A Little More Each Day

One working mama learning to run & to maintain my 100+ pound weight loss!

Jambalaya!

on September 2, 2013

This is by far my most requested dish and something I make in both a full octane and a lightened version (usually at the same time), so I thought I’d share them here.  With the lightened version, I try to have more veggies and less of the higher fat proteins, but it really is fantastically tasty for “light” food. **Note: Nothing about this is a sponsored post, but I will mention the specific brands that work for me in case anyone is interested.

The most important thing about getting the flavor right in this dish is picking a sausage that you like. We use andouille or a  Cajun chicken sausage (Comeaux’s – I order it online through Cajun Grocer since I can’t buy it locally). The chicken sausage has great flavor and is only 1 point per ounce, so very WW friendly.

To start, I set up two pots on my stove. Today, the giant one is for the full octane jambalaya (let’s call it FO and the other light from this point forth) since we’ll be sharing it with a friend. I’m also making a lot because I have some work travel coming up in October and this freezes really well to leave behind for my husband.

Jamabalaya two pot set up

Take a couple of turns around the FO pot with extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil. I generally just spray the light pot with cooking spray like Pam. Add your sausage (see amounts in recipes below) and let sizzle until it is nice and brown. When I have it available, I like to add tasso ham, which is a Cajun spiced ham, to the FO version. It gives it a really nice smoky flavor. When the sausages are browned, scoop them out to a plate or bowl. You’ll have lots of yummy bits stuck to the bottom of the pot, which gives great flavor to the chicken and veggies we add next. If you leave the sausage in, things get too crowded and you don’t get good browning of the chicken or veggies.

Jambalaya browned bits

Next, add some chunks of chicken breast or thigh (usually use breast for the light version) and stir around for 4-5 minutes until it is browned and has picked up some of the flavor from the pan. Remove those pieces and add the “trinity” – onions, bell pepper and celery. This combination of aromatics serves as the base of lots of Cajun/Creole recipes, similar to the mire poix of French cuisine. Stir these around for 3-5 minutes, until things have started to brown. As the onions are starting to brown, add the garlic cloves. Don’t add before this point because the garlic can easily burn and get bitter.

Return your meats to the pan and add the seasonings. I use a specific blend called Joe’s Stuff but you can use any Cajun seasoning blend you like. Be careful that it isn’t too salty! There is already a lot of salt in this dish from the sausage (and ham in the FO) and with some seasoning blends, it is easy to go overboard. If salt is listed as the first or second ingredient in your Cajun seasoning blend, add a little (instead of the amount I have below) and taste test when the dish comes together to see if you need to add more. Alternatively, you could use one of the homemade blends I have listed below the recipe. I screwed this up once with a new Cajun seasoning blend (Slap Ya Mama! – great for roasted veggies; way too salty for this dish). Depending on how spicy you like things (and how spicy your Cajun seasoning is), adjust the amount of cayenne you add. The first time you try this, it might work better to save the cayenne until the dish has come together and adjust it at the end.

The next step is a cheater’s approach to a quick roux. Roux, which is a cooked mix of flour and fat, makes a thickening and flavoring base for many sauces. A traditional roux requires lots of stirring and patience, neither of which are my forte. This is why I make jambalaya a lot more often than gumbo! You really can’t cheat the roux on a gumbo and get the same results, but you can here. To do it, sprinkle flour over the veggies and meats while they are in the pan and stir it around to cook for 3-4 minutes. The flour will coat the veggies and meats (and may look lumpy – that’s okay!), mixing with the fats and providing the thickening of a traditional roux without the time. You do want to let it cook for a few minutes with just the flour or you’ll end up with a raw flour taste.

Jambalaya cheater's roux

Next, add the chicken stock and diced tomatoes and stir to combine. Add the bay leaves and let the whole thing simmer for at least 20 minutes, but the longer the better. This is a dish that is even better the second day!  **Alternatively, at this point you can add the whole thing to a slow cooker and letting it hang out on low for 6-8 hours for things to really come together.

Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. The last thing you add, prior to serving, is the shrimp. Peeled raw shrimp cook really quickly – you just want them to turn opaque/pinkish. If they cook too long, they’ll get tough. I wait until right before serving to add them. If I’ve put it in the slow cooker, I add it about 30 minutes before serving. 30 minutes on the slow cooker on low makes nearly perfect shrimp (at least in my slow cooker).

Jambalaya - Light Final Product

Serve over rice, quinoa or even butternut squash (although admittedly I love butternut squash, so that one may only work for me). My husband always eats his second and third bowls with sauce alone, no grain. One quick tip to ramp up the flavor of the rice or quinoa: I frequently cut off the end of the sausage because it can be a little tougher to chew, but I save those end pieces and toss them in the water with the rice/quinoa to add extra flavor since the grains alone can be fairly bland.

Jambalaya sausage ends tip

I usually serve this with hot sauce so people can adjust their spiciness, especially if I’ve made a milder batch because I’ve got kids eating too. If you want to be fancy, topping with sliced green onions is also nice. A nice crusty French bread for soaking up extra sauce is always nice!

The ingredients below are my usual starting point, but I definitely adjust the proteins depending on what I have on hand. You can use a wide variety of proteins in jambalaya with the same techniques, just be aware to adjust your points accordingly. I think the sausage is the one “must” ingredient because it adds so much to the flavor profile, but I adjust the chicken and shrimp depending on what I have on hand. Duck and alligator also work. The sauce would also be fantastic served over a nice fish filet!

Ingredients & Amounts:

Full Octane Jambalaya (Serves 4-8 depending on the appetite!)

1 cup tasso ham

1.5 lbs sausage (we like Comeaux’s Cajun chicken sausage or andouille sausage)

1 lb chicken breast or thigh

1 large onion

2 green bell pepper

3 stalks celery

4 cloves garlic

3 heaping tablespoons flour

4 tablespoons Cajun seasoning (*See adjustments below if your blend is too salty)

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/8-1/2 tsp cayenne (to taste)

4 cups unsalted chicken stock

2 cans diced tomatoes with juice (I prefer the Hunt’s Fire Roasted)

2 bay leaves

1 lb shrimp

Light Jambalaya (2-4 servings depending on the appetite)

1 sausage link (4 oz – 4 points)

6 oz chicken breast (6 points)

1/4 large onion (0)

1/2 bell pepper (0)

2 stalks celery (0)

2 cloves garlic (0)

1/2 tablespoon flour (0)

1 can diced tomatoes with juice (I prefer the Hunt’s Fire Roasted) (0)

2 cups unsalted chicken stock (1 point)

1 1/2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning (*See adjustments below if your blend is too salty) (0)

1/2 tsp black pepper (0)

1/8-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste) (0)

1 bay leaf (0)

8 oz raw shrimp (5 points)

Cajun Seasoning Blends:

From John Besh’s My New Orleans (one of my favorite cookbooks!)

Makes about ½ cup

1 teaspoon celery salt
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon allspice
Mix all of the spices together in a small bowl. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

If you don’t have or like allspice, skip it. Other versions of this mix you find on the web add thyme and oregano to the Besh’s spice backbone.

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2 responses to “Jambalaya!

  1. leannenalani says:

    Thanks for the recipe! I’m in need of a good jambalaya. 🙂

  2. […] months ago, I wrote about making “light” and “full octane” versions of my jambalaya side by side. Last weekend, I took that approach again when making baked ziti and it worked out […]

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