Southern Comfort Done Right

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Jambalaya and Sweet Cornbread by Carly Bourke
Story and Photos by Colin Castillo

Carly Bourke, a former St. Mary’s University student, says that something as simple as cooking can give you insight into yourself as a person.

It is easy to see the type of person she is after she prepared a very comforting and warm bowl of Jambalaya with some sweet cornbread on the side. It is this type of personality that led her to discover her perfect career path and guides her life philosophy.

Carly first arrived at St. Mary’s University with a demeanor that resembled her cooking: warm and happy.

This led her to pursue a degree in Political Science hoping to work with non-profit organizations.

She believes everybody is called to serve others in their own way.

She brought up the comparison between her worldview and her favorite foods and says she is not surprised at all that they line up.

She loves Bar-B-Que and chili like a Texas girl should but she says these dishes are about more than just flavor.

“Food more than anything has the ability to bring people together in a very simple, positive way.”

She loves something like Jambalaya because it is simple to make.

Everything goes in a pot and works its magic.

It also is a large enough dish that it feeds a family.

“Eating together as a family is very important; these are people you love unconditionally. It is a time to gather together and enjoy each others company.”

She expands to say, “It isn’t just family. Everybody should be treated like your family. You should care for everyone.”

She says food is important in that it bonds people together to be more than friends.

Over a bowl of something delicious you can learn more about a person than in any other setting.

Her career and personality reflect the foods that she loves but these two also go deeper.

Carly says her grandmother taught her to cook from a very early age.

It is here that the value of family was instilled in her. “My grandmother and I would get up really early before anybody else and start cooking.

By lunch time we had a bunch of happy tummies and people ready to take naps.” From there she improved on recipes and works on new food ideas as a hobby.

For something like Jambalaya the trick, she says, is to take as much time as possible.

The ingredients need time to settle and get to know each other.

“First the sausage and the tomatoes have to say, ‘Hi’ and then they invite all of their friends to the party.”

Once everyone has been properly introduced, the bowls of piping hot food are served up to the ready and patiently waiting.

From cooking to her career, Carly carries values learned at an early age.

It is these values that influence her life and the types of food she loves to cook.

With so much instilled in one young woman it is easy to see why her Jambalaya is a favorite of her family. It is but a reflection of the greater love existing in the chef.

Recipe: Jambalaya      Serves: 15-20

  • 1 pound of Smoked Sausage or Turkey Sausage
  • 1 pound of shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 chicken breasts, cubed
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 bunch of green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 Tbs. Paprika
  • 2 Tsp. Chili powder
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 3 Tbs. Ground Cumin
  • 2 cups of Brown Rice
  • 6 cups of Chicken Stock
  • 2 Tbs. of olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. of butter
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 green chili, diced
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Tony Chachere’s Jambalaya seasoning to taste

In a pan over medium heat cook chicken with olive oil and season with salt,  pepper, chili powder. When chicken is cooked set aside away from stove. Cook Sausage with butter in a large pot over medium heat until brown and season with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes and green chili to sausage stirring occasionally. Add celery, onion, and bell pepper and heat thoroughly. Add chicken stock, rice, chicken, and seasonings to taste.  Cook for 45 minutes stirring occasionally. Add shrimp and cook for 5 more minutes. Allow time to cool and for flavors to blend together Taste and double check flavor is right where you want it. 

Optional: Corn Bread    Serves: 15-20

  • 1-2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 Tbs. and 2-3/4 tsp. of baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 2/3 cup of milk
  • ½ cup and 1 Tbs. of vegetable oil.
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1-3/4 tsp. of salt
  • 1 cup sweet corn, drained

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray or lightly grease a sheet pan. In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, corn, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Stir in egg, milk, honey, and vegetable oil until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

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