Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Italian Jambalaya

I realize it's been a long time since I've posted a new recipe, but that's only because I want to provide you with only the best of my work (and I'm just not much of a summer cook...let's just say I've ODed on BBQ food).  Luckily I got my groove back when I had some leftovers from our (FINAL) cookout that I needed to use up.  We had some Italian sausage and chicken breast left over from Labor Day, so I decided to come up with something creative to rid my refrigerator of all of it at once and get B and I through most of the week.  I originally wanted to make jambalaya, but B insisted he hates jambalaya (I'm calling his bluff on that, by the way) and insisted I throw everything together with some pasta and marinara sauce, which I am very tired of at the moment.  Rather than overruling him and being a culinary dictator (even though I was the one doing all the work), I decided to be creative and come up with a compromise that incorporated both of our ideas.  I came with an Italian-style "jambalaya," with orzo subbing in for rice and the tomato base filling B's request for a red sauce.  I have to say I was quite pleased with 1- my ingenuity and 2- my benevolence.  Hey, I could have totally overruled him and made him eat whatever I cooked.  Instead I took the high road.  I'm going to be such a good wife!  (BTW, I feel like a giggly teenage girl referring to myself as a future wife...wonder when the reality of that is actually going to kick in?)  Anyway, I hope you enjoy the result of my good wife-practicing exercise, I know I did!  (B secretly did too, even though he won't admit it and insists he still would have rather had boring old pasta and red sauce...someone's going to have to clue him in on the "tell your wife whatever she makes you is delicious so you don't starve" rule before we get married).   

Italian Jambalaya
Makes 6-8 servings
extra virgin olive oil
2 chicken breasts, cubed
2 Italian sausages, cut into bite size rounds
2 red bell peppers, bite-size chunks
1 green bell pepper, bite-size chunks
1 vidalia onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes and juice
1/2 tsp each of oregano, basil, salt, pepper, thyme, parsley
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 box orzo

Begin by heating about 1/4 cup of EVOO in a dutch oven pan on medium to medium-high heat.  Brown the chicken and sausage, then remove from pan and set aside.  Saute the peppers and onion in the pan, adding a little more oil if the pan is dry.  Saute until onions are translucent, then add in the garlic and herbs and reduce heat to medium.  Saute for a few minutes, then add in the chicken, sausage, tomatoes, chicken broth, and white wine.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover, cook for at least an hour.  About half an hour before serving, cook the orzo according to the directions on the box.  Drain, then add to the jambalaya.  It's best to let it cook for a few more minutes so the orzo absorbs the flavor of the sauce.  Remove from heat and serve with a crusty bread and top with fresh Parmesan cheese if desired. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Restaurant Review: Oceanaire

It's been awhile since I've done a restaurant review, mainly because I'm saving money for the wedding and therefore had to cut back on fun things like dining out and shopping (sad, I know). I finally got to enjoy a nice lunch when I went out with a few friends to Oceanaire. I'd never been there before, so I was excited to try it. I'm not a big seafood person- I usually choose steak or Italian over a seafood place- but what better way to mark the end of summer than with a great seafood dish?

 I'd heard good things about Oceanaire before, and it didn't disappoint. The food was phenominal. While the restaurant is a little stuffy (lots of suits), the food and service made up for it. Definitely a power lunch spot and a place to impress. Now, onto the most important review- the food. We started off with a few appetizers for the table: calamari, crab cakes, and oysters rockefeller. All were delish- the calamari had a great red pepper sauce with it, and the crab cakes were the best I've ever had- huge chunks of crab and not too mayonnaisey. The oysters, however, were the star of the show. I have only had oysters once before, and they were raw and gross. I just can't handle the texture, it makes me want to gag. Needless to say, I was not excited when someone at the table suggested we order them, until they reassured me these oysters were cooked. I figured why not give it a try since I've only had them raw before. I was pleasantly surprised. They were cooked with a little spinach and cheese, and they were superb. I've definitely changed my tune on oysters (cooked ones, anyway).

For the main course, I ordered the sea scallops. They were by far the best scallops I've ever had. I cleaned my plate, and I never do that! They were cooked to perfection, and the buttery sauce was to die for. My only complaint is that sides are served family-style. While I don't mind sharing, I fully believe that to really showcase a dish, it should come with the perfect side to compliment it, and should be served all together on one plate. The family-style side dish thing to me is just a restaurant ploy to charge you more money. $30+ a plate meals should come with a side, I shouldn't be charged extra for a few vegetables. Alright, I'll step off my soap box now that you know how I feel about that...

On to dessert (yes, I had a 3 course lunch, don't judge me). Again, we split a few for the table- a baked Alaska, which I haven't had for years, and creme brulee, one of my all-time favorite desserts. The baked Alaska was interesting, but just not my thing. I'm not big on meringue, which is a major part of the dish, so the effect was kind of lost on me. The creme brulee was great though, not to mention huge! We ordered two for the table, expecting a little ramekin, but got a huge seashell shaped dish that easily fed 2-3 people. Finally, generosity from the restaurant business! Seriously, I can't hide my excitement from big portions at expensive restaurants. It makes me feel justified spending the money on something I can share with another person!

Overall, my impression of Oceanaire was fantastic food, great service, and just an alright atmosphere. It certainly fits it's reputation of being a power lunch spot. I'd be curious to see what it's like after the work day. While I wouldn't recommend it for a date or a get together with friends, if you're looking to impress or are craving great seafood, this fits the bill.