As they used to say in the “old” days, there’s not been much to write home about, unless we talk about the horrible weather or the scouting trip I made with my friend, D.R., this past Monday on a slightly warmer day. We headed south and encountered fog thick as pea soup, and that is no exaggeration. There was zero visibility, and if I had been alone, I would have turned back and gone home. But D.R. The Fearless forged ahead armed with his trusty Garmin GPS. WARNING: GPS not to be used for navigation. My only consolation, and the only thought that kept me from begging him to pull over and wait it out, was that no one else would be as crazy as us and be out trying to fish in these less-than-ideal conditions.
We covered a lot of marsh looking for a speckled trout or red drum that were willing to brave the cooler water temps and come out for a snack of swim bait or gold spoon. We did lots of boat riding, found lots of shallow water caused by the prior days of hard north winds, which blew the water south. Often the depth finder showed 0.0 water beneath the boat, mud spewing out behind the engine as we idled along. We got stuck a couple of times and had to use the push pole, but nothing as bad as the adventure he and I had a few years back on a cold December day, thank goodness.
Our tenacity paid off just as the fog burned off, and we found a dead-end canal full of old cypress stumps and logs on which the trolling motor got hung up multiple times. Fortunately, the reds woke up when the water temps reached about 55 degrees. They had been hunkered down in the mud for days waiting out the cold, so I guess they were pretty hungry. In a matter of about a couple hours, we caught two limits of red fish and two speckled trout. Not too shabby.
The other news on the bayou is that Termite has returned home. Not that I’ve kept you up on all our personal stuff, but he opted not to go to college and left home to spread his wings of independence a little prematurely. Well, everyone deserves a second chance, and I allowed my older three to each come back home once after they had left the nest, so now he’s cashing in his come-back-home-chip.
I guess it comes as no surprise that Termite is following in his father’s and older brothers’ footsteps working as a deckhand on a tugboat–for the same company as his oldest brother, who has been a tugboat “tankerman” for ten years now, since he was 19. His next oldest brother, at 27, is now a full-fledged, licensed tugboat captain. And of course, The Captain was a captain of offshore supply boats his entire adult career. Oh, and wait, I’m a captain, too. Yep, I guess it’s in their blood.
Termite is very proud that he is already working his way up and at the halfway point of becoming a tankerman. He’ll be 19 in March, so if he performs the required number of barge loads and discharges before then, he will be neck and neck with his oldest brother. He informed me a few weeks ago that he is “headed for the wheelhouse”, which means he aims to be a tugboat captain by the time he is 24, and then he will be following in son number two’s footsteps. It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway–I’m very proud of them all.
It’s no secret that lots of men in south Louisiana know how to cook. A friend not familiar with the culture asked me why there were so many men down here that cook, and cook well. It really is the boat culture. Often oil industry captains start out as commercial fishermen. As commercial fishermen, they must learn to cook because they are sometimes gone for weeks at a time. Even smaller skiffs can stay out on the water for several days, necessitating that they learn to cook.
Tugboat crews are no different. Working schedules from one to four weeks at at a time on their vessels requires that at least one person in the crew knows how to do more than make sandwiches. My two oldest sons often text me asking how to cook something, or they refer to the recipes here on the blog. They have spoiled the other crew members with their culinary skills, and again, I am very proud of them.
Termite is also following in their footsteps in this regard. As a younger teen, he spent a lot of time watching Food Network and helping me in the kitchen. He had aspirations of becoming a chef until one of my tour customers who is in the business discouraged him by saying that very few ever make it as top chefs in famous restaurants and that he would probably never make enough money to live on. He slowly gave up the idea but continues to develop his culinary gifts.
Everybody seems to love food posts, and nothing else brings us altogether like food. Heck, even reader Foamheart proudly admits that he spends his time smoking meats, making marmalade, and concocting new cordial and liqueur recipes. Termite was only home two days when he offered to prepare a version of jambalaya he learned from his captain.
Termite invited me into the kitchen to watch him make his jambalaya. Of course, there were no measurements, so the attached recipe is my closest guesstimate of amounts he used in this delicious dish. And yes, it was very, very good.
Not to be confused with a jambalaya with a “red” base, this recipe is what we call a “brown jambalaya” and contains no tomato sauce or Ro-tel tomatoes. You could probably use any combination of the listed meats and seafood or delete any you don’t care for. But I have to admit, it was really very well balanced in flavor, color, and texture. Here’s the recipe, and I hope if you try it, you will let us know how you liked it and whether the measurements were accurate.
- 1 Lb Bacon
- 1 Lb smoked or Andouille sausage cut into rounds, half-rounds or quarters
- 1 Lb small shrimp peeled
- 4 pieces Chicken breasts cut into bite-sized
- 4 Cups rice
- 3 Medium onions chopped fine
- Water amount varies
- 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tbsp Kitchen Bouquet
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 3 tsp Tony Chachere's Cajun Seasoning
- 1 tsp salt if needed
- 1 t quarter cap liquid crab boil optional if you don't have it
- 1 Tbsp bunch fresh parsley chopped fine, or 1 dried parsley
Preheat oven to 350
In large cast iron or Magnalite dutch oven with lid
Fry bacon crispy and set aside on paper towel
Into bacon drippings pour 1/2 cup water and deglaze the pot
Add onions and saute` until clear
Add sausage and lightly brown
Add chicken and shrimp and simmer about 5 minutes
Add a little water if all the water has cooked out at this point
Fold paper towel over bacon, crumble bacon and add to pot
Add all of the above seasonings, cover and simmer together about 10 minutes, stirring often
Add 4 cups of rice and 6 cups of water if you have some liquid already in the pot or 7 cups if you don't.
Stir thoroughly, taste the water for seasoning level. If too bland, add more seasonings to taste. You want the water a little over-seasoned for final flavor
Bring to a boil and stir one last time
Cover and put into 350 degree oven
Bake covered for 30 minutes and DO NOT OPEN lid during the baking time.
Check at end of baking time for water absorption. If too wet, bake another 5 minutes
Remove from oven, set on top of stove, crack the lid and let sit for 5-10 minutes for final absorption.
Gently stir with large spoon, mixing rice with meats before serving
Serve with salad and French bread
This recipe is being added to our family repertoire of bayou recipes as a definite keeper! It is very filling and great on a cold day.
I share this recipe with Termite’s permission, and when I asked if I could use this in a blog post, I’m pretty sure I saw a little smile of pride on his face! Oh, and he insisted on taking the photo of his dish that is posted on the recipe card.
To drier days ahead,