Jambalaya with Shrimp, Chicken and Andouille Sausage

In our continuing celebration of Mardi Gras here in an area of the world that really doesn't care about it, we decided to make Jambalaya. Well, I gave Harry a choice - we could have Jambalaya or Shrimp Etouffee, one of his absolute favorites. When we were in NOLA, he ordered it every single night!

He really wanted his favorite, but settled with 'we've never made Jambalaya before.' Well, I have but it might have been right before we met.

I had to make do with what ingredients I could find here in Ohio, but found some awesome Key West Shrimp and an Andouille-flavored smoked sausage. No, it's not the *real* stuff, but it does provide a great flavor and some heat. Feel free to use regular smoked sausage.

There's no such thing as a one perfect recipe for Jambalaya - it's doing to be different in every single kitchen. In French cooking, the basic building block of most stews is a combination of diced onions, carrots and celery. Cajun and Creole cooks leave out the carrots and use bell peppers. I chose a yellow bell pepper because of the intense sweet flavor. Try to keep your diced veggies about the same size - celery should be a bit smaller because of the density. Sweat them in a stock pot just until they start to give off their aroma - they'll be cooking for awhile and you don't want them to turn to mush. Add the garlic and stir around for a few seconds until you can smell it.

Add the chicken and smoked sausage. We debated later that maybe I should have seared the meat first before I added the vegetables. Yeah, I might have gotten a little bit of caramelization on the meat but in the end, we didn't miss it. Saute and stir around occasionally, until the chicken is no longer pink.

Now I've added all the liquid, canned tomatoes and seasonings. Once this comes to a simmer, it's time to add the rice. Reduce the heat to low, put a lid on it and don't peek for at least 15 minutes. Taste test the rice for doneness, then add the shrimp, stirring gently just to submerge the shrimp. Cover the pot again and it's done in 5 minutes.

And time to eat. I made some quick garlic bread and we nibbled on raw veggies while I was cooking - because Harry was out of peanut-butter filled pretzel nuggets.

Debbie & Harry's Jambalaya - generously serves 6
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup diced sweet onion
3 celery ribs, cleaned and diced
1 medium bell pepper, cleaned and diced
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces smoked sausage or Andouille sausage, cut into medallions
2 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 15-ish ounce can vegetable broth
1 can low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1 can roasted diced tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (or to taste - we used our Cajun Kick)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Frank's Red Hot Sauce to taste (or use your favorite hot sauce)
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice (we love Basmati or Jasmine)
1 pound medium to large raw shrimp, peeled and cleaned
Chopped scallion for garnish

In a large stock pot with a heavy bottom over medium-high heat, saute the onion, celery and bell pepper until the aroma fills your kitchen, about 7-8 minutes. Add the garlic, stirring for about 30 seconds. Then, add the sausage and chicken, stirring well. Continue to saute over medium heat until the chicken is no longer pink.

Add the vegetable and chicken broths, the water, the canned tomatoes and the seasonings. Stir occasionally until the mixture comes to a simmer. Stir in the rice, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Do not open the lid until at least 15 minutes have elapsed. If you stir while the rice is cooking, it will clump together and get gooey.

After 15 minutes, taste the rice for doneness and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Gently stir in the shrimp and cover the pot for another five minutes. Garnish the jambalaya with diced scallions and serve with a crusty bread.

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