“How do we get to Marksville?” With that question answered, we were on our way.
Marksville, in Louisiana, was the hometown of my father-in-law, George. My husband, during his childhood, visited Marksville frequently with his dad. We were on our way to visit family still in Louisiana. My husband was happy to be able to see his aunt, uncle and cousins, again, and I wanted my guys to know a little about their Louisiana roots.
Roots are a big thing these days. There seems to be an insatiable hunger to know where you came from – to know your roots. With the Internet and Ancestry.com, you can learn about your family tree and even have your DNA deciphered. But to really get to your roots, you may have to break a sweat, so we went on a summer vacation to Cajun country to meet Aunt Hazel, Uncle Lloyd and the family.
To say I was excited was an understatement. For want of a better word, I was excited to meet the people and excited to sample the foods — beignets loaded with powdered sugar, café au lait, crawfish, shrimp, grits, red beans and rice, gumbo, Jambalaya, Po Boys, pralines, pies, cakes and hot sauce(s) galore. These foods were everywhere when we landed in New Orleans. The climate was certainly warm enough (Louisiana in the summer is really hot), and it amazed me to see a banana tree growing in the middle of the city in Jackson Square.
We rented a car and left the land of Bourbon Street jazz, voodoo dolls and above-ground cemeteries, and headed in the direction of Baton Rouge. After passing miles of rice fields we arrived, to our surprise, in Bordelonville. Since the Bordelonville Post Office was closed, we shared our namesake enthusiasm with a lady (can you guess her name?) who ran the Bordelonville General Store. She offered us pickled pig ears (c’mon, we eat scrapple here) from a big glass jar that was on the counter. We thanked her, but didn’t want to take the last one.
After another half-hour drive around the bayou, we finally arrived in Marksville.
At the base of Cajun/creole cooking is the “holy trinity” of onions, green bell pepper and celery. A recipe for Jambalaya is no exception. Jambalaya, a spicy rice dish, is usually cooked with meat(s) and seafood. I always include shrimp, but vary the meats using leftovers or what I have on hand. You can’t really go wrong!
When Mardi Gras time rolls around, I think of our trip to Louisiana. Jambalaya was cooking on the day we arrived in Marksville. I was glad to try a new dinner entrée, but was certain we took home more than a recipe.
1/2 lb. smoked sausage links, cut into ¼ inch slices
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/8 cup jalapeno peppers, chopped
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 can whole tomatoes, cut up (28-ounce)
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup cooked chicken, cubed
1 cup ham, cubed
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. basil leaves
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. thyme leaves
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
1/2 lb. fresh or frozen raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
Hot pepper sauce
- In a Dutch oven over medium heat, cook sausage, onion, celery, peppers and garlic until tender.
- Add remaining ingredients except rice, shrimp and pepper sauce.
- Stir and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat, add rice, stir once, cover and simmer about 15 minutes until rice is almost done.
- Add shrimp.
- Cook 2-3 minutes or until shrimp turn pink.
- Remove bay leaf.
- Serve with hot pepper sauce on the side.
Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is next Tuesday. Don’t forget the doughnuts!
Laissez Les Bon Temp Roulez - Let The Good Times Roll!
Eat well, live long, enjoy!
(Questions or tips can be sent to Donna Zitter Bordelon at WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the Northeast Times, 2512 Metropolitan Drive, Trevose, PA 19053.)