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Winter Wind Down

It’s so exciting! Winter is definitely on its way out! Next weekend, it will be officially be Spring. I’ve been noticing how much lighter it is when I leave work each evening. With the time change tonight, it will be light even later. I suppose that means it will get light later in the morning to compensate (and it will be really hard for me to get up in the morning).

Our bounty from the Winter CSA has dwindled, but we still have some vegetables left. They have stored well in plastic bags in the refrigerator. (We also have half a dozen butternut squash left in a basket in the basement.)

I was able to put together a delicious shepherd’s pie with ingredients we had on hand: ground beef from Chestnut Farms, root vegetables from Shared Harvest CSA, and other odds and ends in the refrigerator, taking my herbal inspiration from Simon & Garfunkel (Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, & Thyme). I diced and roasted the vegetables the night before to make this easy to throw together after work, so it came together quickly.

Shepherd’s Pie
Serve 6

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 parsnips, peeled and diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
1 rutabaga, peeled and diced
1 celery root, peeled and diced
1 tsp sage, divided
1 tsp rosemary, divided
1 tsp thyme, divided
1 onion, diced
1 lb ground beef
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup beef broth
½ cup chopped parsley
2 baking potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
½ cup yogurt
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350F. Toss diced parsnips, carrots, rutabaga, and celery root with 2 Tbsp olive oil and ½ tsp each of the sage, rosemary, and thyme. Spread the vegetables in a single layer onto a large baking sheet. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are tender and slightly caramelized.

Place the peeled potatoes into a pot of water. Bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes). Before draining, set aside ¼ cup of the potato cooking water. Drain the potatoes. Whisk the potato cooking water into the yogurt. Mash the potatoes with the yogurt mixture and a generous seasoning of salt.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion and ground beef. Saute, breaking up the meat as it cooks, until the onions are soft and the meat is cooked through, about 5 minutes. If the meat gave off a large amount of fat, drain the fat before continuing.

Add tomato paste, beef broth, and the remaining sage, rosemary, and thyme to the meat. Cook until the sauce thickens up. Stir in the roasted vegetables and the parsley.

Pour the mixture into a 2-quart baking dish. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top of the meat.

Bake until edges of the mashed potatoes start to brown, about 25-30 minutes.

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez

Another food holiday we always try to observe is Mardi Gras because I love the food from New Orleans.

We visited the city, pre-Katrina, in December 1994. We enjoyed staying in the French Quarter, breakfasting at the French Market, browsing the antique stores on Magazine Street, and visiting the Garden District. The National Park Service offered great tours as New Orleans is considered a National Historic Site. We even happened upon a house tour in the Garden District, so we were able to visit 3 or 4 private homes.

The food was amazing, and there can’t be anywhere in the world quite like Bourbon Street. I am not a big drinker, but you’ve got to love a place where the bars along the street are mostly take-out. I don’t remember seeing many places where you could sit down and enjoy a drink. It was more like drink-and-stroll. It still makes me laugh to think about it.

One of the reasons we bypassed the Louisiana chili for the Super Bowl last week was because Mardi Gras was right around the corner.

I think my favorite New Orleans dish that I can make at home is jambalaya. (French Market beignets and oyster po-boys would beat jambalaya, but I’m afraid to deep-fry at home.)

I’ve made many different recipes for jambalaya, and it seems to be a no-fail dish. I mentioned to my sister Jane what I was thinking of making. She sent along her recipe, which originally came from an Emeril Lagasse cookbook. She’s made some modifications, and I made some of my own.

Adapted from Jane’s adaptation of Emeril’s recipe
Serves 8+

4 boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 Tbsp Emeril’s Essence or another Creole seasoning
2 Tbsp canola oil
12 oz andouille sausage, cut into ¼-inch slices, then cut into half-moons
2 or 3 onions, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 green pepper, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 red pepper, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 stalks celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp cayenne
½ tsp black pepper
1 28-oz can whole tomatoes, chopped (reserve the juice)
1 Tbsp minced garlic
3 bay leaves
2 cups long-grain white rice
1 tsp dried thyme
Enough chicken stock to make 2 quarts when added to the reserved tomato juice
1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cups chopped scallions
½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Toss the chicken with 2 Tbsp Emeril’s Essence. Heat the oil in a large heavy pot (I use my Le Creuset Dutch oven). Add the chicken pieces, and cook for 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove chicken from the pot and set aside.

Add the sausage to the pot (add more oil if it’s dry), and cook, stirring until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onions, green pepper, red pepper, celery, salt, cayenne, and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, garlic, and bay leaves. Cook about 2 minutes. Add the rice, and, cook, stirring for 2 minutes.

Add the thyme, stock/tomato liquid, and cooked chicken. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and cover the pot. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender. Not all of the liquid will be absorbed.

Toss the shrimp with the 1 Tbsp Emeril’s Essense. Add the shrimp to the pot and stir. Cook until the shrimp turns pink and is opaque, about 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, and let it rest, covered, for about 15 minutes.

Gently stir the scallions and parsley into the jambalaya. Remove and discard the bay leaves.