Thursday, July 15, 2010

Jambalaya

There is nothing in my kitchen I love more than my Le Creuset Dutch Oven.  People, meet Big Red.  Big Red and I have been together for less than a year, but it's a relationship made to last a lifetime.  This pot makes me a better cook.  This pot makes me want to cook.  This pot makes me happy just sitting on the stove, because it is that beautiful to look at.  She wasn't cheap, but Big Red was worth every penny.  If you like to cook, I cannot recommend the purchase highly enough.  

Dutch ovens can be used on the stove top, or in the oven.  They have superior heat distribution and retention.  When you brown meats you get beautiful fond, or little brown bits of flavor, on the bottom of the pot; something I was missing all those years using nonstick cookware.  The lid is heavy enough that it keeps the heat locked in; a feature important to today's recipe, in particular.  I'm always on the lookout for new recipes to make in Big Red, and this Jambalaya was the perfect test of her strengths.

I was watching an episode of Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network, and had the pleasure of seeing Ina Garten prepare Jambalaya with her friend, Amelia Durand.  Jambalaya is a traditional Creole dish made with meat, vegetables, rice and stock, and is a cousin to Spanish Paella.  There are as many varieties of Jambalaya as there are Louisianans, according to Amelia, and this is her recipe.  The list of ingredients is long, and includes andouille sausage, smoked ham, shrimp, onions, peppers, celery, rice, chicken stock etc...  The recipe worked exactly as written, and I couldn't have been more pleased with the results.

The actual cooking time for this Jambalaya is a little more than an hour, but there is a considerable amount of prep involved.  I estimate I spent another hour chopping the various vegetables, herbs, meats, and organizing my ingredients, before starting to cook.  However, once that was done, the cooking of the dish was very straightforward.  I definitely recommend that you do all prep beforehand, so that you can relax and enjoy the assembly.  This is a great recipe to make on a weekend when you have a little more time on your hands, or you could prep your ingredients one night, and cook the dish the next. 

This Jambalaya will easily serve 6-8 people.  I thought about cutting the recipe in half, but it doesn't lend itself all that well to being split.  At least at my market, you can't buy the andouille sausage, or ham, in quantities of less than a pound.  And I didn't happen to have half of a red and green bell pepper hanging about.  But if you get creative, you could easily make a smaller quantity by skipping the ham, only using one type of pepper, reducing the amount of rice etc...  I'm glad we liked the dish, because I have a ton of leftovers in the freezer.  I'll add a comment after we eat them to let you know how well the dish freezes.

Once you have all your ingredients ready to go, start by browning the sausage.
After about 8-10 minutes, remove the sausage to a bowl and set aside.  Now brown the ham.
After 8-10 minutes the ham will be done, set aside in the bowl with the sausage.  See the bottom of the pot?  That's the fond, the brown bits, the flavor that makes the dish sing.  Next, add the butter, onion, celery and bell peppers to the same pot...
...and saute for another 8-10 minutes, or until onions are getting translucent. 
Now add the tomato, garlic, jalapeno, oregano, thyme, and tomato paste, and cook for several minutes...
...until all vegetables and herbs are well blended.
Add the chicken stock, and bring to a rolling boil.  Stir in the rice, sausage, ham, bay leaves, salt, pepper and hot sauce.  Bring back to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes add 1/4 cup of the scallions, 1/4 cup of the parsley, the lemon juice and shrimp.  Stir well to combine.
Cover pot and remove it from heat.  Let sit undisturbed for 15 minutes so the Jambalaya can steam, and cook the shrimp.  
Just look at that!  That right there, is why Big Red ROCKS!  The shrimp were perfectly cooked.  They were not overdone, or rubbery; something I always fear when cooking shrimp.  The shrimp also were not undercooked; so don't worry about turning off the heat.  The pot retained enough heat to steam the shrimp through, resulting in very tender and tasty shrimp.

Garnish with the remaining scallions, parsley, and a dash or two (or three) of hot sauce.
Oh me, oh my-o!  Son of a gun, that's some good Jambalaya!

JAMBALAYA

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound sausage, such as kielbasa or andouille, sliced
1 pound smoked ham, cubed
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup diced celery
1 green bell pepper, cored and diced
1 red bell pepper, cored and diced
1 cup seeded and diced tomato
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced OR 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons diced fresh oregano
1 teaspoon diced fresh thyme
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
3 cups long-grain rice, rinsed
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 to 8 dashes hot sauce, optional (recommended: Tabasco)
1/2 cup chopped scallions, divided
3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed (20 to 24 count)

Directions

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or black iron pot over medium heat, add the sausage and saute for 8 to 10 minutes, until browned. Remove the sausage to a bowl, and set aside. Add the ham to the same pot and cook 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove to the bowl with the sausage, and set aside. Add the butter, onion, celery and peppers to the same pot and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the tomato, garlic, jalapeno or cayenne, oregano, thyme, and tomato paste and cook until all the vegetables and herbs are blended well. Add the stock and bring to a rolling boil. Stir in the rice, and add the sausage, ham, bay leaves, salt, pepper and hot sauce. Return to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of the scallions, 1/4 cup of the parsley, the lemon juice and the shrimp, and stir well. Cover the pot, remove it from the heat and allow the jambalaya steam, for 15 minutes, before serving.

Garnish with the remaining 1/4 cup scallions and 1/2 cup parsley, and a dash of hot sauce, if desired.







9 comments:

  1. Looks great and I love the music!!

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  2. OMG, you're killing me with this one. We have to go to Toulouse Petit, we really do.

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  3. @Stan, we should make a date next week. I've been thinking about that place constantly...

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  4. FREEZING UPDATE

    We ate the rest of the Jambalaya last weekend. I took it out of the freezer, let it defrost for a little while on the counter until I could break it up a bit with a wooden spoon. Then I put it in a large pan, added a little water, and covered it. I kept the heat VERY low while it fully defrosted. Once there were no more frozen chunks, I jacked the heat up very quickly to heat it through, and served.

    The shrimp were perfect, they didn't get overcooked at all when reheated. The dish had great flavor, the sausage was delicious.

    However, the consistently of the rice was all wrong. It was alternately crunchy, then mushy.

    I consulted a friend on freezing rice dishes, and she felt it would be a breeze. So maybe it was the rice I used?

    FANS, help me out! What long grain white rice do you like? I feel like I have had mushy results a couple times, and I'm not sure what I might be doing wrong...

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  5. Okay, after quizzing you on how you froze your leftovers, I'm pretty confident that speed is the issue. During a slow freeze and defrost, the rice is going to absorb too much water and start to disintegrate. I think that freezing your leftovers in freezer bags is the best solution. Use bags that are able to hold 3-4 cups max. Lay the bags on their sides to freeze, so that the jambalaya *quickly* freezes into a sheet-block no more than an inch thick.

    To defrost & reheat: defrost by submerging 1-3 bags in a basin or sink of very hot water. I usually put a kettle on to boil when I start filling the sink. By the time the kettle comes to a boil, the sink water has cooled, so I add the boiled water to the sink to keep the defrost process moving along.

    The packages should be defrosted and flexible in no more than 15-20 minutes. Pour into an appropriately sized saucepan, on medium heat. Stir a little, cover and let heat 15-20 minutes, or until it's hot enough to serve, stirring occasionally.

    Depending on your stove and the heat-retaining properties of your cookware, you may need to adjust the heat up or down a bit. The important thing is to reheat as quickly as possible without scorching your jambalaya or beating your rice to a pulp with constant stirring. You may also need to add a little bit of water, tomato juice, or broth.

    Oh, also, I talked to my mom, a while back, and she said she a mix of Clamato juice and water, instead of broth and tomato paste. Also, she cooked her shrimp separately or thawed-out frozen, precooked shrimp in hot water, drained it, and stirred a handful into each portion before serving. Mostly in order to ration a fairly expensive ingredient among 4 kids & 2 adults, apparently, but it also means that she never had to worry about over-cooked shrimp during reheating. She'd just thaw out more shrimp in the sink and toss it in with the leftover shrimp-less jambalaya. Brilliant! The Clamato would add the "seafood" taste to the rice during cooking, I think, yes.

    (Knowing my mother, I also suspect she used the spicy-style Clamato... *and* made a few generous Bloody Caesars out of it while cooking dinner, so she probably didn't use the whole bottle for cooking the rice, as she claims.)

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  6. Thanks so much Constance!! Lots of great information in that comment, I really appreciate it!

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  7. I read a post on another site that suggested baking frozen rice dishes. I haven't tried it, but seems like a promising option. Thanks, Kelly and Constance, for the tips you've provided.

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  8. thanks for reading, and the tip, e.t. ing! =)

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