Monday, February 11, 2013

Mardi Gras Fat Tuesday Jambalaya

I have only visited the French Quarter of New Orleans twice, I quickly developed a taste for creole style food, bananas foster, hurricanes (the drink) and beignet’s. My sister went there in the 1970's and brought my mom a cookbook. After reading the cookbook and watching Justin Wilson on TV, I was hooked on the Louisiana style of cooking. In my family jambalaya quickly became a winter treat and an economical use of shrimp, chicken and sausage. 
Poach the shrimp
There are the traditionalists who insist that you must use Andouille sausage to make jambalaya. For me it's a little to spicy. I prefer the taste and texture of skinless smoked sausages (Ekrich brand). 
Smoked sausage
The ingredients, spices, seasonings, and quantities are up to you. This is a one pot meal, unless you cook the shrimp separately. Make it a big pot. A couple of tips before we begin. We prefer to slice the sausages about a 1/4” thick and then in half. The chicken (white or dark meat) should be skinless, and cut into cubes. 
Cut up chicken
The shrimp should be raw tail on shrimp for the best and freshest flavor. Before cooking the Jambalaya, have all of your ingredients measured, weighed out, and ready to go (Mise-en-place). 
Recipes are general guidelines of how to make things. They are subject to your taste and tastes do change. I recently started adding crispy pancetta (Italian bacon) to my jambalaya. What doesn't taste better with bacon in it?  
Pancetta cooking
When the shrimp start to turn color, remove them from the liquid with a slotted spoon, reserving the cooking water. This is where much of the shrimp flavor is. Use this liquid to deglaze the pan after caramelizing the onions, green peppers celery and garlic. 
In the same pan start to saute your onions and peppers. Once they are tender remove them to the side and deglaze the pan using some chicken stock. 
Green peppers, onions, celery, garlic
Keep adding the liquid a little at a time until it almost disappears. By this time the aroma should be filling your kitchen. This would be an appropriate time for a hurricane.  Non-alcoholic of course.
Peeled and chopped
When the liquid has reduced down and you add the tomatoes, spices, seasonings, rice and chicken stock, you might be tempted to peak into the pot. This is the time when the rice is cooking. To open the lid might leave you with a crunchy rice texture. So don’t be tempted to look. 
Add rice and chicken stock
Have another hurricane because you have at least another 15-20 minutes before adding the chicken and shrimp into the pot. Okay now a word on hot sauce. I have left this up to you. The amount of hot sauce or none at all is really up to you. I find that it is easier for your guests to add hot sauce to the dish later if needed. You can’t take it out later. For dessert may I suggest an ample serving of Bananas Foster crepes. 
This dessert has a cooling effect on the heat of the jambalaya. Can you say N’awlins? Sure you can!
1/3 lb. Pancetta
1 lb. Smoked Sausage (skinless)
1 lb. Shrimp* (uncooked, tail on)
1 lb. Chicken (skinless, cubed)
1 Cup Onion (chopped)
1 Cup Green Pepper (seeded, chopped)
1/2 Cup Celery (chopped)
3 cloves Garlic
1 28 oz. can Tomatoes (peeled, crushed)
1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley (chopped)
1/2 Cup Green onions (chopped)
2-1/2 Cups Chicken stock
1-1/2 Cups Long Grain Rice (uncooked)
1 Tbsp. Butter
2 Tbsp. Olive oil
1 whole Bay Leaf
1 tsp. Basil
1 tsp. Creole seasoning (
Tony Chachere's brand)
 1/8 tsp. Cayenne pepper
1 tsp. Salt
1/8 tsp. Cloves
1/8 tsp. Allspice
1/2 tsp. Chili powder

In my opinion you should always use raw shrimp in the shell rather than buying precooked peeled and deveined shrimp. Steam the shrimp in about a 1/2 cup of water until the shrimp are cooked about half way (slightly pink). Reserve the shrimp steaming liquid for later use. Dip the shrimp in a ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Peel and devein the shrimp and set them to the side.  
Cut the chicken into cubes. In a hot pan drizzle the olive oil and add the butter on medium low heat. Add the chicken and saute for about 5 minutes. Once the chicken is cooked, remove the chicken from the pan and set to the side with the shrimp. Cooked the sausages until caramelized. Remove those from the pan and set to the side.  Now add the onions, green peppers, celery and garlic and saute until tender. As the mixture begins to caramelize, pour a 1/4 cup of the shrimp cooking liquid into the pan and stir to loosen the bits from the bottom. Once the liquid evaporates stir in the remaining shrimp liquid and cook down again. Stir in the tomatoes, spices, seasonings, chicken, pancetta, sausages, rice, and chicken stock. Cover and cook on low temperature for 15-20 minutes (don’t peak). In the last 10 minutes add the shrimp, cover and cook 5-10 more minutes. Remove bay leaf and serve.

© TMelle 2013