Kicking Off a Carnival Season

Yesterday, after a productive workday, Mr. B slipped on his new slippers and rolled into the last of the holiday season. I found him parked in front of the television, sipping away on a Manhattan and watching the last of the bowl games, albeit, the biggest one of them all--the BCS Championship game.

Usually, during football season, there's a lot of conversation that goes into meal preparation. Mr. B delightfully--and happily--tucks into whatever my latest culinary creativity has me obsessed with, except when it comes to sporting events and especially if I seem to be incorporating a few too many vegetables into the menu. Nope; when it comes to football, Mr. B demands meaty, rib-sticking, football approved, man-style fare.

So since yesterday's big game coincided with the beginning of Carnival Season, I decided to surprise him with a big pot of his much beloved jambalaya. Now, you may be thinking that if jambalaya happens to be one of Mr. B's favorite dishes, I must make it all the time. But, you'd be wrong, because it's hasn't been one of my favorite dishes--at least, not until I whipped up this quick and nutritious variation. It's good and spicy and chock full of big pieces of andouille sausage and pan seared shrimp, plus, I broke with tradition and used brown rice instead of the usual white.

You may have missed last night's big game, but Carnival Season is just getting started.  So, get out your Mardi Gras beads, tune into WWOZ for some Carnival music, and whip up a big pot of this jambalaya. The real holiday season is just getting started.

Mel's Jambalaya

*I used roasted leg and thigh meat from a chicken I'd roasted on Sunday. A good substitution would be well-seasoned cubed, cooked, skinless chicken thighs.

1 medium onion, finely diced
1 medium red bell pepper, finely diced
1 large stalk of celery, finely diced
4-5 tablespoons of finely diced celery leaves and inner stalks
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups coarsely chopped dark meat chicken
3 links aundouille sausage (I like Bruce Aidelle's); 2 coarsely chopped; 1 sliced
1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled, cleaned and sliced lengthwise in half
4 cups cooked long grain brown rice
1 cup diced, peeled tomatoes with juice
1 can of Rotell with cilantro and lime
chicken bouillon
cayenne pepper
Crystal's hot sauce
Bay leaves
salt and pepper
olive oil

1. In a large stock pot, melt 2 tablespoons of butter; add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat until hot.
2. Add the chopped onion, garlic, red bell pepper and celery (leaves, too) and cook until vegetables are soft and onions are translucent.
3. Add 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper and 1 tablespoon of paprika (definitely dial down the amount if you don't like super spicy fare).
4. Immediately add the diced tomatoes and the Rotell.
5. Add 3-4 Bay leaves and bring to a boil.
6. Stir in the cooked rice, chopped chicken and diced sausage; reduce heat.
7. Season with a spoon of bouillon to taste and the hot sauce.
8. Cook until liquid is reduced and dish isn't soupy, but slightly saucy.
9. Add raw shrimp and stir; cover pot.
10. Cook for 5-8 minutes until shrimp are cooked through.
11. Readjust seasonings.
12. To serve, fry sausage slices (and a few peeled, whole shrimp) until caramelized. Heap jambalaya onto plates and top with sausage and shrimp. Serve with buttered French bread and if you dare--a simple green salad.


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