Monday, March 14, 2011

Comforting Southern Jambalaya

This past week was 'Mardi Gras'! Mardi Gras is a large festivity in southern culture; it is a time for celebration and feasting on fatty and rich foods before it is all given up for lent. I found it as a fun excuse to make a southern dish and celebrate with a dinner party, even though I do not practice lent, nor are there any Mardi Gras parades or celebrations in Orange County :) 

Jambalaya is traditionally a spicy cajun dish made up of chicken, andouille sausage, and shrimp cooked in a pot with rice and the 'trinity' vegetables (bell peppers, onions, and celery).  My version of jambalaya is sans shrimp, but you could easily add it in (I will note in the recipe where to add it in if you wish to do so). In addition to this, though Mardi Gras is about fattening feasts, my version of Jambalaya is not such a 'fatty' one. I opted for fat free, low sodium chicken broth and a lean turkey sausage. I wanted to enjoy the rich flavor of southern comfort foods, but without all the fat. This jambalaya is fun, filling, and packed full of flavor!

Shopping List (for 4 large servings):
  • 1 lb spicy Sausage (I used a lean Turkey 'Hot Italian sausage', but you could go for the more traditional Andouille pork sausage or any other sausage you wish)
  • 8 Chicken cutlets (2 per person, so add accordingly if you are cooking for more)
  • ground Black Pepper, to season chicken
  • 1 large Bell Pepper, diced (it traditionally uses green, but I used red because it's sweeter and I like the sweet contrast in my spicy dishes-- you can use whichever you like)
  • 1/2 large Yellow or White Onion, diced
  • 2 or 3 large Celery stalks, sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced Garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 can Diced Tomatoes
  • 4 cups Chicken Broth
  • 2 cups long grain Rice (I used white, you can certainly use brown)
  • Grape Seed Oil, for browning and sauteeing (I like to use grape seed oil because it has a higher flash point and it is almost flavorless in comparison to olive oil, but you can use any oil you prefer)
  • ***Optional: peeled shrimp, additional cayenne or red pepper flakes for more spice.

If your sausages are precooked, then you can just slice them and skip this step. If your sausages are raw, then heat some oil in your pot to brown the sausages and allow them to cook through so that you can slice them.

Add more oil into your pot and heat it up so you can continue to brown your sliced sausage.

Once your sausage medallions are browned, remove from pot, add more oil, season your chicken with black pepper, and brown the chicken in the same pot. (they will pick up some of that nice spicy flavor that the sausages left behind).

Once your chicken is all browned on both sides, remove from pot and add all your diced 'trinity' veggies. Let them saute together over medium-low heat for a few good minutes until they are sweet, soft, and translucent:

After your veggies are all done, add in the can of diced tomatoes, the minced garlic, and the cayenne pepper. Give it a good stir so that all the flavors are mixed together :)

Then add the sausage and the chicken back into the pot:

Add your 2 cups of rice, and 4 cups of chicken broth:

Bring the pot to a boil over high heat, then fit tightly with a lid, turn the heat to LOW, and let it cook covered for about 20 minutes (If you wish to add shrimp, add it into the pot here during the last 10 or the 20 minutes that the rice is cooking). Then turn off the heat and let it sit for another 5 minutes with the lid ON so that the rice can complete cooking and soaking up all the yummy flavors.

After your rice is done, remove the lid and look at the beautiful, bright, and flavorful dish that you have made! 
In addition to super easy cleanup, one of the benefits of a 'one pot meal' is that none of the flavors are lost; all the flavor stays in the same pot and seasons the whole dish! The spicy sausage that was browned in the beginning successfully shared its sesonings with everything else added into the pot after it, and then the rice got to soak up all the yummy flavors while it cooked :) Hardly any additional seasoning was even necessary.

Stir it together and plate up a big yummy serving! 

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