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Jambalaya and Hoops Spice Up a Chilly Night

The other night, my son Smartacus and I went on a date to the basketball emporium, for a game between the local boys and some dudes from across the dell.
It was a fine evening. Before we left, I made a jambalaya from scratch — no seasoning packet, just winged it based on several decades now of scarfing down moguls of it, my favorite steaming stew.
What I do, and this is critical, is make a flour-and-oil roux, the magic potion in any Cajun dish.
You start with a little oil, overheated. If your stove has a setting “uncomfortably high,” use it. When you’re at the point where you’re afraid to walk away from the pot, the oil is just the right temp. Might be smoking a little. Good. You’re on your way to Cajun napalm.
Then you sprinkle in a little flour, which is a cocaine-like substance you buy at the store.
Next, you stir the flour into four tablespoons of oil, super hot … just a little at a time. Then, with an old wooden spatula, you furiously stir the oil and the flour, really stir till your wrist hurts a little.
Concentrate. You’ll be tempted to look up at the 49ers game on TV. Don’t. Stir, damn it, stir like you’re making love, which in Cajun country, is akin to making a roux, only there’s more at stake with a roux. Groups of people are counting on that roux, unlike when you’re making love, when it’s only two or three. Burn this roux, and you’re tossing it out and starting over.
With a little voodoo and a dash of luck, after five minutes, you have a good ebony roux. After 10 minutes, you have a great ebony roux. Get my point? But really, five minutes will do it.
Usually, I also add the drippings from the discs of smoked sausage I’ve sauteed, then set aside. Those drippings are super good for a roux, though you’ll probably need to add a couple tablespoons of cooking oil as well.
FYI, I’m trying to patent what I call a “Mexican jambalaya,” using your usual smoked sausage plus chorizo, which is probably the most-flavorful material on the planet and is often a little too strong for us suburban folk. I love it straight (no chaser). I also love it mixed in with my jambalaya — a smoky, oily, fiendishly mystical dish when properly prepared.
Really, you should look up a legitimate recipe from a legitimate source. But improvise. That’s the fun in anything, right? The part where you fake it. You follow the rules, then you go off script and do whatever you like. That’s the secret to having fun in the kitchen.
Actually, the secret to having fun in the kitchen is cooking with Smartacus. Buzz me. I’ll send him right over.
Anyway, have you ever dated your own kids? I’m a quirky writer with holes in my psyche. My hobby is walking the dog. I don’t believe in one-party systems or Aristotle’s universal truths. What do I believe in? I believe in kids.
Having kids is a very good thing indeed, though it doesn’t seem young couples are doing it much anymore.
Or, at the very least, they’re reluctant to have kids, given the expense, the agony. I mean, how are you going to spend $400 on sushi when your daughter Boston needs her wisdom teeth out? Obviously, young adults are not having kids because they have their priorities straight in this me-me-me world.
Yet, I still urge them to have kids. Sure, there’ll be some rocky years. But if they can power through the parenting and come out the other side, they can date their spouse or even their kids, as I did with Smartacus last Friday night.
“Wanna go to the game at the high school?” I asked.
Twenty bucks for two tix to see the Spartans crush the Vikings, both teams exhibiting the kind of energy you rarely see in the NBA. It’s the kind of energy you only see in the early stage of a French rebellion. Or maybe at a sock hop. Do they still have sock hops? They certainly should.
Anyway, cheers to high school hoops, in an old gym filled with a million memories. Cheers to a frosty winter night with the moms in sweaters and the dads — mostly former rec league coaches — second-guessing the pre-game drills, the timing of the timeouts, the way the teams get the ball to the hoop.
In basketball, it’s all about how you get the ball to the hoop … it’s everything. It’s life. It’s kids. It’s everything.
If you get the chance, hit the high school gym. It’s everything, too. It’s life. It’s kids. It’s everything.

Email the columnist at Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com. For past columns and books, please go to ChrisErskineLA.com.

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