simmer it for another 7-8  minutes or so.


 Mash the hard boiled egg yolks in the gravy and mix well.


Mix in the cashew paste and butter and cook for another 7-8 minutes or so. Check for seasonings.


Reduce excess water. Garnish with the whites of the hard boiled eggs , chopped cashew and chopped cilantro.


Enjoy with some hot naan/rotis/pita bread !!

Bon Appetit !!!

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WALNUT-CREAM CHEESE-GRAPE POPPERS

Thank God its Friday !!!! A long weekend that too !! Loads of time to sleep and be lazy. I have decided I will give chores a complete miss this weekend, and enjoy, with a capital E. Well, the KC Restaurant Week is kickstarting this weekend, so loads to eat out. What caught my eye in most of the special menus in the featured restaurants, are their list of hor d'oeuvres. I think I could probably make a meal out of just ordering hor d'oeuvres. Which reminded me of a hor d'oeuvre which Hubby made last Summer at a lunch we were hosting. He had made Walnut-Cream Cheese-Grape Poppers. 

The man is always thinking of new menus whenever we are hosting. He has a strong aversion towards being repetitive, and is always outdoing himself, at every party we host. Well, the man does have a love affair with the kitchen I must say. My Mom says I am plain lucky, while I smile on. Men who cook does have its own charm undeniably. Well, tonight he is gonna be cooking up some Pomfret, so I am waiting for dinner, quite anxiously. 

The idea about these Poppers was that he had very less time, after making an elaborate Chicken Bharta(I am yet to pen that down too), and he wanted an innovative appetizer. So the grapes, the cream cheese and his favorite walnuts came to the party together. Its one the simplest appetizers to make and yet it packs a punch in the taste department. Who knew three ingredients could make such a crowd pleasing appetizer ! And its a great option, if you are thinking of veggie options for appetizers, to serve along with your non-veg ones. 

While I grappled with the camera, along with my own cooking, he had already a plate full of poppers. I am guilty of not taking proper pictures, of the whole process. Sorry about that. We did a taste test together, before the guests started pouring in, and I wanted to reach for a second and even a third, if he was not looking straight at me. We were serving some full bodied Red Wine,and these poppers paired so well. So I noted in my mental food pairing journal, about this combo. They were just the right size,and no one felt too full, to give main course a miss.I hate hor d'oeuvres which make me feel so full, that I cannot do justice to the main course, prepared by the host/hostess. 

So if you are planning that quick party, go ahead, and make some  Walnut-Cream Cheese-Grape Poppers and trust me you will be praising D-Boy for this quick and easy recipe. 


WALNUT-CREAM CHEESE-GRAPE POPPERS : 

Ingredients: 
Green Grapes: A bunch(Make sure that the grapes are nice and firm) 
Cream Cheese: One 8 oz pack, at room temperature
Walnuts: Around 2 cups
Salt: To taste
Some toothpicks

Procedure: 

Separate the grapes from the bunch and wash and dry them with a paper towel. Select the ones which are biggest in the bunch. He had used green seedless grapes, feel free to use any kind you prefer. 


Grind the walnuts in a food processor, and dry roast them in a sheet pan at 350F for around 5 mins or so. 


Cool them to room temperature. 

Use a fork to mash up the room temperature cream cheese, season with a dash of salt. 

Take a grape, roll it first in cream cheese, and then in the crushed roasted walnuts. 





Stick in a toothpick and serve !! 



Bon Appetit !!! 






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PASTA PUTTANESCA WITH CHICKEN !!


Monday Nights are usually Pasta Nights.What better way to chase away Monday blues, than an easy one pot dinner. I am sure there are numerous easy breezy such dinners, but my mind, always swings towards Pasta. Maybe a mental block, or maybe just love for Pasta. But there's something I always try and do whenever I am making some Pasta. I try and add some Protein or the other. Maybe its the Bong in me, which initiates me to do that. Dinner should have a non-vegetarian element in it. Hubby is also super happy, when he can locate some bacon bits, some prawns, or maybe some chicken. I try and mix and match the proteins to the more popular pasta recipes, and thus creating a hybrid dish almost. Thus was born Pasta Puttanseca with Chicken. 

Although Pasta Puttanesca traditionally has some anchovies in it, but I decided on skipping that part and adding chicken. Why , you might ask? Well, for starters, I had to rush to the store after my evening classes, if I had included Anchovies.I had no energy of going to the grocers to pick up the bottle. The Pasta Nazi might be on my lookout for flouting such a cardinal rule in making Pasta Puttanesca. Its a flavor compromise, they would scream. But who cares, its just my take on a classic dish.It made for a wholesome dinner.The man and me were super happy and Monday night did not seem to be Blue after all.So mission accomplished.

I have a love for Olives. I love to bite into them, be it in my dry martini, or as an appetizer or in some salad or the other. So I have a special place in my heart for any dish which has an overload of Olives. No wonder Pasta Puttanesca gets made so often in our household. Throw in some olives, some capers, load up on the Parmesan cheese, and even some dry chili flakes. Mundane Monday Pasta flies to great heights. Its such a colorful plate, and everyone is happy just at the sight of it. The Olives add a nice texture to the whole dish. The Pasta should be just rightly cooked, with a bite to it. The Olives add a nice crunch and tomatoes are so velvety in the sauce. I am so in pasta heaven now !



PASTA PUTTANSECA WITH CHICKEN: 

Ingredients: 
For the Chicken: 
Chicken: 1/2 lb: Cubed
Garlic: 2 tbsp: Minced:
Dry Oregano: 1 tsp
Salt: To taste
Butter: 1 tbsp
Black Pepper: 2 tsp
Chicken stock: 1/4 cup

For the Pasta: 
Spaghetti: 8 ounces
Red Onion: 1/2: Sliced
Olive Oil: 2 tbsp
Butter: 1 tbsp
Chopped Tomatoes or even Canned Tomatoes: 1 1/2 - 2 cups
Garlic Cloves: 3: Minced
Pitted Olives: 1/2 cup
Parmesan Cheese: rated: 1/4 cup
Chicken Stock: 1/2 cup-3/4 cup
Black pepper: 1 tsp

For Garnish: 
Parmesan Cheese
Red Chili Flakes

Procedure: 

Cook the pasta according to package instructions or al dente(so that they have a bite to them). Keep aside.

For cooking the chicken, melt the butter in a pan, and add in the garlic. Once the garlic starts getting, aromatic, add in the cubed chicken, salt, pepper and dried oregano. Fry the chicken for some time, till you can see that the chicken cubes have started to change color. Add in the chicken stock and braise the chicken till they are cooked through. Keep aside.


In another large non stick pan, add in the olive oil and the butter.


Once the butter has melted, add in the sliced red onions.


 Fry them around for a couple of minutes, till they start to change color. Then add in the minced garlic.


Once the garlic is aromatic, then add in the chopped tomatoes and mix well. Cover and cook till the tomatoes get a little soft and start to fall apart. Then add in the olives. Mix well. I had halved the olives before I added them to the pan, you could also roughly crush them. If you are adding capers, then add them now.


Add in the chicken stock, cooked chicken, salt, pepper and cook it down till the sauce is reduced. Check for seasonings.



Add in the pasta and use a pair of tongs to mix everything well.





Mix in the Parmesan Cheese and serve hot.


For serving, you could also add in some more Parmesan cheese right onto your plate, along with some red chili flakes for some kick.



Bon Appetit !!!
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BACK TO THE BEACH: GULF SHORES AND PENSACOLA

Its a known fact that I am a sea-crazy woman and the man loves his canyons. With our varying tastes, no wonder we travel so much all through the year. Last year was no exception. We decided to end the year by the sea. Well, almost !

Too many pending travelogues to pen down, and I keep pushing them and pushing them, till I am already on yet another trip. I had just logged onto my system, after adding a healthy dose of heavy cream to the Dal Makhni on the stove top. The idea was to pen down  about something from the kitchen. But after I read a lovely travelogue by a fellow blogger, about revisiting Darjeeling, I was bitten by the travel bug too.

I started typing away about Revisiting the Gulf of Mexico. After Florida, Mexico, Mississippi, this time I had been to Alabama and Florida again, but this time it was the Florida Panhandle. Gulf Shore and Pensacola Beach.  Blame it on the cravings of a woman, but I had been honestly driving the man crazy, for a time by the sea. Our last holiday was in New England, for the Fall Colors, so it was my turn to choose a holiday. And in my plans, the sea, always has to feature, even if it means ,sub zero temperatures and gusty winds. So it was, we packed our bags, and started driving. Driving on from the Midwest, down South, to where the seas are blue and the sands are whitey white.


We had been facing heavy snow in Kansas City,so the drive to the Gulf Shore made all the more sense. The sound of the waves seemed to take all our travel weariness away. The beach was not at all crowded,which was a welcome change from Miami or Cozumel. We lazed around, as if there was no tomorrow. Even hubby caught up with some reading.



After some time in the sun, the jackets came off, and we walked towards the water. Mind you, it was sub zero temps, but we had to get to the water. That's the reason why we had driven insanely for so many miles.


It was a tad chilly, as an afterthought, but I wasn't complaining, Some splashing around, and some more splashing around followed.


The Gulls were holding quite a gathering around our belongings. Maybe they were eyeing the Wasabi Peas in my beach bag !



The palm trees were swaying with the wind as we continued to laze around.


We were hungry for some fresh sea food. The sea air makes everyone super hungry. So we ordered up a mini feast. Oyster Rocker feller to start with.


Crab Cakes without any ounce of fillers. All that my teeth sunk into were pure blue-crab meat.With some hot mustard, it was heaven. It was rustic and super good. I could have easily polished off a couple of more such helpings, but the main course awaited us.


The piece de resistance: A basket of Blackened Gulf Shrimps. A handful of thick French fries, some horseradish mayo, to dunk it all in, and not to forget a generous squeeze of some fresh lime. We hardly spoke to each other, as we polished off our individual baskets. We were stuffed literally, both psychologically and tummy wise.


With our tummies full, we drove down to Pensacola Beach for a lovely sunset. The sun played spoil sport and went down earlier than usual.



So we strolled along the pier !!! The setting sun had almost cast a spell on the dark blue sea.


Debated whether we should join the kiddies and take some rides.


The moonlight created magic on the dark sea waters! What more could could I want. The silvery gleam on the roaring waves, the magical lights of the pier and my man !!!  A super romantic day by the sea !!



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