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Comfort Food from the Deep South

Island Epicure

Let the March winds blow. Let the usual Northwest gray skies and rain prevail outdoors. Somewhere the sun is shining. Let us close the curtains, turn on some New Orleans jazz music, and get ready for some southern cooking. The aroma of Jambalaya or Shrimp Purlieu will have us smacking our lips, and a wave of happy anticipation will wash all the blues from our hearts.

4 to 6 Servings
1 3-lb fryer
Salt, black pepper and red pepper
Flour for dredging chicken
2 teaspoons salt, divided
3 tablespoons canola or olive oil
3 onions, chopped
4 or 5 ribs celery, chopped
2 or 3 garlic cloves, chopped
½ green bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups rice
3 cups boiling water
1 No. 2 ½ can tomatoes
2 teaspoons chili powder, optional
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
1 teaspoon salt
Black pepper if desired

Cut chicken into serving size pieces. Toss in a bag with the flour and 1 teaspoon salt. Heat the oil in a wide skillet. You may need two skillets. Brown chicken. Remove and reserve.

Put the onions, celery, garlic and bell pepper in the skillet and cook until wilted. Add the tomatoes. Return the chicken to the skillet. Cover. Cook on medium low heat until chicken is tender, 30 to 40 minutes.

While the chicken cooks, combine the rice, water, and the other 1 teaspoon of salt in a large kettle or stockpot. Bring back to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover. Cook 20 minutes for white rice, 40 to 50 minutes for brown rice. Add the rice to the chicken. Stir. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes to blend flavors.

2 to 3 servings
½ cup yellow or white onion cut in ¼-inch wide slivers
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 cups cut up vegetables: matchstick carrots, sliced water chestnuts, slivered onions, green pepper strips, 1-inch wide nappa cabbage strips
2 slivered garlic cloves
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
Red Tabasco sauce to taste
Salt to taste
1 cup large peeled shrimp or prawns or 2 cans shrimp
½ teaspoon dried oregano or ½ Tablespoon fresh oregano leaves

In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil. Sauté the onion until shiny but not browned. Stir in remaining raw vegetables and garlic. Stir-fry 5 minutes. Add tomatoes. Reduce heat. Cover. Simmer 10 minutes. Add a dash of salt if desired.

Arrange shrimp or prawns atop the tomato bouilli. Cover. Cook a few minutes, until the shrimp or prawns are opaque and orange on their outsides. Serve over steamed brown rice.

Rice Cooking Tips:

White rice needs the starch washed off it first. Brown rice requires no pre-washing.

When you want sticky rice, start it cooking in cold water. When you want separate grains in the finished dish, start the rice in boiling water. Drizzle the grains in, add a Tablespoon of olive oil per 1 cup raw rice, stir, and cook covered 20 minutes for white rice, 40-50 minutes for brown rice.