Next Tuesday, March 1, is Mardi Gras! This calls for a celebration, and in true New Orleans fashion, everyone’s invited.
“Mardi Gras” is French for “Fat Tuesday,” the last day to indulge before Ash Wednesday, which begins the abstinence and fasting of Lent. Celebrate this last hurrah like a NOLA native with this frugal and fabulous jambalaya.
Jambalaya (jum-buh-LYE-uh) is an ideal example of the rich and robust style of Louisiana Creole cooking. This recipe is a Creole dish, referring to the original French settlers who came to Louisiana. Creole cooking has roots in Spanish, French and African cuisines.
This traditional stew combines rice with vegetables, meat, poultry and shellfish (usually shrimp or crawfish). When you’re looking for a vibrant party dish to serve friends, look no further.
Like many traditional specialties, recipes vary from cook to cook. However, most start with the “holy trinity” of Creole cooking: 50 percent onions, 25 percent celery and 25 percent green or red bell pepper, although proportions can be altered to suit one’s taste.
Also essential in jambalaya is andouille (an-DOO-ee) sausage, which has a spicy kick, giving the dish its characteristic smoky depth of flavor. Several national sausage brands offer andouille, so it shouldn’t be hard to find. If you can’t find any, or prefer a milder sausage, substitute kielbasa or another smoked sausage.
Here is where I break from tradition. Customarily, the rice is cooked in the stew. I cook my rice separately because this recipe makes a good amount and there are usually leftovers. If the rice holds in the stew, it absorbs all that delicious liquid and gets mushy. It’s still delicious, but not as visually appealing. I also use a frozen pepper and onion blend because it’s convenient and costs less.
Yield: 6 servings Time: 1 hour
1/2 tablespoon butter
1 (13.5 ounces) andouille sausage, sliced into rounds
1 pound chicken, pork or a combo — cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and pepper — to taste
1 bag (16 ounce) frozen pepper and onion blend — or fresh equivalent
2 green onions, chopped, white and green separated
3/4 cups (2 ribs) celery, sliced
1 can (14.5 ounce) petite-diced tomatoes
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon Cajun or Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 (14.5 oz. can) chicken stock (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 tablespoon Louisiana pepper sauce (optional)
1/2 pound raw medium shrimp, peeled
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
- Thaw the pepper blend and the shrimp, if frozen. In a stock pot or Dutch oven, on medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the sausage and cook until the fat is rendered. Add the cubed meats and brown, about five minutes, stirring occasionally, adding salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the pepper and onion blend with any liquid, the celery and the white part of the green onions. Cook the vegetables about five minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, garlic, bay leaf, Old Bay and thyme. Cook and stir about five minutes.
- Add the chicken stock plus 1 cup water, and pepper sauce if using, and bring to a simmer. Simmer uncovered about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the rice.
- Right before serving, add shrimp and cook until they turn pink, about three minutes. Don’t overcook! Serve over rice. Garnish with green onions.
Serve with cold beer and corn bread for the quintessential pairing. As they say in New Orleans — “Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler!” Let the good times roll!
Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is the penny-pinching, party-planning, recipe developer and content creator of the website “Divas On A Dime — Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at firstname.lastname@example.org
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