Thursday, March 10, 2011
Okay, so this jambalaya is about two days late. But oh man was it good, I just have to talk about it. That's allowed, right? If it means anything, I did in fact enjoy this on fat Tuesday with a nice big hurricane to wash it down. And, really, why should a dish so delicious be confined to one day per year? You can make this jambalaya right this second and enjoy it every bit as much as you would have on Mardi Gras. And trust me, there's a lot to enjoy.
I first became enamored with New Orleans/Creole/Louisiana style food after going to a fabulous restaurant in Berkeley called Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen. Oh, how I pine for it. I went there for lunch one day and had a wonderful shrimp po' boy sandwich, succulent, juicy, and piled high with crispy lettuce and fresh tomatoes. Deeply intrigued, I decided to return for dinner some time later when I was prepared to stomach a much larger meal. I know I started with a glass of sweet iced tea, Southern style and served in a Mason jar. Then we moved on to hushpuppies, golden, crispy and slathered in honey butter. The main course was buttermilk fried chicken with a glorious sweet potato mash and green beans served along side. And dessert was none other than New Orleans famous beignets, warm, soft, and with a generous dusting of powdered sugar. It was absolute heaven. I've since been back to Angeline's several times and enjoyed many of their dishes, including gumbo, ribs, jambalaya, and cajun shrimp. The flavors are intense and exciting, the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed, and the food is rich and delicious. I loved it immediately.
But back to this jambalaya. After frequenting Angeline's several times, I became interested in recreating some of those distinctive flavors on my own. Needless to say, I was intimidated. I am a very simple cook who tends to stick to very safe, surefire meals. I don't use a lot of spices, frankly because I'm just not familiar with them. But when fat Tuesday rolled around this year, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to give it a try.
I browsed the internet for jambalaya, a dish I felt confident I could recreate (I mean, come on, it's just rice, some veggies, and meat right?) and I found a lot of different recipes. There's always an issue of authenticity with foods that have such a legacy behind them. I mean, what constitutes real jambalaya? I'm sure a dozen different chefs would come up with a dozen different answers. I finally settled on a recipe from Emeril Lagasse that looked delicious, easy, and didn't use a million ingredients that didn't have already in my pantry. When I've seen him on TV, I kind of find Emeril kind of obnoxious, but I knew that I could trust him with cajun food and that he certainly would have a credible jambalaya recipe.
I made a couple of changes to his recipe, mostly with proportions. It drives me nuts when recipes call for a homemade spice mixture, and the recipe they give for the spice mixture makes like five cups. I want to know just how much of each spice I need to use for this specific recipe, not make enough spice mixture to last me a lifetime. I found that if you use a heaping 1/4 teaspoon for every tablespoon that Emeril lists, you get the perfect amount of spice mixture for this jambalaya. I also beefed mine up with more chicken, more veggies, and added a bit more rice (I added a bit more of the spice mixture to compensate for all the extras I put in).
It came out beautifully. It was flavorful, spicy, and brimming with vegetables, chicken, shrimp, and sausage. I finished it with fresh parsley and a squirt or lemon juice to give it a little freshness. And the good news is, the leftovers were even better. I will absolutely make this again. Mardi Gras not required.
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse
Serves about 4
12 jumbo shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut into large chunks
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced into bite sized pieces
About 2 tablespoons Creole seasoning (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup white onion, chopped (about half a large onion)
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped (about one bell pepper)
1/2 cup celery, diced (about three stalks of celery)
2 generous tablespoons of chopped garlic
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 cup white, long grain rice
3 cups of chicken stock
5 ounces of Andouille sausage, sliced into coins
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Combine shrimp, chicken, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of Creole seasoning in a bowl. Work seasoning into the meat and set aside.
2. In a large pot, heat olive oil. Add onion, bell pepper, and celery and cook over high heat, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute more, just until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add tomatoes, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce and stir well. Stir in rice and slowly add chicken stock. Reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice beings to absorb some of the liquid and become just tender, about 15 minutes (the rice should not be done at this point, but should be more than halfway there).
3. Add shrimp and chicken mixture and sausage. Cook, stirring frequently so the bottom of the pot doesn't burn, until the meat is just cooked through and the rice is fully cooked, about 10-15 minutes depending on the size of your chicken dices. Season with salt, pepper, and any remaining Creole seasoning. Serve topped with freshly chopped parsley and a lemon wedge if desired.
Use heaping teaspoons so you'll have a little extra to season with in the end
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1. Mix ingredients together in a small bowl. That's it.