PHOTO GALLERY: EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL

My girl Shaina and I go way back — we’ve been friends for about 17 years — and every so often we plan a fun girls’ weekend together. This year we ate and drank our way around the world at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival in Orlando, Florida. Everything was fantastic — from the weather and cocktails to the friendly people and live bands we encountered. Here are a few of our favorite festival bites.

 

My Top 5 Bites at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival (described in 3 words)!

 

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#5 — Braised Beef “Stroganoff”: Silky. Meaty. Noodles.
at The Cheese Studio

 

 

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#4 — Schinkennudeln: Cheesy. Ham. Pasta.
in Germany

 

 

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#3 — Wasabi Shumai Steamed Pork Dumplings: Tender. Tangy. Spicy.
in Japan

 

 

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#2 — New England Lobster Roll: Fresh. Buttery. Succulent.
at Hops & Barley

 

 

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#1 — Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon: Truffle. Butter. Sauce.
in Canada

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Born on the Bayou: Cajun Brown Jambalaya

In November 1984 I was born along the Bayou Teche in the tiny town of New Iberia, Louisiana. Since then my love for Cajun cooking has flourished. You might remember my recipe for Mardi Gras Jambalaya that I posted a while back. It was my go-to recipe for the New Orleans version (see: tomatoes) of the Louisiana rice dish.

But recently I’ve had a hankering for the brown Cajun-style jambalaya, and after a lengthy search, including asking my family and New Iberia locals on Facebook, I pulled together this fantastic recipe. One of the key components is the “gravy” made from browning the meats (be sure not to let it burn!) and I love how the parboiled rice is a bit fluffier than some wetter jambalayas you’ll find.

This recipe was an instant hit with my husband, who claims it’s the best jambalaya he’s ever had (aw, he’s so sweet). I’m not sure I’d go that far, but it’s certainly the best jambalaya I’ve made in my home kitchen.

 

 

Cajun Jambalaya
Serves 10-12

Ingredients
1.5 pounds andouille sausage, sliced
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into large pieces
1 (8-10 ounce) ham steak, cubed
2 large onions, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups chicken broth
2.5 cups parboiled long grain rice
¾ tablespoon whole fresh thyme leaves
¾ tablespoon fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon curly parsley, chopped
1.5 tablespoons Cajun seasoning, or to taste (I use Tony Chachere’s)
Chopped green onions, for garnish

 

Directions
In a large cast iron or heavy bottom pot, cook sausage and ham over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly so it doesn’t stick on the bottom. (You may need to add a small amount of water if it sticks too much.) Take meat out, set aside.

Brown onions, bell pepper, celery and garlic in the pot over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until soft. Add chicken pieces and brown on all sides for about 10 minutes. Add sausage and ham back into the pot and add chicken broth. Simmer this mixture over medium-low heat for 30 minutes.

Then add herbs and Cajun seasoning, mix well. Add rice and stir well for a minute or two to make sure it doesn’t stick on the bottom. Cover with a lid, turn down the heat as low as possible and simmer for 25-35 minutes until rice is cooked and liquid is absorbed. Turn heat off and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before fluffing. Garnish with green onions before serving.

PHOTO GALLERY: Eating Our Way Through Asheville

 

My Top 5 Bites in Asheville (described in 3 words)!

This year on Fourth of July weekend we traded Florida beaches for Blue Ridge scenery in Asheville, North Carolina. We couldn’t get enough of the cool mountain temps, southern barbecue and farm-to-table eats.

 

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#5 — Hummingbird Cake: Sweet. Moist. Sugar.
at Early Girl Eatery in Downtown Asheville

 

 

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#4 — Smoked Trout Spread: Spicy. Creamy. Addictive.
at Edison Craft Ales + Kitchen in Omni Grove Park Inn

 

 

 

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#3 — BBQ Sandwich: Meaty. Vinegary. Authentic.
at Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge in Shelby, NC

 

 

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#2 — Cheerwine Float: Sweet. Cold. American.
at Cook Out in Lincolnton, NC

 

 

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#1 — Shoo Mercy Omelet: Southern. Cheesy. Stuffed.
at Tupelo Honey Café in South Asheville