Super Jambalaya for the Big Game

I often tell people I was born with hot sauce in my veins and wrapped in a New Orleans Saints blanket. That's because I was born and raised in Louisiana, where food and football go hand in hand. After moving to Columbus in 2009, it didn't take me long to realize food and football are held in the same regard here.

Whether tailgating at The 'Shoe or gathering to watch the big game on TV, a couple of things are certain - you are going to have fun and eat well. Unless of course, you were a grown man this time last year, huddled in a recliner and grasping a pillow like a 7 year old watching a scary movie, as your favorite team - the one you thought you'd never see play in a Super Bowl - became NFL Wad Champions.

What!? C'mon, I was nervous watching my Saints win the Big Game last year.

Even with Big 10 vs. SEC debates, we have made some really great friends that we enjoy hosting to watch football. So when a game is on, there is food to be had.

For an easy kick-off, The Big Easy is an appetizer recipe that has followed me from Louisiana. Simple enough for the kids to make on their own, it's usually gone before halftime. When it comes to main dishes, I like to keep it simple and easy as well. Nothing accomplishes that better than a good, one-pot Jambalaya.

Jambalaya is a comfort food staple in Louisiana and everyone I've served it to north of the Mason-Dixon Line has wondered aloud, "With the winter cold here, why in the world don't we cook this delicious dish?"

The dish is so dense it maintains heat within the pot, so halftime seconds can usually be had without having to reheat. I serve it with garlic French bread (and a good malt-based brew is a great way for the adults to wash it down).

Our children like to pick out the "green things" and eat just the "chicken rice" part. However, we have the pickiest kids on the planet who also like to eat the raw peppers with cheese and crackers. And cheese.

And when not in the kitchen, our children love making signs for the big game that read "Geaux LSU" or "Geaux Saints." Geaux (pronounced "go"), you ask? It's a Cajun thing, just like the Jambalaya.

CHICKEN AND SAUSAGE JAMBALAYA WITH FRENCH BREAD

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 stick of butter 2 lbs of boneless chicken 1-1/2 pounds of andouille sausage 2 nice sized onions 2 bell peppers (cooks choice of color) 5 stalks of celery 3 cups of long grain rice 4 cups of chicken broth 1 3/4 cups of water 2 cloves of garlic 3 bay leaves 3 teaspoons of Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning 2 teaspoons of ground cumin 1 teaspoon of black pepper (or to taste) A bottle of hot sauce (allow individuals to add their own heat) A good loaf of French bread, plus butter and garlic salt to taste Kids: Rinse and dry all produce.
Grownup: Chop and dice up all produce and meats into bite-size pieces.
Kids: Prepare The Big Easy (see above).
Grownup: In an 8-quart stockpot, melt butter over a medium fire, then add chopped chicken. Once exterior of chicken is white, add sausage and allow to heat a few minutes.
Kids: Measure out all spices and add to the pot.
Grownup: Add all diced produce on top of meats. Cook for 8 minutes. Do NOT stir!
Kids: Measure out rice, into a separate bowl. Measure the water and broth into another bowl.
Grownup: Stir the cooking pot, cooking for another few minutes. Veggies should be getting soft and wonderful juices should combine in pot.
Kids: Add rice to pot.
Grownup: Stir rice into mix and raise fire to high. Add all the broth and water. Bring to a boil while stirring, not allowing rice to stick to bottom of pot. Once boiling, cover and reduce fire to a low simmer. Allow to cook for 20 minutes, stirring only occasionally to avoid sticking to bottom of pot.
Kids and Grownup: Slice French bread lengthwise, butter and gently sprinkle with garlic salt. Fold back into a whole loaf, put in a warm oven (about 325 degrees) long enough to make the outside crust nice and crispy.
Grownup: Once rice has cooked, remove from heat, stir pot and let it sit with the lid off for a few minutes before serving with sliced French bread.

THE BIG EASY

INGREDIENTS:
1 block of cream cheese (softened to room temperature) 1 small jar of orange marmalade 1 bottle of Pickapeppa Sauce crackers Where to buy ingredients:
You can find Pickapeppa Sauce with the barbecue sauces and marinades in supermarkets like Kroger and Meijer, and Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning in the spice aisle. They also can be purchased online at pickapeppa.com and at shop.tonychachere.com.


DIRECTIONS
Kids: Place softened block of cream cheese in a shallow serving dish. Spoon the orange marmalade over the cream cheese. Pour Pickapeppa Sauce over the orange marmalade. Serve as a spread with your favorite crackers.