Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Jambalaya, My Ass

I saw this and just had to share it with you. You all know how Rocco DiSpirito makes me crazy, right? Once a "genius" chef, he now spends his time writing diet cookbooks and pretending to post on Facebook. (Rocco, honestly, hire an assistant with some grammar skills.) Recently, his assistant he shared that in honor of Mardi Gras, he's developed a low-cal, low-carb (and no doubt, low-flavor) version of the New Orleans favorite, jambalaya. Really? There's a reason the holiday is called "Fat Tuesday," you know; it's the time to indulge before the season of Lent begins.

I don't see the point of eating diet food the other 364 days of the year, much less on Mardi Gras.

Anyhoo...true jambalaya is a dish in which everything--including raw rice--is cooked in the same pot. Think paella and you're not too far off. It starts off with a sauté of the trinity - bell peppers, onions, and celery - in a bit of oil, after which time seasonings, rice, stock, and meat are added. If one uses little oil and lean meats, jambalaya doesn't have to be a gut-buster of a dish. If there's a concern about fat and calories, even on Mardi Gras, then one should eat it in moderation. Or add a larger proportion of vegetables than usual. But Rocco, well, he has to change everything about the dish. So much so that it's really quite a crime to call his dish "jambalaya" at all, since it bears no resemblance to the original.

First of all, he doesn't use rice. Instead, he uses something called "Miracle Rice," which is an orzo-like version of the Japanese yam-based noodle product called shirataki. Shirataki doesn't have the same mouthfeel as flour-based pasta, and I'm pretty damn sure the same is true of the fake rice. DiSpirito also uses adobo powder and chipotle chile powder as seasonings, rather than a classic Creole spice blend, like Emeril's Essence. So right off the bat, both the flavor and texture of the dish will be wrong.

Additionally, Rocco is horribly confused about the combination of vegetables that constitutes the "holy trinity" of Creole and Cajun cuisine. According to the following statement, he seems to think beans are part of the equation.
The rest of this dish is built around the basic trinity of Cajun cooking — bell peppers, onion and beans. 
Anyone who has ever watched even one episode of Emeril Live! knows that the third element is c e l e r y. Oddly, there seems to be evidence of celery in the photo provided with the recipe - check out the object in the lower right side of the bowl on the left:

Also notice that the chicken appears unappetizingly dry, more like breast meat than the thigh meat called for in the recipe. The "rice" looks more like barley. And...doesn't it appear to be garnished with basil? Basil? On the right, is a photo of real jambalaya. Mmmm...now that looks goooood! Oh, and if any version of jambalaya would happen to contain beans, then most likely they'd be red beans. Not black beans.

To sum up in one word - WTF?  You know, if he would dare make this dish on Chopped and call it jambalaya, Alex Guarnaschelli and Aaron Sanchez would have Rocco's head on a platter. Calling a dish something it's not is grounds for dismissal! Basically his dish is a mutant combination of jambalaya and red beans and rice, only nothing like either of them.

Here's the recipe. If you make it, be sure to try some real jambalaya first and then see if there's any resemblance at all. I'm betting not.

Shambalaya (taken verbatim from My Journal Courier, so you know I'm not making this shit up)
Start to finish: 30 minutes
Servings: 4

4 large boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch chunks (about 15 ounces)
Salt and ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
3-ounces chicken and turkey andouille sausage (such as Applegate Farms), cut in to 1-inch slices
1 teaspoon adobo powder
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
Two 8-ounce packages Miracle Rice, rinsed
1/2 cup canned black beans, drained

Season the chicken with salt and pepper.

In a large nonstick saute pan over medium-high, heat the oil. Once the oil has started to smoke, add the chicken. Brown the chicken for 2 to 3 minutes, turning the pieces once. Remove the chicken from pan and add the sausage, browning it for about 1 minute, turning the pieces once.

Add the adobo and chili powder and cook for 30 seconds. Add the onions, then reduce heat to medium-low and caramelize them slowly until soft and browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the peppers and garlic and cook until soft, about another 2 minutes.

Add the browned chicken, broth, Miracle Rice and black beans. Bring to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, over medium to low heat for about 5 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper and divide between 4 serving bowls.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 233 calories; 8 g fat (30 percent calories from fat) (2 g saturated); 103 mg cholesterol; 13 g carbohydrate; 28 g protein; 4 g fiber; 862 mg sodium.

Posted on Minxeats.com.