Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Jambalaya for the lot-of-ya

It saddens me the devastation that Hurricane Katrina caused yesterday in Louisiana. The state, and specially New Orleans, holds a very special place in my heart. Not only did I visit the scandalous city during Mardi Gras when I was 21, but I was actually in the Mardi Gras parade. My best friend from Junior High School, Monica, was working for Oscar Meyer at the time. Her job: to drive the Winnie Mobile! She drove all over the United States and on one of her stops she took me (along with her co-workers) to 'Nawlins. I have to admit that trip was the most fun and most memorable ever and whatever happens in Nawlins stays in Nawlins. Needless to say, I had very memorable food and cocktails in the city of Laissez les bontemps rouler! I remember I had an incredible oyster po' boy at Mother's and mouth-watering and very fiery jambalaya at some hole on the wall on Canal Street. Unfortunately, I must have been so intoxicated that I forgot the name of the restaurant. Since I was thinking about New Orleans, I decided to make jambalaya last night. There is a jambalaya recipe in my new Cuisine at Home magazine and, wow, did it come out good. As usual, I tweaked the original recipe but it was pretty darn good. The first thing I did when I got home from work was to make the rice. I have a handy-dandy rice cooker which does all the work for me. I just put one cup of rice and two cups of water, pushed the switch and that's it. Next, I started the jambalaya. I am very anal about preparing food and I always prepare my ingredients first. Here I have 1 cup diced onions, about 4 cups diced yellow, green and red bell peppers, 1 cup diced celery, 3/4 cup fresh diced tomatoes and one 14oz. can of no salt added diced tomatoes. Not pictured is an 8oz kielbasa sausage which I sliced up, 1 pound of fresh shrimp, cleaned and deveined, 2 tablespoons minced garlic, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. On the side I also have kosher salt, pepper, paprika, dried oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce and shirasa chili sauce (optional). First I sautéed the kielbasa in a large sauce pan in the olive oil for about 5 minutes until it was browned on both sides. I removed the kielbasa with a slotted spoon then, in the same pan, I added the onion, peppers and celery and sautéed them for about 8 minutes, or until the onions become translucent. Add about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp. dried oregano, a dash or two of dried thyme, red pepper flakes, dash of paprika and the shirasa chili sauce. I added 1 tablespoon of this chili sauce, which made the jambalaya spicy in flavor but not in heat. Next, I added the minced garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes. I added the kielbasa back to the pan along with the fresh and canned tomatoes, 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce and a couple of dashes of Tabasco sauce. Make sure you taste the jambalaya for salt. You may need to add more salt and pepper. Finally, add the shrimp last and let it cook for about 5 to 7 minutes more or until shrimp is cooked through -- DON'T OVERCOOK THE SHRIMP! The original recipe said to add the rice to the jambalaya, but I prefer to serve it on the side. I then snipped some scallions on top of the rice to make it look pretty and, as you can see, the dish was substantial and quite good. I think this will serve 4 very hungry people!! We paired our food with lemonade. Believe me, on hot days here in Southern California lemonade is your best friend! Bon Apetit! Click here to donate to the American Red Cross. Recipe adapted from the October, 2005 issue of Cuisine At Home.

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