Mardi Gras Jambalaya

I don’t normally celebrate Mardi Gras, unless it’s as an excuse to eat cakes with plastic babies inside.

This year, I attended a dinner party where everyone brought a different Mardi Gras-themed dish. We had “King’s Cake,” dirty rice, gumbo and my shrimp-andouille-chicken jambalaya.

Having never made jambalaya before, I expected it to be more like a thick stew or gumbo. However, it was lighter in color and more of a rice-stew, wonderfully spicy and full of a complexity of flavors that kicked me in the pants. Totally makes up for the fact that it took all day to prepare, created a huge mess and almost made me lose my mind. Honestly, all the searing, then browning, then sweating, then simmering, then skimming, then shredding … it seemed impossible that I could make this ahead and bring it to the party.

But the results, and the amount of leftovers, made it worth everything (and I mean that). Even the green and red bell pepper added a good flavor, but didn’t make me gag (I hate those things). Emeril wrote the recipe well, adding the shrimp just at the end, when you’ve taken it off the heat, so they slowly cook through and are just perfect. You can smell them mixing with the other rich flavors, but it’s not overpowering or fishy.

My only regret is the rice. I played with the portions a bit to fit in my not-gigantic Dutch oven, so the rice didn’t cook perfectly. But that’s more of a texture thing.

I highly recommend making your own “Essence,” I will definitely be using this bold spice mix on other things.

Here it is, adapted from Emeril Lagasse,

Mardi Gras Jambalaya

Ingredients:

  • 5-pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs or thighs/legs (he used duck)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound andouille sausage, diced
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery hearts
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons Emeril’s Original Essence, recipe follows
  • Two 28-oz. cans peeled whole tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 3 bay leaves, fresh or dried
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1-2 quarts low-sodium chicken stock (or water, if you run out) – just use what fits in your pot
  • 2 c. long-grain white rice (I adjusted, down from 3 c. If you get 2 qt stock in your pot, use the whole 3 c.)
  • 1 pound small shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup chopped green onions (green and white parts)
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Emeril’s ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast):

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Yield: 2/3 cup

Method:

Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Heat the vegetable oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and sear for 5 minutes. Turn and sear on the second side for 3 minutes. Remove from the pot and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining chicken.

Add the sausage to the fat in the pot and cook, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes (there will be lots of liquid, just leave it). Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, salt, cayenne, 1 tablespoon of the Essence, and black pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, garlic, and bay leaves and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes.

Add the thyme, stock, and chicken (as much as you can fit in your pot – I had to stew my meat in batches). Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally for 50 minutes.

Remove chicken pieces from the jambalaya and cool slightly. Skim off the fat. Discard skin and bones and shred meat.

Add the rice and bring back up to a simmer, cover and cook until the rice is barely tender, about 10 minutes.

Return the chicken meat to the mixture. Season the shrimp with the remaining 1 tablespoon Essence. Add the shrimp to the pot, return to a simmer, and cover. Remove the pot from the heat and let sit, covered, for 15 minutes.

Add the green onions and parsley and stir gently. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Adjust the salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. Serve directly from the pot.

I know you’ll enjoy this, friends! xoxo

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