Powers, our 20-month-old daughter, refuses to let us extend her stroller’s sun/rain cover above her head. She takes any attempt to do so as a solid insult and makes sure the aggressor understands her displeasure by kicking furiously, screaming “NO! NO! NO!” and finally reaching up, twisting her body around and slamming the nylon cover shut. She then glances briefly at the person pushing her, twists back to facing forward and sticks her thumb resolutely in her mouth.
This was frustrating in New Orleans where the sun burns bright and sears her to a perfect medium during short neighborhood walks but in London the implications are even worse. We run all errands on foot and it is not uncommon to have a little rain spritz at any point during the day, even during otherwise beautiful weather (perhaps you’ve heard that rumor). As the rain falls down on and around us she remains ignorant of my anxiety and insists that we press on, with no cover on our heads, continuing to chat to anyone we pass on the street. I, meanwhile, have my eyes steadfastly focused ahead of us ignoring the gazes of nannies, shopkeepers, moms and teens who look at us in a melange of bewilderment and scorn. I can hear their thoughts — they all sound like Mrs. Carson (née Hughes) from Downton Abbey — “That child needs to be properly covered up in this damp London weather. She is going to catch her death that way. What is wrong with her mother?”And because she never – NEVER – wants her cover extended, even when it will save me humiliation and her from freezing cold rain, I often stash things in the pouch created by the fabric of the closed cover in order to make them easy to grab. It isn’t the safest move but really, who is going to take an iPhone from a baby? C’mon.
In any case, on Friday I was visiting Borough Market with Simone Hawlisch and my husband and while foraging through multi-colored cauliflower and artichokes as big as my head I heard a delightful “AHHH! HAHAHA!” and saw that Powers had, for the first time ever, fully extended her sun/rain cover all by herself and was cracking up at the result. As she giggled and kicked, a group of market-goers, phones glued to their hands, grabbed my attention and pointed to the ground where my iPhone lay. Face down. Lifeless. Alone. It seemed that Powers’s extension of the stroller cover had launched my phone into the air where it twirled gracefully a few times before landing with a crash onto the grungy concrete floor of the semi-outdoor market. *Slap* she went on to close the cover. *Smack* she went on to extend it fully. Open. Closed. Open. Closed. Amazing. “Mommie! Did you know this thing could do tricks?” And she was oblivious to me picking up my phone and noting the striped screen of death. I stood there slowly letting it all sink in. Photographs gone. No insurance. 21-months left on my plan. The time, that I don’t have, that it will inevitably take to sort this all out. And in the background: OPEN. CLOSE. OPEN. CLOSE. HAHAHAHA!
When you suffer great personal tragedy there is little that feels as good as a comfortable, recognizable, feast. Something that has no chance to disappoint. Something that comes together as if by magic. Something that your hands are trained to do with very little interaction by your already engaged brain.
And anytime that category opens up, I head straight to food from Louisiana. Though there is no flounder to be found in Central London, crawfish are available only at Harrod’s, and a request for Tony Chachere’s or Zatarain’s products will get you little more than blank stares, it is not a completely lost cause. Gorgeous, large shrimp can still be found if only at Whole Foods (and you thought Whole Foods in the US was expensive? OH MY GAAAAAAWD…..). And Ocado, my grocery delivery elves, carry the best French smoked sausage I’ve had outside of Louisiana. That plus the trinity (onion, celery, bell peppers) is all I need to get Louisiana right here into my dining room.
Jambalaya pasta is an inauthentic but standard yuppie Cajun dish. That’s a mouthful, I know, but you have to understand families have gone to war over the authenticity of Cajun or Creole dishes. With Jambalaya Pasta you have to know what you are getting…a silky, spicy, bastardization of all things good south of Interstate 10 in Louisiana. All of the ingredients of Jambalaya come together and are mixed up with the addition of a little white wine, some chicken stock and cream. Then tossed with curly pasta. Your house fills with the aroma of bell pepper, celery and onions sweating in butter and the sweet woody smell of smoked sausage. It is a quick dish to make – is great for dinner parties or just Monday night at home and it can be cooked in steps with the mixture completely cooked in advance and then tossed with pasta at the moment you are ready to serve.
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- 200 g smoked sausage, cut into bite-size pieces
- 250 g chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
- 250 g raw shrimp, cleaned and butterflied (vein removed)
- 1 tablespoon of Cajun seasoning, like Tony Chachere's
- 150 ml chicken stock
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 small white onion
- 1 small green bell pepper
- 1 small red bell pepper
- 150ml of heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons of Parmesean cheese
- 500 grams fusilli pasta, cooked
- 1 cup of reserved pasta water
- Parmesan cheese for grating on top
- 2 green onions, green part only, chopped fine
- Place a large saute pan over medium heat. Once it is warm add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. After about 15 seconds add the sausage. Cook, stirring only occasionally, for about 4 minutes until the sausage is browning on the outside of many pieces but it isn't fully cooked through. Then add the chopped up chicken breast. Sprinkle the cajun seasoning over the chicken and then cook, stirring occasionally, for about 7 minutes until the chicken is about cooked through. Add the white wine and stock and scrape up any bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes until the shrimp are opaque. Scrape the entire mixture out of the pan and into a bowl. Set aside.
- Turn the heat up to medium-high and add a tablespoon of butter. Then add the onion, and bell peppers. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft. Add one chopped green onion then return the shrimp + chicken + sausage + sauce mixture back to the pan. Add the heavy cream and parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
- Add the cooked pasta in in portions to make sure you don't end up with too much pasta and not enough sauce. Add half of your supply, gently folding it into the jambalaya mixture. If there is enough sauce to warrant adding more pasta then add more a handful at a time. Stop when you have the covering you desire. Add a splash of the reserved pasta water to help coat the pasta or to thin out the sauce if necessary.
- Scoop into warm shallow bowls and top with chopped green onions and grated Parmesan cheese.