Monday, November 3, 2014

Healthy Jambalaya

My cousin got married in New Orleans a few years ago and ever since, I can't stop thinking about the amazing food. I've been back since for work, maybe a year ago, and it was even more incredible. There's something about the flavors and mystique of that area that always excites me. New Orleans is southern comfort food with a trendy twist. One of the best things I had there, besides the beignets, was jambalaya. It was so hearty and spicy but light with so much lean protein. What a great food scene. Recently I was in Vegas for work and had the most amazing Paella, of all things. I've been craving this dish for over a month was that good. This weekend I got to thinking about these two dishes and how they resemble each other. They have similar cooking techniques, although paella doesn't get stirred so it creates this amazing toasty crust on the bottom of the pan. Paella requires a large flat pan, and without having this special pan I chose to cook the next best thing, jambalaya.
(Paella being made at Jaleo in Las Vegas)
Both rice-based dishes are loaded with meats, vegetables, and seafood. This past Saturday night I made a traditional Jambalaya, with a lighter twist of course, and it was insanely good! The large pot I made is already gone...between Sean and I in a course of two days, has been licked clean. Glutinous or sign of a great dish? I'll let you decide!
I made a few tweaks to a traditional recipe, one was using brown rice instead of white, and the other was using fresh Andouille sausage, chicken, if you can find it. Get a nice large pot and have all of your ingredients ready.
First, start off with browning your fresh Andouille sausage in the same pot you cook your jambalaya. Drizzle in a little oil to prevent from sticking.Turn the sausages to brown evenly and lower the heat to low and cover the pot to cook the sausages halfway. Remove the sausage from the pot and transfer to a plate to cool down.
In the same pan add an additional tablespoon or two of olive oil. (See those brown bits? That is pure flavor heaven!)
Add in 2 diced celery stalks, 1 small diced yellow onion, 1/2 jalapeño diced (keep seeds in for heat if desired), 4 cloves minced garlic, and 2 1/2 cups of diced tricolor bell peppers. Sauté for 5 minutes scraping up the browned bits from the sausage.
Meanwhile, dice 2 chicken breasts and slice the sausage into disks and add them to the pot, cooking and stirring until the chicken is no longer pink on the outside.
Add in a 28oz can of crushed tomatoes, 1 1/2 cups brown rice, 2 1/2 cups chicken broth, 4 tsp creole seasoning (recipe below), 1 bay leaf, and 2 sprigs of fresh thyme. Cover and bring to a simmer, cooking for 45-60 minutes or until the rice is tender. If the rice isn't fully cooked and the liquid has been absorbed just drizzle in more chicken broth, 1/4 cup in at a time. *If using white rice this won't take quite as long. Read the rice package for proper cooking times.

Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pan so it doesn't burn.
When the rice is cooked, taste and adjust seasoning as necessary, I added a little salt and plenty of black pepper! You can adjust the creole seasoning based on how much heat you can tolerate.
When the dish tastes right you are ready to add in your shrimp. I like to cut mine in half to evenly distribute the protein but you can leave them whole if your prefer.
Stir to combine and cook for 2-4 minutes until the shrimp is tender. Adjust seasoning and serve!
Cajun Seasoning:
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

I added a few dashes of hot sauce and a sprinkle of parsley to each of our bowls...freshness and an additional layer of heat was a great call!

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