Fat Tuesday came to my home a few days early (yesterday, to be precise!), so that I could figure out how to streamline my recipe for Jambalaya.
With a little tinkering, I eliminated four ingredients, reduced eight steps to three, cut the prep time by 20 minutes, and reduced the cooking time by two hours – all without sacrificing one bit of flavor.
A lot of the streamlining occurred by preparing everything in my Cuisinart Cook Central, but you can use any slow cooker that has a sauté function.
I generally make jambalaya at Mardi Gras because good, fresh okra is hard to get in late winter in the Carolinas. However, since I found some decent fresh okra at the farmer’s market on Saturday, I decided to add okra and eliminate the gumbo file powder (made from dried sassafras leaves) which is sometimes hard to find.
Since a Cajun Jambalaya never uses tomatoes, this is actually more of a Creole Jambalaya. I like to use Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes because they give the dish a bit more of a smoky flavor. I also take a great deal of liberty by calling this “jambalaya” because I cook my rice separately and then add about half of it in at the end to absorb the liquid. A classic jambalaya is bit more like paella because the rice is added directly to the pot of stewing stock, vegetables, and meats. This cooking technique allows the rice to absorb flavor while it cooks. Because I didn’t want to use white rice, I cooked the brown rice in my wonderful Instant Pot, and added some of the cooked brown rice during the last ten minutes of cooking.
I also decided that using both the Field Roast Mexican Chipotle Sausages and the Field Roast Italian Sausages was overkill – so I eliminated the Italian Sausage in this version. And, I’ve discovered that my family prefers Upton’s Naturals Traditional Seitan to the WestSoy Seitan Strips I used in my original recipe.
Another big time saver was not sautéing the sausage and seitan in a skillet before adding to the slow cooker. This time, I just added them in without that step and didn’t see any change in their flavor or texture.
By cutting down some steps, I had plenty of time to make skillet cornbread and figure out an easy way to cook fresh collards – in less than 30 minutes – instead of the hours I’ve always taken to cook them down. (If you post a comment on my website or on my Facebook page, I just might share my new secret way for cooking collards quickly!)
My current version of jambalaya probably won’t fool a New Orleans native, but it just might fool your family carnivores!
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup onions, finely chopped
- 2 celery stalks, sliced lengthwise in halves or thirds, and then finely chopped in ¼-inch pieces
- 1½ cups green, red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, chopped (you can use just one type, but the variety of colors sure looks pretty)
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 garlic cloves
- ¼ cup vegetable stock
- 28-ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
- 2 Field Roast Mexican Chipotle Sausages (½ package), casings removed, sliced lengthwise, and chopped into ½-inch pieces
- 8-ounce package of Upton’s Naturals Traditional Seitan, sliced and broken into irregular pieces
- ½ lb. okra pods, wiped with a paper towel, caps and tips removed, and sliced into ¼-inch pieces
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1½ cups brown rice, cooked in an Instant Pot, rice cooker, or on your cook top
- Using the Cuisinart Cook Central or another slow cooker with a sauté function, turn the sauté temperature to its lowest setting (usually 275 degrees), add the olive oil, and sauté your onion for about for about 5-6 minutes until translucent.
- Add the celery and green or yellow bell peppers and cook for about 4–5 minutes. Add the garlic and bay leaves and cook a minute or so more. Add the stock, tomatoes, thyme, hot pepper flakes, sausages, seitan, and okra. Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours.
- Stir in about half of your cooked brown rice, and let it absorb the liquid. Taste carefully and correct seasonings with sea salt and pepper. Serve additional rice on the side (if desired), along with skillet corn bread and cooked collard greens.
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