January is here and we are still dealing with problems from COVID-19. Along with trying to stay safe, entertaining friends is difficult and the prices at the supermarket can be very daunting when you want to prepare a meal for them.

I buy chuck roasts when they are on sale and use recipes that include chicken, ham, or pork that are not as expensive as other meats. Every little bit helps.

I love the melting pot that is American cuisine - a combination of ethnic dishes that enrich our culinary culture. Many remain true to their national origins and bring their roots to the table whenever they are served. Some of the older ones have become so entrenched in the heritage that they have become truly rich and hearty soul-satisfying American recipes. January is a great time to try some of these dishes that reflect the best traditions of regional cooking around the country. They let you casually linger in the kitchen while your stove does the work of scenting your house and preparing your feast. There is nothing like a day in the kitchen – it is a great way to stay safe.

Adobo Pork

A southwestern Native American dish with magnificent color and an irresistible scent. It’s well worth the effort of handling the chili peppers. Make extra ancho chili puree and store it in your refrigerator. It will keep for a long time and you will find many uses for it.

  • 2 cups Ancho chili puree (see below to prepare it)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic - chopped
  • 2 large onions - chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro or parsley
  • 2-4 cups chicken stock – boxed or canned is fine
  • 4 - 5 lbs. cubed fresh pork shoulder or butt

Prepare the Ancho chili puree:

The type of dried chilis you use in this recipe is very important. They should be red-colored and medium hot. I buy dried Ancho chilis. You might have to ask where they are when you are at the store. These peppers are moderately hot and you can usually find them in the specialty section of the supermarket. Be sure not to use the small very hot chiles. You won’t be able to eat the resulting dish.

After finally finding these peppers, discard the stem, break them open and take the seeds out. Take care when handling dried chiles. Even though they are not super hot, they can still burn your eyes and other sensitive areas. Wash your hands well after this step.

Cover the peppers with water in a medium saucepan and simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for about 15 minutes. Puree the mix in a food processor and strain through a sieve. It might take extra water to strain the puree. Add as much water as you need. The result will be a magnificently red chili puree.

Make the Adobo:

Combine all the ingredients except the pork in a large mixing bowl. Place the cubed pork in a deep casserole pan that has been buttered. Pour the adobo mix over the pork and coat it well. If necessary, add more broth or water to cover the pork completely. Cover and place in a 350-degree oven for about 2 hours or until the pork is fork-tender.

The resulting dish is not as hot as it looks and doesn’t need a warning on the label. Serve with buttered cornbread or polenta (for a gluten-free dinner) and a tossed salad.

Kentucky Burgoo

This is a classic American dish. I present a version made with domestic meats but it was traditionally made with games such as rabbit and/or squirrel. I buy chuck and lamb when it is on sale to make this great dish.

  • 3 lb. boneless beef chuck roast (can substitute another cut of beef - even one with bones)
  • 1 lb. of lamb - can be shanks or whatever you have or substitute a ham bone
  • 1 frying chicken cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • black pepper
  • 4-6 quarts water or boxed chicken stock
  • 6 potatoes - peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic - chopped
  • 2 large onions - chopped
  • 1 cup of chopped fresh parsley (useless if it’s dried)
  • 2-3 cups frozen or canned corn
  • 3 carrots - peeled and sliced
  • 10 oz. can diced tomatoes packed in their juice
  • 1-2 cans lima beans - drained
  • 1 green pepper - diced
  • 2 cups okra - diced (frozen is fine if you can’t find fresh)

In a large pan sauté the potatoes, garlic, onions, parsley, corn, carrots, diced tomatoes, lima beans, green pepper, and okra in olive oil until slightly browned. Set aside. Place the beef, lamb, chicken, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper in a large soup pot. Cover with the water or stock and bring to a boil. Let it simmer vigorously for about 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked. Let it cool a bit for ease of handling and strain the stock through a colander. Set the chicken to the side. Remove the bones (if any) from the beef and lamb and cut the meat into medium-sized chunks. Return the strained stock to the pot. Simmer the chunks of beef and lamb in this stock for about 15 minutes or until it is fork-tender. Add the sautéed vegetables to the pot cook for about 10 minutes. Remove the chicken meat from the bones and add to the pot before service.

Serve with cornbread for a traditional meal.

New Orleans Jambalaya

Jambalaya is a complex recipe using lots of ingredients. It certainly makes life in the kitchen interesting when you are making it.

  • 4 cloves garlic – peeled
  • 2 large onions – peeled and chopped
  • 1 bunch scallion – chopped
  • 1 green pepper – chopped
  • 2 red peppers – chopped
  • 4 ribs celery – chopped
  • ¾ lb cured ham cut into small pieces
  • 1 lb Andouille sausage (substitute kielbasa if you can’t find andouille)
  • 1 lb uncooked medium shrimp – peeled and deveined
  • 6 chicken thighs (or one for each person)
  • 1 ½ cups rice (I like converted rice in this dish – no minute or instant rice)
  • 28 oz can peeled whole tomatoes – crushed slightly
  • 2-3 cups rich chicken stock (boxed stock is good)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper – plus some for the flour mix
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • ½ cup fresh chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups flour mixed with cajun seasoning and a pinch of cayenne for dredging the chicken

Assemble all your ingredients and preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Put the sausage on a tray in the oven for 15 minutes (it does not have to be totally cooked.) Meanwhile, grill the ham in a skillet with a little butter until slightly browned and set it aside. Dredge the chicken in the flour mix and set aside.

Heat ¼ cup of olive or canola oil in a skillet and sauté the garlic cloves and the floured chicken thighs until browned thoroughly on each side. The chicken should be about three-quarters cooked. Set the chicken aside and add the onions, scallions, celery, and peppers to the oil and garlic in the skillet. Cook until all the vegetables are soft. Set them aside.

Cut the cooked sausage into coin-shaped pieces.

Put the vegetables (along with the oil and garlic) into a big lasagna pan or deep casserole. Set the pieces of chicken evenly on the top and scatter the ham and sausage overall.

Mix the cayenne, cajun seasoning, basil, oregano, bay leaf, parsley, and salt and pepper to the slightly crushed tomatoes and pour this mix over the top of the other ingredients.

Pour the uncooked rice over the casserole evenly and shake the pan to settle the rice. Add the chicken broth to just cover all the ingredients. Cover lightly and cook in the oven for 30 minutes. Check on the casserole at this point – you may need to add extra broth at this point to accommodate the rice. Add the shrimp now – pushing them into the casserole to cover them. Make sure it is a little soupy by adding more broth and put back in the oven uncovered for about 10 to 20 minutes. It is done when the rice and shrimp are cooked.