new orleans dinner party

Every year we travel down to New Orleans for Jazzfest. The festival is fantastic. The music ranges from zydeco to the latest hot musician (counting crows, john mayer, ben harper) to gospel. You wander around at a huge racetrack going from stage to stage listening to music all for the entry price of (I believe) $30 or so. You can’t beat it. Also, the added bonus is the food. In order to be a vendor, you have to pass the judges to get a booth. So, there is the best fried oyster sandwich, the best jambalaya, the best gumbo etc. Each booth sells 2 different size portions, about $4 for a small and $7 for a large. Not bad. You can eat your way through the day drinking fresh squeezed strawberry lemonade and plain lemonade…or a beer. There are also craft booths through out the fair grounds. Handmade dolls, photos, crafts, etc. Be advised that the humidity and heat there is fierce. People wear incredible hats to try and beat the heat. You can’t spend the day there without one. You’d drop.

We have gone each year with the same group of people. We start our party the minute we get off the plane and continue until we get back on the plane. I believe it usually takes me 2 days to recover. Although, my stamina is getting better.

I decided that since we have 6 months until jazzfest, we’d have a new orleans dinner party with our jazzfest crew.

Our meal started with hushpuppies and artichoke/spinach dip. Both New Orleans faves. Then we had my jazzfest favorite. Fried oysters over spinach salad with sliced red onions and a spicy blue cheese dressing. Yum!

Then, we went straight into the main course of Jambalaya. Jambalaya is easy to make.

Here is my recipe:

1 lb. of andouille sausage, sliced
1 lb. of boneless chicken breast, diced
1 lb. of peeled shrimp
1 cup of diced onions
1 cup of diced celery
2 red peppers sliced into thin strips
1 green pepper sliced into thin strips
1 can of chopped tomatoes (canned is fine, just strain the juice) – 28 ounce can
pinch of kosher salt
1 T fresh thyme
1/4 – 1/2 t. cayenne pepper
1T gumbo file
2 bay leaves
4 cups water
2 cups rice
cilantro chopped finely to put on top of serving

Heat oil (olive or vegetable) in a dutch oven pot (a big one), add sliced andouille sausage at a med high heat. Stir on occassion until the sausage is crisped. Take out. Put a little more oil in the pot if needed. Add onions, celery and peppers. Saute about 5 minutes or until the onions are turning golden and soft. Put the andouille sausage back into the pot. Add in the chicken breast. Saute until all the chicken appears to be cooked on the outside. Roughly 5 minutes. Add in the seasonings. Take it easy on the cayenne if you don’t like spicy. Now, add the tomato. Mix well. Add in the rice and stir through the mixture. Now, pour in 4 cups of water and bring to a boil, then down to simmer. Cook until all the rice is cooked through. About 20-25 minutes or until the rice soft. Stir occassionally. Then, put in the shimp and stir through until shrimp is done. Serve it up, sprinkled with cilantro.

Note: I made mine in the morning and reheated it for dinner. Stew always tastes better the next day or reheated.

Last but certainly not least, bread pudding with whiskey sauce. Classic New Orleans dish. We also had incredible sweet potato and pecan pies shipped in from New Orleans.

Only a few pounds added that evening, but yummy, yummy, yummy!