Happy Mardi Gras!
Today is Fat Tuesday, signaling the end of the Mardi Gras celebration, and while not a monumental landmark in my life, I do have Bayou roots and a love for New Orleans. To me, the city deserves a little recognition, considering it’s home to Mardi Gras, it’s finally showing signs of Katrina recovery and the hometown Saints recently grabbed a huge Super Bowl victory.
So, whether you’re partial to New Orleans for its football success, the Cajun/Creole food heritage, its mystique or Mardi Gras festivities, today is a tribute to the Big Easy.
I happen to like all ‘Orleans attributes and decided – if I couldn’t make it to Mardi Gras, I would bring Mardi Gras to my kitchen. Well, sort of; there weren’t too many beads, females lacking shirts and Hurricanes hanging out in my kitchen. However, there was Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya and The Bachelor (Vienna is definite Bourbon Street material), so I assumed that combination sufficed.
And, thus – Recipe Four in “Angie’s Quest to Garlic Cooking Greatness,” the non-blockbuster, garlic version of Julie & Julia, was born. However, I deviated, again, from The Garlic Lovers’ Cookbook, Volume II. Seeing as it was Fat Tuesday eve, and I was planning to prepare – or at least attempt – a New Orleans original, I wanted an authentic chicken and sausage jambalaya recipe.
Therefore, I summoned an expert opinion from Cajun Chef Ryan Boudreaux, a New Orleans native who relocated to Wake Forest, N.C. in Katrina’s wake. In fine Southern form, Chef Ryan delivered a genuinely amazing jambalaya, which tasted like it was catapulted straight from Commander’s Palace.
Alright, that’s a serious exaggeration, but the point is – Chef Ryan’s jambalaya reeked of an heirloom recipe someone’s Creole grandmother concocted upon Louisiana’s inception. Cajun Chef Ryan has definite New Orleans street cred.
Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya
Ingredients: (Note – I’m a huge sausage fan and love any excuse to go sausage heavy. You can take the girl out of Kansas, but you can’t take the Kansas out of the girl. Therefore, I eliminated the chicken aspect of this recipe and doubled the sausage. So, I apologize if the recipe’s name misled; this dish is strictly pig):
– 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil;
– 2 lbs. smoked sausage – sliced;
– 3 cups fresh onions – diced (I only made it to three cups. I couldn’t find my goggles, and my incessant crying – due to the onions – makes operating a large knife risky. Therefore, I doubled the California heirloom garlic and green onions);
– 3 cups celery – diced;
– 3 cups green bell peppers – diced;
– 4 tbsp. Christopher Ranch California heirloom garlic – minced;
– 1 tsp. dry mustard;
– 1 tsp. fresh thyme;
– 1 tbsp. smoky paprika ( I doubled, but I like to sweat when I eat Cajun);
– 1 tsp. cumin;
– 2 cups fresh tomatoes – diced;
– 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock;
– 3 cups brown rice;
– 3/4 tbsp. Crystal hot sauce – or any Louisiana brand (I used 3 tbsp., but, again, I love heat);
– 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce;
– 2 cups fresh green onions – chopped;
– Using a little olive oil, sauté the smoked sausage in a large stock pot, until browned.
– Add the onions, celery and bell pepper to the browned sausage, and continue sautéing, until veggies are soft and onions translucent. Add garlic, and stir well.
– Sprinkle in all herbs and seasonings (minus the hot and Worcestershire sauces), and stir well.
– Add tomatoes and chicken stock, and bring to a boil.
– Stir in the rice, followed by the Crystal hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce, and stir well.
– Cover the rice, and allow to cook, occasionally stirring rice to prevent from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
– Once the rice has absorbed all the liquid – about 20 minutes – add the green onions, and stir well.
– Serve hot, and drizzle with a little low-fat cheese and a few additional drops of hot sauce; if you like it hot, that is!
Thoughts: Cajuns understand flavor; their use of bold herbs and spices, such as fresh garlic, is unbridled. And, Cajun cuisine, such as jambalaya, is quite similar to New Orleans – steamy, mysterious and sexy. One bite is a tease; it lingers on your mind and always leaves you wanting more. Since I opted for low-sodium chicken broth, brown rice and fresh herbs whenever possible, feel free to succumb to Cajun temptation.
Not to mention, the perfect indulgent dish to crush before tomorrow’s Ash Wednesday.
Happy Mardi Gras!