Batter Licker

November 15, 2010

creole jambalaya

I love spicy foods, and when I have some peppers and onions left over from fajitas, jambalaya is a good way to make use of these veggies and other pantry items I always have on hand. Plus, jambalaya mixes it up a bit so the leftover-friendly dish has some bite without having the same Mexican flavor profile and doesn’t seem quite so left over.

Compared to other spicy, complex, and delicious Southern creole dishes, such as gumbos and étouffées, jambalaya is much simpler and less time consuming to prepare. But it still looks and tastes incredibly flavorful and much more labor intensive than it is, which is never a bad thing.

While there are several types of jambalaya out there, the creole variety is my personal preference. Not that I’d turn down a cajun jambalaya, but there’s something about the tomato-based creole version – probably the acidity of the tomatoes – that just really balances the spice intensiveness of this dish.

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Jambalaya is typically made with rice cooked directly in the sauce, but I usually do a pasta version. Pasta not only cooks faster than rice, but penne rigate is particularly fantastic for this dish because the ridges add texture and really catch more of the sauce. I also love the way the diced peppers, onions, spices, and browned bits from the meat get caught inside the tubular pasta, making the texture and flavor of each ingredient a bit more texturally noticeable than if hidden amongst tiny grains of rice. Also, cooking the pasta separately ensures that your meat and veggies aren’t of the overcooked variety often found in these types of stew-ish dishes.

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This jambalaya isn’t rocket science, but does require a lot of fairly commonplace spices, most (if not all) of which you probably already keep in your pantry. In fact, if you haven’t put this blend of seasonings together before, I’m sure you’ll be as delighted as I was a few years ago to realize I could double up this creole spice blend and keep it handy to add to other dishes that need a little spicy, Southernized perk-me-up.

Creole Jambalaya
Serves 4

If you’re crunched for time or cash (or you simply forgot to replace the shrimp you always keep in your freezer, as I did), skip the shrimp and add some more chicken, sausage, or pasta, as you’ll notice I did in the pictures above.

8 oz. dry penne rigate pasta
1/2 c. reserved pasta water
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
Creole Seasoning, divided, recipe follows
1/4 lb. shrimp
1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, 1-inch diced
1/4 lb. Andouille sausage, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 c. yellow onion, small diced
1/2 c. bell pepper, small diced
1/2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/4 c. low-sodium chicken stock
14 oz. canned diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 c. grated Parmesan

Prepare Creole Seasoning per recipe below. Set aside.

In a large pot over high heat, bring water to a boil. Add pasta, and return to boil, stirring occasionally. Cook pasta until nearly al dente, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1/2 c. pasta cooking water, then drain pasta and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large pan over medium-high heat, add 1 Tbsp. olive oil, swirling pan to evenly coat with oil. Season shrimp with 2 tsp. Creole Seasoning, and sear for 1 minute per side. Remove from pan, and set aside. (Shrimp should be slightly undercooked, as it will continue cooking later on.)

Add another Tbsp. olive oil to pan. Season chicken with 2 tsp. Creole Seasoning, and sear for 3 minutes, turning to ensure evening browning. Remove from pan, and set aside with seared shrimp. (Chicken should be slightly undercooked, as it will continue cooking later on.)

Pour remaining Tbsp. olive oil into the pan. Add sausage, onions, garlic, and bell peppers. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until sausage is lightly caramelized and onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Add chicken stock to pan, and scrape bottom of pan to remove any browned bits that have formed, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and remaining Tbsp. Creole Seasoning, and cook for 2 minutes. Return shrimp and chicken to pan, and add nearly al dente pasta and reserved 1/2 c. pasta water. Continue to cook sauce and pasta, stirring occasionally, until shrimp and chicken are cooked through, pasta is al dente, and most of pasta cooking water has evaporated, about 3 minutes.

Remove from heat, add fresh parsley and Parmesan, and toss to combine. Serve hot.

Creole Seasoning (adapted from Emeril Lagasse)

1 1/4 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1/2 Tbsp. black pepper
1/2 Tbsp. onion powder
1/4 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 Tbsp. dried oregano
1/2 Tbsp. dried thyme

Mix all ingredients thoroughly in small bowl. Transfer to airtight container, and store in dark, cool place for up to 6 months.

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