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So fall is upon us. Yes, I know I live in Texas, but for others in the upper fringes of the Northern Hemisphere there are cooler nights and changing leaves and I’m living vicariously through them. And even though I don’t have those things yet, I do have fall allergies and slowly appearing Halloween décor to remind me of the season. Either way, once the clock turns football and I’m dragging my Halloween and Harvest décor from the attic, I’m in a Fall State of Mind. And despite the dreaded seasonal allergies, it really is my favorite season with all of the holidays that I love – My Birthday, Halloween, and Thanksgiving. And Football.

THE CHALLENGE

With the changing season also comes a bit of change in our meals. All of the summer berries, melons, and tomatoes we’ve been feasting on, slowly begin to disappear. The meals get a bit richer and the wines a little heavier. And I’m a sucker for all of the fall squashes and gourds. So when the folks at Louis Jadot wine asked me to participate in their first ever Modern Meals Competition, I was up for the task. All I had to do was create a unique fall recipe that uses either apple, pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes or pears and pair it with a Louis Jadot wine (which they let me choose and sent to me). Not.A.Problem. Since I love Pinot Noir, I chose that and the folks at Louis Jadot graciously sent me a bottle.

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Though I was tempted to use pumpkin (I’m one of those folks that loves the Pumpkin Spice Latte), we are big time sweet potato lovers in our house. The Husband is from South Louisiana, home of the Yambilee Festival. Seriously, look it up! So it was a no brainer for me to use sweet potatoes in my fall recipe. But what to use them for was the question.

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Since, as I mentioned, The Husband is from South Louisiana, I’ve had to learn a lot about Cajun and Creole cooking. And while he could eat gumbo year round (he says that’s what air conditioning is for), I like to reserve that for winter. Jambalaya, on the other hand is what I like to make in my fall “shoulder season.” A little heartier, but not steaming hot gumbo or stew either. I’ve always liked Jambalaya because it’s a pretty versatile dish and can be as expensive or frugal as you make it. I love the classic chicken and shrimp, or chicken and sausage, but have done other variations. Well now was my chance to add sweet potatoes.

Pinot Noir is my first true “wine love” and is my go-to wine when I’m working with various flavors. As I mentioned during Mardi Gras I’m a huge fan of Pig + Pinot. I also really love pork and sweet potatoes together. We are all about the ham and yams (yes I know it’s different) at Thanksgiving. So with a bit of creative thinking, I came up with Harvest Sweet Potato Jambalaya.

THE RECIPE

Ingredients:

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– 2 Onions, chopped (I used 1 white and 1 yellow but you could do whatever combo you like)
– 1 Bell Pepper, chopped (I used ½ green and ½ orange; you can use all of one color but I like seeing all the colors in the dish and the colorful ones add a bit of sweetness)
– 5-6 Cloves of garlic, choped (I never understand when people use 1 or 2 cloves. I can’t taste that!)
– 2 stalks of celery, chopped (it’s part of the “Holy Trinity” so you HAVE to use it)
– 2 large tomatoes chopped (I had red and yellow heirloom tomatoes; and note some people use tomato sauce or canned tomatoes but I like to use fresh ones – it just seems lighter and fresher somehow) (I don’t peel and seed because it’s too much work)

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– 4 sweet potatoes (one for a puree and the rest to roast in the oven)
– 1 lb pork (I like to use boneless country style ribs as they have more marbling and are less prone to dry out)
– 1 lb Andouille or other smoked sausage, sliced (The Husband’s cousin owns a smoked meat shop!)
– Oil
– Bay leaf
– Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning (I used to make my own mixtures of seasoning blends but I’m lazy now and just use this)

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– 2 Cups Uncooked Rice
– 4 Cups Chicken Stock
– 1 Cup Water
– 1 Cup chopped Green Onion (because they go with everything and we grow them year round on our patio)

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Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375˚
2. Peel, cube, and boil 1 sweet potato until soft. Drain, mash with fork, and set aside.

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3. Add about 2 tbsp of oil to your pan and heat really high (I used one pan for everything so make sure it’s big enough)
4. Cube pork, season with Tony Chachere’s, and sear (don’t cook through, just brown); remove pork and drain

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5. Using same pan, add onions, bell pepper, garlic, and celery
6. After about 5 minutes, add the chopped tomatoes and bay leaf and season the entire mixture to taste with more Tony Sachere’s. Continue to cook mixture until the onions wilt and are somewhat translucent

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7. While the mixture is cooking, whisk together 1 Cup of chicken stock with the mashed sweet potato

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8. Add rice to the pan
9. Add in the remaining 3 cups of chicken stock, water, and sweet potato/stock mixture and bring to a boil

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10. Lower heat to simmer
11. Add in cooked pork and sausage
12. Cover and simmer about 25 minutes until water cooks out and rice is tender, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking
13. While rice mixture is cooking, peel and dice the remaining sweet potatoes. Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast for about 25 minutes until soft

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14. Fold roasted sweet potatoes into cooked rice mixture.
15. Stir in green onion.

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16. Serve with wine.

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THE WINE

I loved this recipe for the combination of savory (and a little spice from the seasoning) and the sweetness of the roasted sweet potatoes. It was the ultimate in comfort food but not so heavy as to require you to run around the block. The Louis Jadot Pinot, with its crisp acidity and bright red fruit was the perfect accompaniment to the jambalaya.

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Both food and wine were earthy and comforting. The acidity and refined tannins in the wine really stood up to the rich pork in the dish while the dark cherry and cranberry fruit complemented the sweet potatoes. Cajun, Creole, and French all wrapped into one. A fine match indeed.

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