Although Autumn has been upon us for a while now, I am still in my change-of-seasons-super-clean-up mode. That means cleaning and re-organizing everything from my purse to the freezer. I cleaned the freezer two weekends ago and took stock (yeah, I had some in there) of the inventory and vowed to go through and use up anything that had been in there for a while. I'd recently procured a couple of pounds of smoked sausage from home and knew it could sit for another couple of months in the freezer. However, I'd also found a half of a pound that I'd vacuum sealed with the intent of throwing into a jambalaya, gumbo, or something like that.
Then there was that pound of shrimp. We eat tons of shrimp... I boil it, bbq it, grill it, broil it, saute' it, etc. Everyone knows that a Cajun (myself included) can eat about 2 lbs of shrimp in a sitting and, even though Hubby isn't a Cajun, he is a New Englandah and has never met a crustacean he didn't want to eat. Suffice it to say that one measly pound of shrimp wasn't going to do much for us unless we threw it into a gumbo or jambalaya, or...
Let's check what's in the fridge, shall we? "What is this leftover white rice doing here?" Turns out it was from the boring meal I'd served on picky-stepkid-dinner-night two nights ago and, even though rice is cheap as heck, a Cajun can't waste rice. You see where this is going.
Wait! Real jambalaya doesn't include pre-cooked rice. What a dilemma I had on my hands! I knew I shouldn't make a new dish with more rice while I still had beaucoup rice in the fridge. Then, something happened and my stomach took over for my brain. The conversation between the two went something like this:
Stomach: Chere, I'm so hungry. Got any of that jambalaya that Brain's been thinkin' about? Let's throw all dat rice and shrimp and sausage together and see what happens!
Brain: It's wrong. Don't do it. That's not the way Momma taught you. You're a Cajun. You've got to cook the rice in the jambalaya. You always laugh at those non-Cajuns who throw any old gradoux on rice and call it jambalaya.
Stomach: Mais chere, let's just do it. Don't tell Brain.
Tough times call for tough measures. I knew what had to be done -- I had to throw the smoked sausage, the pound of shrimp, and the leftover rice together in a pseudo-jambalaya. Okay, before you label me a bad Cajun or a poseur-Cajun, this little shortcut that I'm about to make is about the same as grabbing a box of Zatarain's jambalaya mix off of the grocery store shelf. It pains you to do it, but sometimes, time is tight and you just want to eat some jambalaya, damn it!
Once my stomach took over, it led me to the grill, which heated while I quickly assembled all of my ingredients. Total cooking time was 8 1/2 minutes. (Take that, Rachel Ray!)
Whew! Well, what can I tell you about the Cajun's Dilemma that I haven't already?
Ah, yes! The 'jambalaya'! It was not mushy, but a wee bit soupy, so I've cut down on the liquid in the recipe below. The taste was actually fantastic! But it was not jambalaya. (Look, Momma! No quotes!) It was still a yummy meal and, next time I find myself in the position to grab a box of jambalaya mix, I'll make this instead.
Cajun's Dilemma Clean Da Fridge 'Jambalaya' on Da Grill
1 lb shrimp, (rinsed and drained, leave peeling on for more flavor in final dish)
1/2 lb smoked sausage
2 - 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp olive oil
leaves from 4 - 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped (optional, I don't often use tomatoes in jambalaya)
freshly cracked black pepper
your favorite Creole seasoning
salt (if none in your Creole seasoning)
generous amount of your favorite hot sauce(s)
2 1/2 c cooked, long-grain or extra-long grain rice
1/2 small onion, in 1 inch slices
1 bell pepper, in 1 inch slices
6 oz beer (your choice)
1. Heat grill on med heat.
2. Line a large pan with 2 inch sides with foil, then coat lightly with spray oil.
3. Add the sausage, shrimp, garlic, olive oil, thyme, tomato, and seasonings. (Be sure to use plenty of seasoning.)
4. Mix all until spices are evenly distributed.
5. Mound up the rice over the shrimp mixture.
6. In a small bowl, lightly coat the peppers and onions with spray oil.
7. Season the onions and peppers to your liking, then place atop the mound of rice.
8. Pour the beer over all.
9. Cover pan with aluminum foil and place on the grill.
10. Let cook for 8 - 9 mins depending on size of shrimp and desired level of doneness.
11. Let sit for a minute, then stir to mix before serving.
Get your real jambalaya here.