Bust out the accordion, the clarinet, and the trombone, because we are throwing a New Orleans-style dance party, preferably in the street!
Of course, if your outdoor temperature du jour is a “Feels Like” of 11 degrees F like mine, feel free to get funky in the heated comfort of your kitchen—exactly what I did after taking my first bite of Cajun Jambalaya.
I suspect that you and I share the deep bond of taking particular holiday essentials quite seriously, namely THE FOOD. Every holiday has its traditional culinary charms and cherished reasons to indulge: Thanksgiving stuffing; Christmas cookies, cookies, and cookies; classy New Year’s Eve hors d’oeuvres; Super Bowl (yes, I consider the Super Bowl a holiday) chili; Valentine’s chocolate; and what would a birthday be without cake?
Given the importance of food to a proper celebration, what better holiday to provide with the edible attention it deserves than the one whose very name flaunts permission to happily load (and re-load) our forks: FAT TUESDAY.
As a tribute to Fat Tuesday (which is next week for any of you who don’t habitually seek excuses for theme meals, as I do) and to New Orleans, the city of Mardi Gras repute where dancing in the street is both appropriate and encouraged, I have a soulful, straightforward Cajun Jambalaya recipe for you.
My Cajun Jambalaya recipe begins as a smooth trombone number—its fragrant scent lures us to come closer, to relax, and to prepare ourselves to enjoy. Next, comes sudden bursts of musical energy. The volume rises, and we’re hit with chunky, flavorful pieces of pink shrimp, spicy Andouille, rich tomato, and bell pepper. Finally, our trombonist goes into an all-out free style: cayenne, hot sauce, thyme, and oregano are boogieing down on our tongues, and we’re feelin’ the beat.
Give in, get up, and dance! Cajun Jambalaya is a party in a pot.
Now that I have you under the influence of rhythmic flavor and jazz, I will break this next news to you gently: Cajun Jambalaya—our Fat Tuesday celebratory meal—isn’t actually, well, fat. It is packed with healthy protein (the recipe calls for chicken sausage, plus our friend shrimp), fiber-rich brown rice, and bright bell peppers and tomatoes. One bite, and you will wish that every healthy meal were as deceptively delectable as Cajun Jambalaya. With its crescendo of herbs and spices, hearty pieces of protein, and super-sticky-good rice, Cajun Jambalaya doesn’t miss a moment of celebration.
Plus, since this healthy Cajun Jambalaya recipe is prepared in a single pot, you can put the time you saved washing dishes towards a dance encore…or a third slice of King Cake. It is Fat Tuesday after all.
Packed with classic cajun spices, shrimp, chicken sausage, rich tomato, and bell peppers, this healthy take on jambalaya uses fiber-rich brown rice and is a party in a pot!
The recipe cooking times are geared towards long-grain brown rice, which takes longer to cook than white rice. If using long-grain white rice, in Step 3, reduce simmer time to 20 minutes.
Yield: Serves 8
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound chicken sausage, such as kielbasa or Andouille, sliced (I used Trader Joe’s chicken Andouille)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cups celery, diced (about 3 stalks)
- 2 green bell peppers, cored and diced
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and diced
- 1, 15 ounce can stewed tomatoes, undrained
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 4 cups (32 ounces) chicken stock
- 2 cups (16 ounces) water
- 3 cups long grain brown rice, rinsed
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 6-8 dashes hot sauce (such as Tabasco)
- 1/2 cup chopped scallions with white and green parts mixed, divided
- 3/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, divided
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 pound medium (20-24 count per pound) frozen shrimp, thawed and deveined with tails removed
- Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat. Add the sliced sausage and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, until browned. Remove the sausage to a bowl. 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, tomato paste, oregano, cayenne, and tomato paste and stir until all the vegetables and herbs are blended well.
- Add the stock and water and bring the pot to a rolling boil. Stir in the rice, and add the sausage, bay leaves, kosher salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Return to a boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover, and let simmer for 35 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, turn off heat and allow the jambalaya steam for 15 minutes, before serving.
- Garnish with the remaining 1/4 cup scallions and 1/4 cup parsley and an extra dash of hot sauce, if desired.
adapted from Amelia Durand