My friends and I do this thing where one of us hosts a dinner for everyone else every Tuesday night.
And this week, it’s my turn.
I’ll be making Johnbalaya for everyone.
That’s jambalaya made by me. John.
— Two boxes of Zatarain’s Family Size Jambalaya Mix
— Four pounds of smoked sausage
— 1.75 pounds of shrimp
— 1.5 pounds of chicken
— garlic and anything else I’m inspired to toss in as it simmers
And on the side, squash and zucchini fried in garlic and olive oil.
(That’s for seven adults. Oliver’s only 2, so I’ll make some chicken nuggets for him.)
(Unless he wants to tackle a bowl of jambalaya. I think he could do it.)
I’ve never made this much at one time. The last time I made a large amount, it took everything I had just to keep it from oozing out over the sides of the largest pot I’ve got, which isn’t really that large at all.
So last night, in addition to my supplies, I bought a 22-quart stainless steel stockpot. That’s probably a few quarts too many, but the 22-quart one was only $3 more than the 16-quart one, and I’m all about the big value.
As I was checking out, the man at the register (who looked like Santa Claus but with a dirtier beard) took several seconds to regard the first box of Zatarain’s before he dropped it in the bag.
“Do you use sausage or shrimp?”
I hope I didn’t sound too incredulous when I said, “Both. It’s gotta be both. Sometimes chicken, too.”
“Really? I’ve ever tried it with chicken. I just use sausage or shrimp.”
“Chicken is tricky. You have to put in just enough to justify using it in the first place, but not so much that it takes away from everything else.”
“Huh,” he replied thoughtfully, as he kept ringing up my stuff.
Then, after a long pause, he asked, “I wonder how it would be with gator?”
“Not sure. Probably pretty good. They’ve got good gator over at Joe’s OK Bayou on Charlestown Road, in that little strip in front of the movie theater and Meijer.”
“Oh, you mean in front of Meijer?”
“Yes,” I said, even though I’d just said that. I’d really wanted to give him a Gob Bluth “COME ON!”
“Do you think Joe’s Crab Shack would have gator?”
“Don’t know,” I said. “Never eaten there. Heard it’s not good for how expensive it is.”
The exchange reminded me of the last time I had a conversation with strangers in a Wal-Mart line. It was August of 2006, and new albums by Nina Gordon and the Gin Blossoms came out on the same day. I called Wal-Mart and asked the guy in the music department if he’d sell them to me after midnight that night.
So I got my CDs and I was in the checkout line at the front of the store. The woman in front of me had a cart that was overflowing with groceries. She very thoughtfully said, “Oh, please go ahead of me. You’ve only got two things and I bought half the store.”
“That’s very sweet,” I said. “Thank you very much.”
So I walked around her straining cart.
There was a strange man in front of her. He didn’t look strange, but he had that kind of look in his eye that if you could get a glimpse inside his mind, you’d see squirrels juggling knives.
“You can go in front of me, too,” he said, holding up his own two items. “It’s going to be a long night.”
His two items were a box of Ex-Lax and a Jimmy Buffett concert DVD.
I’ll add an update about the night’s feast-tivities at the end of this post tomorrow, assuming my heart survives all that sausage.
At the last minute, more than half of my guests had to cancel. So it was just me and Melissa and Mike. I made one box of jambalaya and just two pounds of sausage, and half of the chicken, but I used ALL of the shrimp AND a can of clams. Delicious. And Melissa made the most amazing carmelita for dessert (along with homemade garlic bread to go with the meal). Thanks so much for a lovely evening of eating and laughter, guys.