Mardi Gras recipe: Cajun jambalaya

A delicious, spicy rice casserole filled with chicken, sausage, and shrimp for Mardi Gras. Add a splash of Tabasco if you like things extra hot.

A Palatable Pastime
Celebrate Mardi Gras with a spicy Cajun jambalya.

I have been making jambalaya for a number of years now and it has become a regular staple in our home, especially in early spring, around the time of Mardi Gras. It is a spicy dish and can be made either as a casserole with the rice mixed  in, or as a meaty sauce spooned over cooked rice. Either way it is really delicious and makes a wonderful one-dish meal for your family.

And although I list chicken breast, andouille sausage, and shrimp as the prime ingredients, you can easily feel free to use whatever strikes your fancy or what you may have on hand. Thus, chicken can be exchanged with turkey or duck. Besides andouille, many types of sausage will suffice, including all types of smoked sausage.

In fact, I even used a bit of bison smoked sausage with jalapeno flavor in this one just as a change of pace (and it’s what I had on hand). The shrimp don’t necessarily need to be large. You can use any color of bell pepper – I use a mixture, saving extra pieces to use in tossed salad. Poblano peppers would be excellent in this as well, giving it a bit of a nice little bite. So as you can see, this casserole is very user friendly and adaptable.

I do hope you enjoy, and have a fabulous time before Fat Tuesday and if you observe, I hope you have a very Holy Lenten season.

Cajun Jambalya
Serves 8

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1  lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs; may use turkey or duck, cut into bite-sized pieces

8 ounces andouille sausage or other smoked sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1 large onion, chopped

2 celery ribs, diced

1/2 green bell pepper, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon Cajun spice (such as Tony Chacheres or Emeril’s Essence)

Salt and black pepper or substitute

2 ounces dry white wine (optional)

1-1/2 cups uncooked long grain rice

1 (14 ounce) can tomatoes, chopped,with juice

2 cups chicken broth or 2 cups stock

4-8 ounces shrimp, shelled and prepped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

3 green onions, finely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a large pan or Dutch oven, brown chicken pieces in the olive oil; add the andouille, onion, celery, bell pepper, thyme, oregano, paprika, Cajun spice, salt, and pepper to the pan, cooking and stirring for about 5 minutes until onions are tender; add wine to pan and stir until it evaporates.

3. Add rice, tomatoes with juice, and broth; bring to a boil.

4. Place mixture in a baking dish or oven-proof casserole (I used a lasagna pan); cover (can use foil) and bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes or until rice and chicken are done and tender.

5. Stir in shrimp, parsley, and green onions; cover and cook 5-8 minutes longer or until shrimp curl and turn bright pink (if the shrimp are already pink/precooked, the extra cooking is unnecessary – just stir them in).

Kitchen tip: If rice is a bit wet, drape a clean dish towel over the casserole dish and let it sit for about 10 minutes. The towel will absorb some of the steam, and when you come back and fluff it with a fork, you may find it to be more fluffy and palatable. I do this every time with rice. If you cook rice in a saucepan, just take the pan away from the heat source and put a folded clean towel on top between the lid and the pan. I promise you will like your rice much better!

I like serving this casserole with a splash of Tabasco or other Louisiana hot sauce – everyone has their favorite brand.

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