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Posted on Sat, Aug 1, 2009 : 8 a.m.

"You Should Only Be Happy" ... transforming jambalaya

By Mary Bilyeu

Thumbnail image for Bilyeu "You Should Only Be Happy" Stone
Yesterday was a fabulous afternoon at our house! I had planned to write about a small prize I won for a spice cookie, and about an entry into a jambalaya contest. But I have to start with band news: 90 Miles From Vegas is playing at the Blind Pig again on Wednesday, August 5 @ 10 p.m. -- a paid gig, this time, rather than just showcasing a new band! $5 at the door, everyone is invited!!!

Now on to the rest of my post ... and thank you for indulging a proud mom!

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The Pillsbury Bake-Off isn't the only cooking contest around, though it is by far the biggest and the richest. There are dozens and dozens of national, regional, and local contests to be found on the cooking contest site I'm a member of, And I try to enter as many as I can, time and inspiration permitting.

I found out on Friday afternoon -- via a personal email from "Sister" Lian, no less! -- that I am one of the weekly winners in a contest sponsored by the Satellite Sisters show and Oregon Chai; my Chai-Glazed Molasses Cookies were selected as a "favorite treat to accompany a nice tall Oregon Chai latte or delicious Iced Oregon Chai." My prize is small, but greatly anticipated: free samples of Oregon Chai ... yay!!! As contesters always say, "a win is a win!"

So fresh off the week-ending glow of my own good news and Jeremy's GREAT news, I am aiming for a bigger prize in a different contest -- the Zatarain's Jambalaya Throwdown, with a grand prize of $2500. The challenge is to "Start your original recipe with Zatarian's New Orleans Style Jambalaya Mix and see where it takes you." Well, it took me to some sort of weird hybrid of New Orleans and New York!

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I prepared the jambalaya rice mix according to the package directions, but then stirred in some eggs and some potato starch to make a batter. Some hot oil, some sizzling, and I fried up the jambalaya mix to make latkes (fried "pancakes") ... sigh. (Somewhere in my DNA, despite those 13 years of Catholic school, I think I have some bubbe or some yenta!) Topped off with kale, spinach and peppers (most, if not all, of which should now be available in home gardens and at the Farmers Market), it's an easy and colorful meal to invoke the memory of jambalaya, but with a bit of a twist ....

Jambalaya Latkes with Peppers and Greens

2-1/2 cups water 5 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided 1 8-ounce box Zatarain’s Jambalaya Mix 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes 1 small red pepper, quartered, sliced thin 1 small yellow pepper, quartered, sliced thin 1 small red onion, halved, sliced thin 2 large garlic cloves, minced 3 cups torn kale leaves 3 cups torn spinach leaves 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt 1/4 cup potato starch 3 eggs

Bring water and 1 tablespoon oil to a boil in a 2-1/2 quart saucepan; stir in jambalaya mix, cover saucepan, and turn heat to simmer. Cook for 25 minutes, then remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes. Place rice into a large mixing bowl and let cool for 15 minutes.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 10” skillet over medium-high heat, and add Tabasco and red pepper flakes. Add red and yellow peppers, onion and garlic; sauté 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until vegetables have softened. Add kale, spinach, and salt; sauté for 2 minutes. Turn heat to low, cover, and steam vegetables for 5 minutes. Remove cover and sauté 2 more minutes.

Add potato starch to prepared rice, then stir in eggs one at a time. Heat remaining oil in another 10” skillet over medium-high heat. Scoop 1/3-cupfuls of the jambalaya mixture into the pan, flattening slightly. Cook 3 minutes per side, until latkes are golden brown.

Place the latkes onto a serving platter, and top with the greens and peppers. Serve hot.

Serves 4.

Mary Bilyeu has won or placed in more than 50 cooking contests, and writes about her adventures as she tries to win prizes, feeds hungry teenagers and other loved ones, and generally just has fun in the kitchen. The phrase "You Should Always Be Happy" (written in Hebrew on the stone pictured next to the blog's title) comes from Deuteronomy 16:15, and is a wish for all her readers as they cook along with her ... may you always be happy here!