While my head was somewhat preoccupied with politics yesterday, I did have a nice Fourth of July.
This was my baby Isabella’s first. She got to go over to Maia’s family’s house for a pool party and hang with all her aunts, cousins, grandparents and friends. She was one popular baby, and has taken well to wading in the pool.
Lord we cooked up enough food for a small army. Dennis slow smoked a bunch of ribs, Maia’s dad did some pulled pork, and I fixed a tangy batch of RT’s pasta jambalaya.
This is a different take on the traditional rice-based jambalaya, one I ran across when living in Washington, DC.
Ever since first going to New Orleans on spring break in 1989, I’ve had a passion and love for Cajun and Creole cuisine. When I moved to Washington in 1991, I started scouring the restaurant scene in hopes of finding at least passable New Orleans-type fare.
It was mostly miss until I found RT’s in Alexandria, VA.
The big mistake most restaurants make when trying pull off New Orleans food is they downplay the spices, often to appease blander palates. This never works out well.
RT’s had just the right mix. It was Cajun, Creole, with a bit of low country South Carolina mixed in for good measure.
They serve an amazing She Crab Soup, with a splash of sherry. Order extra bread for dipping, you’ll thank me.
The crawfish and shrimp beignets are amazing; there are plenty of po-boys available, along with crawfish ettouffee, red beans and rice, and a crab and crawfish stuffed Flounder, topped with crab butter cream sauce.
Now that will get you to push back from the table with a full belly and say, “Ooh-Wee that was mighty fine!”
RT’s popularity exploded in 1992 once Bill Clinton took office. It became a featured restaurant throughout his eight years, and that tradition continues today.
The pasta jambalaya I made was a contemporary take on the original version. By substituting penne pasta, it totally re-invents the texture and gives it a lighter quality.
First you saute minced garlic, scallions, diced green peppers/red peppers, chopped onion and tomato in unsalted butter.
Then cook thin strips of chicken breast, sliced andouille sausage, roast pork or tasso ham and shrimp.
The juices from the critter mix with the butter and vegetables to start the foundation of the sauce; then add salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, white pepper, thyme, oregano, and smoked paprika.
Pour in a cup of chicken stock, with a tablespoon of tomato paste and bring to a boil. Cook this down till it thickens, then remove from heat to let it set.
Finish with two tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley and toss with penne pasta and you have an excellent New Orleans dish.
I recommend adding a couple tablespoons of Frank’s hot sauce for kick as well.
Happily I made it back home last night with a half batch still remaining.
We left the pool party around 8:00 p.m., and returned to Frankfort, where my friend Monty was having folks over for a cookout.
We were not in need of food, but there was a good group of folks to visit with.
Monty’s dad Guy, and Matt’s dad Donny are a real hoot!
They’ve known each other since the 3rd grade, and went into the military together way back when, went to airborne school together and jumped together. You could say they’ve seen a few wild times along the way, usually involving one or both of them.
It’s a pleasure to see their friendship.
Monty lives across from the Capitol and if you walk behind the Annex, there is a great view of the fireworks.
We all wondered that way with drinks and watched the show.
Isabella was a champ. Considering she had been held by like 19 people at the pool party and now was back out in 90 degree heat with more new people up in her grill, she never complained once and didn’t flinch at the firework noise.
All-in-all this was a good day. Happy Fourth of July everyone!