It is hard to imagine that tiny bald two month old baby is going to be 14 years old this week and his finger licking sister will go on her first official college visit in just two weeks. How time flies.
Polish donuts known as Paczki are flying off the shelves of local Chicago bakeries today. The deep fried bites filled with an assortment of jams or custards are a celebration of Chicago's vibrant Polish community.
I am lucky I got my hands on a few of these sweets for my sweeties around 11am today; lines at Polish bakeries had lines out the door at 4am!
After loving on some chicken and coaxing the skin into my signature cracklin' garnish...
I turned my attention to pickled pork, smoked Andouille and a holy trinity of vegetables. I said a few prayers over my rice before I turned out a big ole' batch of Jambalaya. I felt pretty good about the flavor, but was it worthy of a big win at the best of the best Jambalaya cook-off? Only time would tell.
Mel's Andouille, Pickled Pork, Chicken Thigh and Crawfish Jambalaya with Micro Scallions, Chicken Skin Cracklin' and Praise Worthy Parsley*.
My hardworking friend Patty came along to help serve the hungry crowd and we were out of jambalaya in under 20 minutes! It is always such fun to hang out among the competitors throughout the evening; considering everyone entered last night had won this contest at least once before the vibe behind the table was relaxed, confident and fun-loving.
At the end of the day there could be only one winner-the best of the best from 20 years worth of FitzGerald's Jambalaya Cook-Off Winners. There was no award for second place.
One trophy and all the bragging rights were on the line.
Oops I did it again!
Anyone who knows me even a little understands I always play to win; I am not saying it is my best trait, but man-o-man do I like it when playing to win works out like this.
What a fun night.
*Praise worthy parsley and micro scallions come from my friends at Urban Till; and yes, they were two of my best secret weapons!
There are few things I've done in my life that have produced more anxiety than entering FitzGerald's Jambalya cook-off in 2011. It was an incredibly fun night, but I am so competitive that I became unbearably crabby in the days preceding the contest. FitzGerald's 20th Jambalaya Cook-Off is going to be a grand-finale of sorts. They are swapping the Lundi Gras competition dish to gumbo next year, but the folks at FitzGerald's wanted to be sure to close out the Jambalaya tradition in style. Honoring the end of this two decade tradition apparently means inviting ten past cook-off winners back to compete head to head.
Needless to say my blood pressure is on the rise! If you want to see how this wicked assortment of ingredients comes together buy a ticket and stop by FitzGerald's tomorrow night. I am a long shot to win against the Jambalaya greats so I am approaching this contest with a focus on quality ingredients and a genuine sense of fun.
Thanks to Facebook, I found out one of my favorite families had an honest to goodness hankering for some fish tacos and guacamole. Rather than send them out to a restaurant I invited the happy trio to our house for a fish taco fiesta!
I make really fine fish tacos if I so say so myself. They highlight simple fresh ingredients like cabbage, radishes and mango to create a lovely foil for crispy cod and smokey chipotle aioli. Seriously, YUM.
In a truly uncharacteristic kitchen act I baked a cake to finish our meal! I have always been a fan of Tres Leches cake and this version was a total hit; educating little Kas about evil maraschino cherries was a total delight! Go on...make one for your next fiesta.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9x13 pan with non-stick spray. In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Separate the eggs. Beat the yolks and 3/4 Cup sugar until light yellow and thickened. Add add the vanilla and milk and beat until combined. Pour the yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir to combine. Whip the egg whites until the hold soft peaks. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 Cup of sugar with the machine running and continue whipping until stiff, but not dry. Fold the egg whites into the cake batter and pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes until a pick comes out clean. Invert the cake onto a rimmed platter and allow to cool completely. Combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream in a pitcher. Prick the cake all over with the tines of a fork and pour the three milks evenly over the cake. Allow to soak for 30 minutes. Whip the cream and sugar until thick and spreadable. Frost the top of the cake and garnish each slice with maraschino cherry.
With a belly full of cake our youngest dinner guest was ready for some stories and sweet dreams. Seeing these three cuddle up like this is too cute for words.
After the week we had it seemed only fitting to fill our week-end with cozy foods and warming conversations. There is nothing like the healing power of beef stew and freshly baked bread in my book and enjoying this hearty winter meal at the family table was good for both body and soul.