Thursday, October 21, 2010

Jambalaya, Oh My-A!

It's been a while since I posted a recipe, so I thought I'd share last night's dinner with you. While baking is very specific and detail oriented, cooking is more like jazz music. You have a general idea of how things should go, but there's plenty of room for interpretation and improvisation.

That was definitely the case with this jambalaya. John did the grocery shopping and had picked up a few random things based on a few different recipes. I've had jambalaya before, but never made it from scratch. So when I was cooking, I sort of made things up as I went along. This recipe is a loose interpretation of recipes found in "The Joy of Cooking" and our Crock-Pot's cookbook. It should make about 6 servings.

-1 cup rice (uncooked)
-1 package of sausage (6 links, about 1.5 pounds). I used Mild Italian, but you can also use smoked sausage, andouille, or chorizo.
-1 medium onion
-2 celery stalks
-crushed red pepper flakes
-3 or 4 cloves of garlic
-28 oz. can of whole, crushed, or chopped tomatoes
-water (maybe 2 cups, depends on how liquid-y you want your jambalaya)
-1/2 T Better than Bullion (a chicken base used to make chicken broth, you can also substitute 2 cups of chicken broth)
-dried thyme
-dried parsley
-fresh ground pepper
-1/2 lb shrimp

1. Cook the rice according to the box's directions. My rice always ends up undercooked, so I added it to the rest of the pot near the end. If you know how to cook rice, you can always pour the jambalaya over the rice to serve.

2. Start cooking the sausage in a dutch oven over medium heat with a few glugs of olive oil.

3. While the sausage is cooking, slice the onion and add it to the pot. Stir occassionally so things don't stick or burn.

4. Chop up the celery. And yes, add that too. Let the onion and celery cook down a little bit so they're not super crunchy. But don't cook them all the way. You want some different textures when you take a bite.

5. Mince your garlic and drop that in as well. Don't forget to stir!
6. At this point, add a few shakes of red pepper flakes into the pot. Feel free to add more or less based on your preferences.

This is still a little early. You can tell that the onions are just starting to color.
7. Add the tomatoes and liquid from the can to the pot. You might have to crank up the burner a little more to keep things hot and cooking.

8. Add the 2 cups of water and 1/2 tablespoon of Better than Bullion. You can also add 2 cups of chicken stock in place of the water and bullion.

9. Shake some dried parsley and thyme into the pot. Grind black pepper into the pot too.

10. Don't worry if things look a little soupy. Just let everything simmer for a bit. Your flavors will concentrate and some of the liquid will cook off. At this point, you could also add your undercooked rice since that will also soak up some of the excess liquid.

11. Finally, add the shrimp to the pot. They'll only take a few minutes to cook so once they're pink, your jambalaya is ready to enjoy!

-Chicken is also welcome to the jambalaya party, we just didn't have any in the fridge. If you do add it, I would probably start cooking it near the beginning with the sausage.
-Things will cook a lot faster if they're near room temperature when you start cooking. The sausage took much longer than expected because they were just out of the fridge when I started the jambalaya.

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