Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Celebrate Fat Tuesday with Jambalaya

Mardi Gras is all about parades, bright colors and drinking.  But it's also about the delicious foods that are quintessential for all the splurging of Fat Tuesday that comes before Lent begins.  Jambalaya is a staple meal in New Orleans- this is a one-pot meal which is quite easy to make low in fat and high in nutrition. 

I think Jambalaya and Gumbo are sometimes confused, so here are some big differences: A very important attribute of Gumbo is a dark, coppery-colored roux.  Jambalaya is not made with a roux.   Okra is a classic component of Gumbos, but is not usually found in Jambalaya.  Jambalaya is made with rice as part of the dish, whereas Gumbo is a soup and can be served over top a bed of rice. 

When making Jambalaya, the rice is typically uncooked when added to the ingredients, so that it can absorb the flavors as it cooks. While traditionally, white rice is used, I would recommend using brown rice for the added fiber and antioxidants found in whole grains. You can even use a different whole grain such as barley- I used a blend of long grain barley and red and brown rice.

Jambalaya, like many New Orleans style cuisines, is made starting with bell peppers, onions and celery.  This combination is referred to as the 'Holy Trinity' and is the base of many Louisiana recipes.  Meat, poultry or shellfish is another componenet of Jambalaya.  I chose a combination of turkey sausage and shrimp for mine.   Once everything is in the pot and simmering, you have about 40 minutes to fit in a quick workout before dinner!

Here's my recipe for Jambalaya... feel free to substitute different meat, seafood or whole grains in yours!

2 Tb oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 bell pepper, diced (can choose any color pepper)
3 cloves garlic, minced
8oz turkey sausage, diced
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 cup brown rice (uncooked)
1 can diced tomatoes (no added sodium)
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound shrimp (peeled and deveined)

1.  Heat oil in a large, heavy pot (I used a dutch oven) over medium heat.  Add onion, celery, pepper, garlic and turkey sausage.  Cook until onions are translucent, vegetables are tender, and sausage starts to brown (about 5-8 minutes).

2.  Stir in thyme, basil, cayenne, bay leaf, salt and pepper.  Add rice, stir and cook for one minute.  Add diced tomatoes and broth.  Bring to a rolling boil, then turn heat to a low, cover and let simmer until rice is tender, about 40 minutes.
3. When rice is tender, add shrimp and let simmer until shrimp is cooked through and opaque, about 5 minutes. 
4.  Serve hot and enjoy!

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