Monday, October 8, 2007

Jambalaya, crawfish pie, file' gumbo...

If you're from South Louisiana, chances are, you know the lyrics to this song.

Jambalaya is a huge part of the cuisine in the area, and was a very popular dish in our house growing up.

This evening, I had a hankering for some home cooking and happened to have bought a too-small pack of veal leg at the grocery store. (Anyone who knows my metabolic wonder of a husband knows that 0.44 lbs of meat is only an appetizer for him.) I wondered what to do with the veal, when it hit me. Jambalaya! No, veal is not an authentic jambalaya ingredient, but jambalaya is a great "kitchen sink" kind of dish, where you throw in whatever leftover meats or seafoods you have hanging around.

I used my standard recipe, switching out chicken for veal, and the results were quite tasty. You can use just about any meat or seafood in this dish. If you choose to use shrimp, add it before the last 10 minutes of cooking. I would also suggest using andouille, tasso, or sausage in addition to shrimp. Doing so adds to the complexity of flavor and also contributes to the seasoning of the dish.

A word about tasso...

Tasso is a piece of pork shoulder butt that has been rubbed with/cured with a rub of salt, sugar, and spices. I get mine from Poche's or It is used as a seasoning and a little goes a long way towards imparting a lot of flavor to a dish.

This recipe is scaled to serve 4 people or 2 hungry Cajuns. When expecting company, just double or triple the recipe. I like to serve this jambalaya with a green salad of lettuces, oranges, and cucumbers, along with some French bread and wine or ice cold beer.

Oh, and I purposely left out my secret ingredient. Why? In the words of the newest Desperate Housewives character, "If I told you, it would be just another ingredient." Fear not, your jambalaya will be pretty darned tasty without it!

canola oil spray
1 lb chicken, veal, game, etc., cut into bite-sized pieces (or any combination of; you can also use peeled and deveined shrimp, but reserve for later addition)
1/2 lb smoked sausage, sliced
2 oz tasso ham, diced
1 C andouille sausage, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 C onion, diced
1 C celery, diced
1 C yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 C red bell pepper, diced
2 1/2 C long grain, white rice (I prefer Konriko or Mahatma)
1 1/2 C chicken stock
1/2 C water
2 bay leaves
hot sauce
Creole seasoning, to taste
freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 tsp secret ingredient
1 Tbsp parsley, chiffonade
2 Tbsp green onions or chives, sliced or snipped

1) Spray a large pot with canola oil and place on high heat.
2) Add the tasso, andouille, and sausage to the pot and stir to release the oils. Cook for approx. 2 minutes.
3) Sprinkle the raw meats lightly with Creole seasoning. Add the raw meats (poultry, etc) and sear on all sides. If using shrimp, do not add them yet.
4) Add the vegetables and garlic. Set heat to medium and sweat the vegetables for 2 - 5 minutes.
5) Add the rice and turn heat to high. Stir the rice and toast for about 2 mins. Don't let it burn.
6a) Add the hot sauce (to your liking), chicken stock, water, and bay leaves. Let the mixture boil, then turn the heat to low. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook 20 - 30 mins, or until rice has fully absorbed the liquids. NOTE: Before putting on the lid, I like to taste the liquid just to see if it has the degree of spiciness I'm looking for. (Remember, Cajun food is highly seasoned, but NOT PAINFUL to eat!)
6b) If using shrimp, add them 10 mins into cooking and stir. Be quick about it, you don't want the rice to get mushy.
7) When the rice is cooked and the grains are separate, fluff with a fork, adjust the seasonings, and add parsley and green onions. You can use chives in a pinch, but green onions are best.

Don't be surprised if you don't need to add any salt. Tasso has quite a bit of salt in it.

The veal is not a jambalaya ingredient that I grew up with, but it demonstrates the flexibility of the dish. When I want to go healthier, I add turkey smoked sausage and use brown basmati rice (regular brown goes mushy). One never wants mushy jambalaya!

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