As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, in Jakarta it is indeed more economical to buy ready-to-eat food at your nearby street vendors or restaurants compared to cook everything yourself. Consequently, I’ve been cooking way less since we moved. Daily home-made dinners and bento boxes are no more. Even so, I try to treat Sean once in a while because I know he loves my cooking and has been pampered with customized comfort meals for way too long to just go cold turkey. I hustle and bustle in the kitchen every other weekday or weekend.
Cooking in the weekend means family dinner. It also means I have to find a dish that will please Sean’s as well as my parents’ palate. This can be challenging as my parents are not very adventurous about food. They have what we call the “Indonesian tongue.” A meal should ideally consist of rice. Pasta is an option as long as it’s spaghetti Bolognese, the bastardized version of tagliatelle al ragu that contains ketchup and chili sauce to create that sweet-spicy flavor profile that us Indonesians love so much. Anything that contains pork and/or alcohol is a no no for my Dad.
These restrictions inspire me to create a blog series about my attempt to find the middle ground among these different food preferences. My first effort with pesto pasta ended up with a positively funny response from my parents, thus this dish has been added to our potential weekend family dinner menu.
Tonight I conducted a second trial by making Cajun risotto with shrimp and sausage. Cajun food originates from the state of Lousiana in the USA. I fell in love with its rich, hearty flavor during my trip to New Orleans. I’ve always thought Cajun food is similar to Indonesian food in the sense that the it is very well seasoned even though it’s not spicy. I’ve made this particular dish several times in the US and it is one of my favorites. Plus, I thought the rice element of this dish would be perfect for my parents’ diet.
Behold, the Cajun risotto.
I like to make my own Cajun spice mix because it tastes so much better compared to the store bought stuff. Besides, I don’t think I can find the spice mix in our local supermarkets anyway. I had to omit the white wine from the original recipe and instead mix in the juice of half of a lemon for acidity. The usual andouille sausage was substituted with black pepper beef sausage. The arborio rice can be bought online. I know, I know, the price is staggering. We just got back from Davis and piled on all the food stuff that is hard to find in Jakarta like there’s no tomorrow, so it’s not a problem for us now, moahahahah!!
My Dad came to the kitchen when Sean and I were stirring the rice. As he was leaving to his room, I overheard him telling my Mom that it smelled yummy. A good sign.
The verdict? They weren’t too enthusiastic in the beginning. They thought it looked like congee and would be perfect for the rainy wheather or for when they have a cold. Flavor wise, they liked it, but couldn’t put their finger on what they were actually eating. It’s the shrimp and sausage combo that won them over. Both my Mom and Dad said they would eat it again, but they still preferred my spaghetti Bolognese.
I’m including the recipe here in case you want to give it a try. It’s good for 5-6 generous servings and takes about 40 minutes to make.
Cajun spice mix:
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
2 ½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 ¼ tsp dried oregano
1 ¼ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp red pepper flakes or Bonchili
Half of a medium size yellow onion, chopped
Half of a red bellpepper, chopped
16 deveined shrimp
2 black pepper beef sausage, cut into diagonal slices
2 cups arborio rice
2 chicken bouillion cubes dissolved in 10-12 cups of hot water
In an ideal world, one cup of white wine (preferrably Sauvignon Blanc)
Juice from half a lemon
Chopped parsley (fresh or dried)
- In a deep frying pan or pot, sautee the onion with olive oil and a tbsp of butter until translucent.
- Throw in the rice and bell pepper and stir, make sure the rice grains are coated in oil and butter mixture. Stir around for about 5 minutes to toast the rice.
- In an ideal world, add in one cup of white wine and stir until the liquid is reduced. Sniff the pot if you don’t like to waste alcohol. Omit this step if you can’t have alcohol.
- Add in two laddles of hot bouillion and stir until the liquid is reduced. Add in 2 tbsp Cajun spice mix and two more laddles or bouillion and stir until the liquid is reduced. Repeat adding the bouillion mix and stirring until the rice is al dente. This means no longer crunchy in the middle. The key is to let the liquid reduce slowly to achieve that silky starchy sauce. You need extra patience for this step and a willing assistant to take your place when you get tired of stirring.
- When you think the rice is close to your desired texture, add in the sausage, shrimp and lemon juice. The shrimp should only need 1-2 minutes to cook.
- Don’t forget to taste, taste, taste! Add more bouillion or salt if necessary. Stir in ¼ cup of grated parmesan for extra oomph.
- Like Tom Colicchio said, a proper risotto should not mound on your plate, but they should be creamy enough to spread on its own. In case of mounding, stir in 1-2 more laddle of bouillion water.
- Garnish with parsley and enjoy!