Whether meatless, vegan or full-on carnivore, jambalaya does it all
In my house, Papa Bear is carnivorous.
Mama Bear is mostly vegetarian but will eat seafood on occasion.
And Baby Bear (well, an adult "Baby Bear," in any case) is a vegan, full stop.
So it's not always easy for this Goldilocks to find a happy ending in the kitchen -- meaning it's not that simple to accommodate all three of our food preferences with one recipe. Never mind, our varying degrees of tolerance for spice and other taste variables.
That's why I was thrilled when I found this recipe for Andouille and Chicken Jambalaya from the Food Network.
First off, it calls for fully cooked sausage and rotisserie chicken for the "meat" version. What a genius idea and super easy, too!
Secondly, it incorporates rice into the dish as a thickener rather than a roux. I know. I know. Cooking without starting with a roux is heresy if you are an aficionado of Southern cooking, but work with me here. We are talking about getting dinner on the table -- not winning the Gonzales Jambalaya Festival. Roux -- a mixture of flour and oil -- is always going to give your dish a great color, smooth body and nutty flavor.
Making a good roux is an essential kitchen skill, but roux is a tricky business, so today, we're using rice.
Finally, the best part of this recipe is how adaptable it is. I made a meatless version eliminating the andouille and chicken, using vegan sausage instead. Beyond Meat and Field Roast are two brands that are easy to find -- I used Field Roast spicy chipotle because I wanted the dish to have a kick. I also added 1½ cups of frozen peas, as well as 1½ cups of frozen chopped okra.
For the seafood version, I included the vegetarian sausage and 1½ cups of frozen, peeled, uncooked shrimp, as well as the okra and peas.
Once you get the hang of this, feel free to add whatever types of veggies, seafood and meat that you have on hand. Frozen corn could work. So could scallops or pieces of cod for the seafood version. You could add ham in there, too -- in addition to or in place of the andouille sausage.
If you are adding anything precooked like the chicken and the beans, make sure you wait until the end so as not to overcook the ingredients.
You can also play around with the spiciness by adding more Cajun seasoning or even a pinch of cayenne pepper. This version has plenty of flavor, but it's mild enough for most palates.
What follows is the main recipe I started with but play around with it, and you're sure to find happily ever after -- at least for one meal.
• M. Eileen Brown is the Daily Herald's director of strategic marketing and innovation and an incurable soup-a-holic. She specializes in vegetarian soups and blogs at soupalooza.com.
Andouille and Chicken Jambalaya
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 3-ounce fully cooked andouille sausages, sliced ¼-inch thick
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
¾ cup converted white rice
1 15-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 15-ounce can no-salt-added kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1½ cups shredded rotisserie chicken or leftover turkey (skin removed; about 8 ounces)
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 3 minutes. Add the celery, onion and bell pepper, season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and Cajun seasoning and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are coated, about 1 minute. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until coated, about 1 minute. Add the diced tomatoes and 5 cups water to the pot. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the rice is tender and the sauce thickens, 10 to 15 minutes.
Stir the beans and chicken into the pot and cook until warmed through, about 1 minute. Top each serving with celery leaves and drizzle with olive oil.
From the Food Network Kitchen