Cajun Jambalaya Surprise
Jambalaya with Chicken, Sausage, Shrimp and Rice
My son is a fire fighter in New Orleans and he gave me a Fabulous Cookbook called "Cooking Up A Storm". It is a collection of recipes lost and found after Katrina. We LOVE spicy food and this recipe, adapted from one found in the book, is one of our favorites.
My secret is to make and use Shrimp Stock. I also use shredded rather than cubed chicken. ENJOY!
This makes a huge pot of a Cajun Feast - freezes well
1 stick butter
1 cup spring green onions chopped small
1 large red bell pepper, chopped small
1 large green bell pepper, chopped small
2 cups chopped celery, including leafy greens
3 grated garlic cloves (about 3 teaspoons)
1 pound shrimp, peeled without head and tail
1 pound cooked, shredded chicken
1 pound spicy smoked sausage
1 24-ounce can crushed tomato
1 16-ounce can fire roasted tomato with juice
2-3 cups shrimp stock (seafood or chicken can be substituted)
1 tablespoon salt (to taste)
1 tablespoon pepper (to taste)
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)
2 tablespoons creole seasoning (to taste)
4 bay leaves
2 cups long grain rice
Feta and Hot Sauce when serving
2-3 tablespoons Cajun Seasoning (adjust to taste)
If you don't want to make your own stock, then use store-bought seafood or chicken stock.
I start by thawing my shrimp (or you can use fresh if you can get it) so that I can make the shrimp stock while prepping the rest of the ingredients. If you've never made stock, it's a snap and adds SO much flavor to your dish. I defrost the shimp (buy either shrimp in shell or at least shrimp with tail on) in the microwave. Be sure that you just defrost it and don't start cooking it!
I then pull the tails off (and deshell if necessary) and put all of the waste, PLUS the ice/water/juice accumulated during defrosting in a pot on the stove. Add 2 1/2 cups of water and turn burner on low. Now you're ready to start adding vegetable scraps.
I always have a bag of vegetable scraps in my freezer to add to my stock pot (read my how to make stock recipe). If you have some, add it, but don't worry if you don't because you'll have fresh vegetable scraps to add while you're prepping your other ingredients.
As you chop your onions, celery and peppers put all of your scraps in the shrimp stock pot. You want to bring the stock to a slow boil, not rolling. Let it simmer, adding vegetable scraps as you get them, until you are ready to use. Then strain it into another heat-proof bowl, measure and use. Sometimes I end up adding additional stock at the end if I think the stew is too thick. Otherwise, if I have leftovers, I freeze it for another time. Just be sure to label it!
** HINT: I often start with 2 cups of seafood, chicken or vegetable stock that I have in my freezer and just intensify it's flavor by adding the shrimp and vegetable scraps during prep. You can do the same thing by using your store-bought stock or just skip this step all together.
Prep Your Ingredients
You have choices here:
You can chop your vegetables small, dice them or even slice them depending on your preference. Personally, I use my hand chopper on the celery and bell peppers and slice my spring onions.
I grate my garlic because I think it intensifies the flavor, but you can chop it or mince it. Because we love garlic (check out my garlic recipes) I often add more to this dish. Just depends on my mood.
I use both white and dark meat from a roasted chicken. I just cut it small strips and then cut it again in 1-2 inch pieces. Because I use large pieces, they end up "shredding" during the cooking process. You can choose to use just white or dark meat. You can also cook boneless chicken pieces in a skillet (I'd use olive oil, a bit of salt and pepper and maybe a dash of cajun seasoning!) and then cube the cook chicken.
I leave my shrimp whole unless they are HUGE.
I cut my sausage into 1/4" slices on a diagonal because I think it looks neat
Saute Your Vegetables
Melt your butter in a heavy, large stock pot - about medium. I love my Le Creuset pot because it is enameled cast iron.
Add your vegetable and garlic. I add a bit of kosher salt too to help draw out moisture in vegetables as well as to begin seasining process. You want to sweat your vegetables, meaning they'll get soft rather than fried. Depending on your burner you may need to turn it down. Takes 8-10 minutes.
Add Meat and Shrimp
Next add your chicken, sausage and shrimp. Add a bit of cajun seasoning. Stir well for a couple of minutes. You want your shrimp to start to turn pink.
Add Tomatoes and Stock
Once shrimp turns pink, add your can of crushed tomatoes and can of fire roasted tomatoes (with liquid) and stir well. Then add your stock and stir well. Let cook for a couple of minutes and then taste. Add seasonings.
Don't be alarmed if it tastes extra "shrimpy" at this point because you'll be adding rice which has no flavor and will mellow the dish out.
My son, who cooks for the men in his firehouse, swears by Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning. I make my own using Emeril's Recipe.
Add Add Rice and Bay Leaves and Cook Until Tender
After you've let it cook for a few minutes, add your rice, a bit of cayenne pepper and bay leaves. If you've never cooked with FRESH bay leaves, you don't know what you're missing! I dry my own too. Store-bought spices just don't have the same taste to me.
Stir well to incorporate rice and to make sure that it is sitting under liquid in pot. Cover and reduce heat to low and simmer for 1/2 hour or more until rice if fully cooked and tender. Stir occasionally so that things don't stick to bottom of pot. If you need to, add a bit more stock or water. I've even added spicy V-8 juice to moisten things up.
Taste occasionally and adjust seasonings. We like it spicy, so I usually add a couple of tablespoons of cayenne pepper.
The consistency is up to you. As long as you adjust seasoning, you can make this a stew (more liquid) or traditional jambalaya (less liquid).
Serve Hot Sauce on the side with a salad and some homemade corn bread! For what's it worth, our family loves Feta Cheese in this Delicious Cajun Jambalaya Surprise!
I can't say enough about Le Crueset - Expensive but SO worth the investment!
There is a great Le Creuset Outlet in Williamsburg Virginia for those of you who live on the East Coast.