More on St. Joseph’s Day altars

The two photos with my column in The News & Observer on Sunday didn’t do justice to the eight altars I saw in New Orleans. Visit here to see more, including the altar at the Lost Love Lounge – the disco ball is a nice touch.

Who dat? Jambalaya

Super Bowl Sunday is almost here, so it’s time to get ready for great eating. The Super Bowl has become kind of like Thanksgiving – a time when groups of people get together ostensibly to celebrate an event, but it’s really about the food.

With the New Orleans Saints in the game, there are so many food options it makes me swoon. Sorry, Indianapolis. I can’t get too excited about pork and beans, and blue beer (see my earlier post). Here’s my easy recipe for jambalaya, a traditional Cajun dish that will feed a horde. It’s a great party dish. It can be prepared a day ahead, if necessary, then refrigerated and reheated, although it will taste better if made the day of the party. This recipe is from my cookbook “Fan Fare: A Playbook of Great Recipes for Tailgating or Watching the Game At Home” (Harvard Common Press, 2007). Some recipes for jambalaya include a roux, but I omitted it to make this one easy

Big Feed Jambalaya

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 1/2 to 3 pounds cooked shredded chicken

1 1/2 pounds andouille sausage, diced

4 cups chopped onions

2 cups chopped celery

2 cups chopped green bell peppers

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

5 cups chicken broth

2 heaping teaspoons salt

1/2 heaping teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon vinegar-based hot sauce, or more to taste

1 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet

4 cups long-grain rice (don’t use converted rice)

Heat the vegetable oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and heat, stirring, until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Remove the sausage and chicken from the pot and set aside.

Add the onions, celery, green peppers and garlic to the pot. Cook, stirring, until tender but not limp or browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Add a little more oil if needed to prevent sticking.

Return the chicken and sausage to the pot. Add the chicken broth, salt, cayenne pepper, hot pepper sauce and Kitchen Bouquet and bring to a boil. Add the rice, stir and return to a boil.

When the mixture is boiling, cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Do not lift the lid during this time. At the end of 10 minutes, remove the lid and, using 2 large spoons, quickly turn the rice from top to bottom. Cover, turn off the heat, and let sit for 20 more minutes. Do not lift the lid. At the end of 20 minutes, check to be sure all the liquid has been absorbed; if not, cover and let sit a few more minutes.

Serves 12

From “Fan Fare: A Playbook of Great Recipes for Tailgating or Watching the Game at Home” By Debbie Moose (Harvard Common Press, 2007)

The Super Bowl food throwdown

In the Super Bowl food fight between the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts on Feb. 6, there’s no contest. The Saints have gumbo, jambalaya, bread pudding, King Cakes (it’s Mardi Gras season, too – what a delicious coincidence). Need I go on?

Indiana food? Anyone got any ideas? Well, there’s popcorn. Brazil, Ind. holds a popcorn festival each October that includes contests for popcorn recipes, popcorn eating and Orville Redenbacher look-alikes. According to The Food Timeline, traditional foods of Indiana include pork tenderloin sandwiches and pork and beans. Thrilling. There’s also Sugar Cream Pie, a plain-sounding concoction of brown sugar, vanilla and butter. Donna Segal, a freelance food writer in Indianapolis, tells me that it was designated the official Indiana state pie a few years ago, but it’s hard today to find it on restaurant menus. When you consider the New Orleans praline alone, that makes it three-and-out for Indiana.

Sorry, Colts.

My buddy Judy Walker, food editor at the New Orleans Times Picayune, can tell you anything you want to know about authentic Louisiana food. She’s blogging all week here. She adds: “Our section publishes on Thursday, and it’s almost all NOLA Super Bowl food. Lede is recipes from the personal chefs of the extremely popular Saints Reggie Bush and Jeremy Shockey.”

Around here, Yancy’s Creole restaurant in Raleigh, N.C. will reopen on Feb. 4, and hold a Super Bowl party Feb. 6. Papa Mojo’s Roadhouse in Durham, N.C., which specializes in Cajun favorites, isn’t holding a Super Bowl party. But you can celebrate early with classic gumbo and red beans and rice when the restaurant provides the food for the Tab Benoit concert on Feb. 5 at Lincoln Theater in Raleigh, N.C. Papa Mojo’s proprietor Mel Melton and his Wicked Mojos will be on the stage as well.

Just ’cause I like y’all so much, I’ll post my favorite jambalaya recipe this week, which is guaranteed to feed any size hungry horde.