One of the neatest ladies I’ve met online was Bayuqueen. Wanda shared recipes and stories with me in a music chat program. Sadly she passed away a few months after Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on her life. I cherish my memories: a handful of strings of Mardi Gras beads and the recipe for Jambalaya that she shared with me.
I’ve never been to New Orleans, but I would love to visit. I don’t think I want to visit during Mardi Gras. I want to roam around and absorb local flavor and shopping and entertainment without massive crowds of revelers around me. And food! I would love to taste some of their unique dishes down there!
In the meantime I will settle for my jambalaya which I make right before Fat Tuesday every year. It’s my own tradition and I’ve taught family and friends to like the same tradition. I make a big pot and share it. It’s not a difficult dish but it is sometimes difficult to find andouille sausage up here in the north. Apparently grocers don’t realize some of us want to be a little more worldly in our tastes. Or something like that.
Bayuqueen’s jambalaya recipe contains both andouille sausage and shrimp. This year I got a treat from a co-worker whose brother drives through Louisiana on his trucking route. He brings her back bags of frozen shrimp and she shared a bag with me. The shrimp was frozen in a block of ice so I had to thaw the entire bag. Even half the bag was a lot of shrimp for one pot of jambalaya but son Jdawg was more than happy to take a good portion of shrimp off my hands. His family loves shrimp. He is also one of my jambalaya fans, so he was lucky he stopped by at the right time and could take home a container of freshly made jambalaya.
Some years my jambalaya is better than others. Occasionally I have trouble with the rice; it just won’t cook right and stays a little crunchy. Another year my rice was so overdone it was almost mushy and soupy. I finally found an almost guaranteed way to get the rice properly done and revised my recipe so that I remembered how I did it. And then cross my fingers.
This year was a good year. It is perfect. I usually make it a few days ahead of Fat Tuesday so it has time to fully blend flavors. Jambalaya is one of those dishes best served left over. I did however find that it does not freeze well. The rice ends up odd and the shrimp are rubbery. Not worth freezing.
Southerners love to call their mix of onion, peppers and celery their ‘holy trinity’. I like to use a red bell pepper for the color but green or any other color bell pepper would also work. While the holy trinity saute I like to dice the andouille in about 3/4 inch pieces. Bayuqueen had said to slice it or dice it but I found I like smaller diced pieces of the very spicy sausage in spoonfuls of jambalaya rather than slices.
It is important to remember to stir the rice halfway through the 20 minute cooking time. It does tend to stick to the bottom of the pot and can easily burn. It did that on me one year but I was able to save the jambalaya by quickly dumping the rest out of the pot and into a fresh pot. Whew! And do remember to put that lid back on to ensure that the rice gets done properly
2 tablespoon oil
1 cup onion; chopped
1 cup red bell pepper; chopped
1/2 cup celery; finely chopped
1 lb Andouille sausage; diced
5 cups chicken broth
45 ounces tomatoes; canned, diced
3 clove garlic; chopped
2 bay leaf
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 dash tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 cup rice (not Minute)
3 lb shrimp; raw, shelled
1/4 cup green onion; sliced
1 tablespoon dried parsley
Heat a large pot and add 2 tablespoons of oil. Add onions, peppers, celery and cook until onion is translucent, stirring often.
Add andouille and saute about 10 more minutes.
Add chicken broth, tomatoes, spices and tabasco. Bring to a boil. Add rice and stir well. Cover and cook over lowest temperature for 20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes.
Add the shrimp and cook for 5 more minutes.