Years ago, when I was a college student, my family traveled to New Orleans to celebrate my father’s 50th birthday. As he loves jazz and great food, the Big Easy seemed like a sensible destination. And it was. We saw the Neville Brothers, feasted at the Commander’s Palace, discovered beignets and chicory coffee at Cafe du Monde, and happily wandered the streets of the French Quarter.
Perhaps not surprisingly to the readers of this blog, an afternoon at a Cajun cooking school is the experience we are all still talking about decades later. Our foodie family learned that equal parts onion, green pepper and celery is known as the “holy trinity” and base for many wonderful Cajun dishes, and we were introduced to the concept of roux (a nutty brown flour-based thickener). As I remember it, we made Jambalaya, Etoufee, and Bread Pudding… and left very, very full and happy.
By now, you know that I cook for crowds at least a couple of times a month, and I’m always looking for great one-pot dishes to make well ahead of the dinner hour. Heaven forbid that I should miss more than five minutes of pre-dinner conversation (yes, I do believe my guests are THAT interesting.) And something about that Ole Miss-LSU game the other night inspired a big ol’ pot of Jambalaya. Good word, Jambalaya.
While I love the idea of serving Jambalaya to a crowd, I fret that the rice will be gummy if the dish is not served immediately. (Admittedly, this may or may not be a legitimate concern.) So over the years, in an effort not to miss a moment of a gathering, I have created a slightly “deconstructed” version… stew served over warm rice at the last minute. I believe grilling the meats before tossing them into the spicy stew gives the dish a wonderful, smoky flavor… and I love to put a bit of nutty roux to thicken up the stew a bit. I know, I know, this is nowhere near an authentic version. It’s been “Bourbon and Brown Sugared.” Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It was delicious.
We stuffed 11 people around the kitchen table last night – great conversation, great laughs… and nearly everyone requested seconds. As they say in New Orleans: “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”
On a secondary note, I discovered that at the very last moment that last night was the inaugural One Pot Supper Evening for a fantastic local charity – Martha’s Table. Such a great idea! Next year, I may invite even more friends to join the fun at House Morell…
I can’t seem to find our original recipe from the cooking school, so this is adapted from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse
Emeril’s Bayou Blast Seasoning:
- 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups cup chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
- 1 1/2 cups chopped celery
- 8 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 3 teaspoon hot sauce
- 8 cups chicken stock
- 1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 1/2 pounds spicy merquez sausage, or andoille sausage
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 10 cups cooked white rice, for serving
Combine the spices together in a bowl, and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium-low heat, then add the onion, celery, peppers and garlic. Sautee until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, Worcestershire, 3 tablespoons of the seasoning mix, the hot sauce and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, and let simmer 15 minutes.
In a small saucepan, heat the butter until it is browned (about 7 minutes – be careful not to burn it!). Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Add about a half-cup to a cup of the jambalaya liquid to the small saucepan and whisk until smooth. Add this to the stew, and gently stir this into the stew… it will thicken the sauce a bit.
Turn off the heat under the stew for a bit while you grill the shrimp, chicken and sausage.
Heat your grill.
Place the shrimp on skewers, and generously sprinkle with the bayou seasoning.
Generously coat the chicken with the bayou seasoning.
Cook the sausage, shrimp and chicken over the grill until just done. The shrimp will cook in about three minutes on each side, the chicken and sausage should cook in about 6-7 minutes on each side.
When the chicken and sausage cools a bit, cut the meat into 1 inch chunks and add to the stew. Toss the shrimp in as well.
Bring to a simmer and cook for an additional 15 minutes.
Serve over warm white rice.