Sunday, October 26, 2008

Jambalaya

I never tasted jambalaya until I was in my 30s. We were living in San Jose, CA, and from time to time my husband would pick up some ribs and sides from a barbecue joint in nearby Morgan Hill. The ribs were delicious and so was the coleslaw. Once, though, he came home with a side order of jambalaya. It was so good, that it became an instant favorite. At about the same time, I started watching Justin Wilson, the Cajun chef, on a local TV station. I decided to try making jambalaya myself, but I didn't really follow a recipe. I just combined what I saw in the jambalaya from the barbecue joint and some of the info I got from Justin Wilson's show. It turned out pretty good, and I've been making it ever since.

Jambalaya is an easy dish to make without salt because it's filled with a lot of flavorful ingredients. However, traditional jambalaya is often made with both ham and sausage. Obviously, I can't use both of those ingredients in a low sodium version, so I just stick with the sausage. Andouille sausage is the traditional Cajun choice, but sometimes I can't find it. I often opt for using any hot, smoked link sausage available. Here's where portion control is important. A typical jambalaya recipe for four could call for 1/2 pound of sausage or more. I use only about 2 ounces. Whatever I don't use, gets packaged up in about 2 ounce portions and frozen for later use. I also slice the sausage thinly so that almost every bite has a little bit of that flavor.

Jambalaya often includes some shrimp too. That's another sodium rich ingredient. If I decide I really want the flavor, I'll only use a handful of shrimp along with the other ingredients (raw shrimp is lower in sodium than pre-cooked that has been boiled in salt water). Often, though, I just omit it.

Dark Roux
Another key flavoring is the roux. Equal parts of oil and flour are cooked together over medium heat, stirring constantly until the roux turns a very dark brown. This takes a while, but it is necessary to a good tasting jambalaya. I usually make 1/2 cup to 1 cup's worth at a time. The extra can be refrigerated and used for other dishes.

Although I know that it's traditional to cook everything in one big pot, I cook the rice separately. That's the way the barbecue restaurant did it, and that's what I'm accustomed to now. I usually make enough for four servings, so I get two meals out of it.

Jambalaya
(Printable Recipe)

4 chicken thighs (bone-in or boneless, skinless is fine too)
2 oz. smoked spicy sausage, sliced thinly (find the lowest sodium sausage available)
1 large onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped (any color or combination of colors will do)
2-3 stalks celery, sliced thinly
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. dried thyme or to taste
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (use more or less according to your taste)
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tsp. low sodium Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. NSA Cajun spice blend (I use The Spice House Cajun blend)
1 (14 oz.) can unsalted diced tomatoes
1 cup NSA chicken broth
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup flour
Oil for sauteing vegetables & chicken
NSA cooked rice (I use brown rice)

Optional:
8-12 medium raw shrimp, deveined (pre-cooked shrimp may also be used)

Make the roux by combining the flour & oil in a saucepan and cooking over medium heat until the color is a deep, dark brown. Stir frequently. Do not let the mixture burn. This could take 20 minutes or more. Set aside.

In a dutch oven, saute the onion, bell pepper, and celery in about 1 tablespoon oil until soft and tender. Remove vegetables and add chicken to pot; add a bit more oil if necessary. Saute until nicely browned on both sides. Return vegetables to pot, adding garlic and roux. Cook together until garlic begins to give off its fragrance.

Add diced tomatoes, chicken broth, thyme, cayenne pepper, and Cajun spice blend, if using. Cover dutch oven and simmer until chicken is barely tender, about 20 minutes. Add sliced sausage and cook another 10 minutes.

Once chicken is completely tender, add shrimp, if using. Continue simmering just until shrimp is cooked through, about 7-10 minutes. (If the shrimp is already cooked, just add them and take pot off stove. The residual heat from the jambalaya will warm up the shrimp sufficiently.)

Serve over rice.

3 comments:

Lucy said...

Oh that looks so good! I don't know why it is that I forget about this dish... then I see it & want it! And I have shrimp!!

OhioMom said...

Oh yummy! I used to love watching Justin cook on TV :)

Sarah T. said...

Is that the "Oney-Ones" guy?