New Orleans is a city renowned for its very unique style of cooking. New Orleans is synonymous with Cajun and Creole cuisine, and it’s nearly impossible to think of either of them without mentioning Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday! It’s a celebration like no other in the United States. This is one blowout bash that brilliantly showcases the lively nature of New Orleans as well as ALL its fabulous food.
I’ve been to New Orleans several times. I am a big fan, as are most people who’ve visited this great southern city and food mecca. One of my “bucket list” of things to do is to visit New Orleans during Mardi Gras. The photo below is from the very first time I ever visited New Orleans in 1997.
My favorite dish for Fat Tuesday celebrations is a Mighty Meat and Shrimp Jambalaya! The best thing about jambalaya is that you can easily tailor it to your own tastes.
Personally, I really like the combination of meat and shrimp in this dish. It helps to add a very distinct and tasty flavor to the rice. But if you do not like a meat and fish combo, it is very easy to remove the ingredients that you don’t like, and replace it with more of what you do like. And just keep on cooking! That also holds true for the spiciness of the dish. I like a mildly spicy Jambalaya. So, if you like it hotter – simply add more cayenne pepper. If you prefer no heat at all you can entirely leave out the cayenne pepper and spicy sausage of the dish.
A jambalaya is cooked in one pot, very similar to paella, its first cousin. And once your jambalaya is cooked, it is very easy to serve a large group of people, which, ultimately will allow you more time to enjoy the fun too.
However, their are some technique tips to keep in mind when making one pot recipes such as a jambalaya. It’s in the technique of your cooking where people will taste the difference. A very important thing to keep in mind during the cooking process of a jambalaya is that you want to create layers of flavors . Therefore, the seasoning and searing off of the meats and shrimp are very important steps. Also, the seasoning and sautéing of the onion, celery and green pepper (known as the Holy Trinity in New Orleans) is an equally important step.
I share some technique tips below. But, the #1 tip that I can share with you right off the bat is to make sure you build a nice fond (those tasty morsels of cooked protein that form on the bottom of a pan). This is where that distinct flavor for your final dish will come from. All that goodness that sticks to the bottom of your pan will caramelize and create a unique taste along with the Cajun seasonings in this recipe. Believe me it will begin to smell MIGHTY delicious very quickly. At this point, you’re well on your way to making one Mighty Meat and Shrimp Jambalaya. Delicious!
Mighty Meaty and Shrimp Jambalaya
(Serves 6-8 hungry people)
- 1 lb. chicken thighs, trimmed, cleaned and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 lb. Andouille sausage, cut into 1/4 inch slices.
- 1 lb. spicy Spanish chorizo, cut into a medium diced
- 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
- Creole seasoning, to taste (see recipe below)
- 4 cloves chopped garlic
- 1 green bell pepper, medium diced
- 1 red bell pepper, medium diced
- 1 large onion, medium diced
- 3 celery stalks, medium diced
- 4 scallions
- 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes, or your favorite tomato sauce
- 2 tomatoes, seeded and medium diced
- 6 -7 cups chicken stock
- 3 cups white rice
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon butter, unsalted
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
- olive oil as needed
- salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
- 1 tablespoon dried sweet basil
- 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
- 1/2 tablespoon black pepper
- 1/2 tablespoon white pepper
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
- Add all the measured ingredients to a bowl.
- Thoroughly mix and set aside.
Tip: I did not add salt to this Cajun spice mix. This way you can control the amount of salt you use. This recipe will make about a 1/2 cups worth of spice mix. You will definitely not use it all in this recipe. You can take about 3 tablespoons of the spice mix and add salt to taste. Then you can season and salt all in one step and the remaining spice mix will remain salt free.
Making the Jambalaya
- Wash and cut all the vegetables and place aside.
- Keep the garlic separate from the rest.
- Wash the scallions. Cut off the root ends and discard. Slice on the bias.
- Trim off the very dark green top portions and add to your chicken stock.
Tip: Keep the chicken stock at a low simmer. When it’s time to add it to the jambalaya increase the heat and bring it to a boil. This will ensure that the stock will not slow down the cooking process and the rice will cook faster.
Cooking the meats and shrimp
- Heat your large cooking pan for the jambalaya over a medium high heat.
- Add enough olive oil to thinly coat the bottom of the pan.
- Once the pan lightly begins to smoke, reduce to a medium heat and add the well-seasoned chicken.
Tip: Do not overcrowd your pan. Cook in batches if can’t comfortably brown off all the chicken at one time. Overcrowding the pan will wind up steaming the meat, not searing it. (Steaming will not allow you to build the delicious fond that I mentioned earlier.) That’s where all the great flavor will be!
- As the chicken begins to just brown remove it with a slotted spoon. Add it to a strainer placed inside a bowl to catch any juices.
- Next add the Andouille sausage (in batches if necessary) and add to the strainer as it begins to brown.
- Then quickly to the same with the diced chorizo.
- At this point, there should be a very nice fond accumulated at the bottom of your pan.
Tip: As you sear the meats add a little more olive oil as needed. Also, do not get the pan too hot. Keep it at a medium heat and take your time. This way the fond will continue to gain flavor but not burn.
- Lastly, add the seasoned shrimp.
- This is also your last building phase for the fond. The shrimp will leave a very unique flavor behind that will add a deliciously distinct flavor to the rice.
- Cook quickly so that they color on the outside but remain opaque on the inside.
- Remove all to the shrimp to the strainer with the meats. All juices that accumulate in the bowl underneath will be used during the stock addition.
Adding the Holy Trinity and lifting up the fond
- Let the pan cool a bit and disregard any excess oil. Then add the garlic, cook until fragrant and slightly golden in color. This will happen fast!
- When you finally add your Holy Trinity, the steam and moisture from the vegetables will help lift up all these crusted-on flavors.
- With a wooden spoon make sure to scrape up the fond with the help of the vegetables.
- Now, cook until the vegetables have softened.
- Then add a ladle or two of stock and scrape up any more fond that is still stuck on the bottom.
- Season with a little more Cajun spice mix and let cook an additional 5 minutes over a medium low heat.
- With a wooden spoon, stir and scrape every so often to help lift the fond from the bottom of the pan.
Adding Tomato Sauce and Rice
Once you’ve cooked the vegetables you can now add the tomato sauce
- Pour in the tomato sauce, sprinkle a little of the Cajun seasoning on it, add the Worcestershire sauce (optional) and stir it all completely into the vegetables.
- Let the tomato mixture cook uncovered over a medium heat for about 5-7 minutes, or until the sauce has lost some of its moisture and thickened.
- At this point, you can add the rice and the bay leaves
- Mix the rice to coat well with the tomato sauce.
- Add enough chicken stock to cover the rice by two thirds.
- Also add any reserved juice from the meats and shrimp from the bowl under your colander.
Tip: The rice will take about 20 minutes to cook. Keep adding more chicken stock as needed. Just remember the end result should not have a lot of liquid. All the stock should be absorbed.
- After the rice has been cooking for 16 minutes (or almost totally cooked), add in the meats, shrimp, (and any additional collected juices), half of the scallions and all chopped tomatoes.
- Carefully, but thoroughly combine all.
- Taste for seasoning at this point. Add, more salt, Cajun spice mix, or even more Cayenne pepper and carefully mix until completely blended.
- Heat for 5 minutes or until the rice is nice and tender, and the shrimp and meats heat through.