It's my first post!
My roommate Jess (special thanks to her for helping take the pics), and our friend Kira came over for my low-fat take on Jambalaya.
WHY IT'S FEARLESS: True to the premise of my blog, I entered Trader Joe's with zero idea of what I wanted to cook. I had never cooked with chicken chorizo, hence the low-fat twist (I've only cooked with traditional chorizo once), and I had a limited array of ingredients (Trader Joe's stocks smaller labels, mostly organic and natural foods, also contributing to the healthiness of the dish).
THE KNOWLEDGE BASE: I knew jambalaya was mostly comprised of some seafood (I used shrimp), chicken, rice, beans, and some tomato-y stuff. I guessed on the rest. Here's the story of how it came together.
This is what I used:
Ingredient List for Jambalaya:
1 pack chicken chorizo sausages (I used 5 sausages)
1 pack frozen uncooked shrimp (about 25 shrimp) - you could also use fresh shrimp
1 orange bell pepper
1/2 yellow bell pepper
About 3/4 of a 28-oz can of unsalted, unseasoned diced tomatoes, mostly drained
2 cups uncooked wild and brown rice mix
5 cups fat-free chicken broth (mine was organic, free-range)
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic
1/2 large white onion
a pat of butter
a few T. extra virgin olive oil
a few springs thyme
about 3 T. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
salt and pepper
a dollop of reduced-fat sour cream per serving
Ingredient List for Salad:
1 bag baby spinach leaves
1 small container fresh raspberries
3-4 T. feta cheese
3-4 T. any fruit-based vinaigrette you liked (I used Trader Joe's Champagne Pear Vinaigrette)
According to the package directions, bring the chicken stock to a boil, and add a pat of butter and the rice. Cover it and let it simmer on low.
Roughly chop the onion and the bell peppers. Mince the garlic and set it all aside.
Add the garlic and the few sprigs of thyme to the rice and broth mixture. Put the thyme sprigs in whole - they flavor the broth subtly, and we'll take them out later. No need to strip the leaves off the stems.
Squeeze the chicken chorizo out of the casings (this is a little gross, but it's the only way to get the sausage out) into a medium-high pan. Sautee the chorizo for about 5-7 minutes, stirring it constantly and chopping it up with the end of your stirring spoon, until it's firm and cooked through.
Leave the flavorful chorizo drippings in the pan, and put in the chopped bell peppers and onions. Add a little olive oil and sautee it about 10 minutes, until the ingredients are caramelized (slightly browned on the outside) and tender. Set the chorizo aside.
With the rice is still simmering away, make the salad. Put the spinach, berries, and cheese into a large plastic bowl with a tight-fitting lid. Drizzle some dressing over it, then put the lid on and shake it until it's all lightly coated in dressing.
Stir in some salt (to taste), the kidney beans, and the diced tomatoes to the rice mixture. Let it cook about 7-10 more minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Turn off the heat, stir in the cooked chorizo and the peppers and onions mixture, and just let the mixture sit, uncovered, while you cook the shrimp, about 5 minutes. The rest of the liquid will get absorbed and it will be the perfect consistency. Remove thyme stems from pot and discard.
In a colander, rinse the frozen shrimp under steaming hot water to quickly defrost them.
In the same pan used to cook the chorizo and the peppers/onion mixture (still not wiped out), heated to medium-high, place the shrimp in a single layer in the pan, and cook about 2-3 minutes, adding a little salt and pepper on top. Flip the shrimp and cook 1-2 minutes on the other side, until cooked through and lightly caramelized from the pan drippings.
While the shrimp cooks, quickly chop the parsley.
Pile the jambalaya on a plate, and arrange about 6-7 shrimp on top. Put a dollop of sour cream on top of each (if desired), and top with the chopped parsley.
Remove cat from dining table.
Serve with salad (and preferably red wine - or another kind of wine. Just drink some wine already).
My lovely judges for today were my roommate Jess and friend Kira. We drank a 2005 Terra Australis Shiraz ($4.99 at Trader Joe's). It was pretty tasty with the meal, and it was delicious while we were hanging out in the kitchen cooking.
The judges' verdicts:
JESS: "This was perfectly spicy - spicy but not too too spicy, perfect for me. It tasted exactly the way I thought it would taste, which was really good."
KIRA: "It just tastes really fresh. Nice work."
Thanks, Kira! (OK, guys, in future posts I will try my best to invite people over who will be brutally honest about my food - my girlfriends tend to be really really nice - what can I say?)
And Lady (our lovely cat who is so fond of the table), gave it an enthusiastic, non-opposable-thumbs up!
Total time to make: About 90 minutes start to finish.
Level of difficulty: About a 2 out of 5. Nothing is complicated, but it is time-consuming. Chopping skills and a good eye for when meat is cooked perfectly will help a lot.
My vote on my dish: About an 8 out of 10. Not spectacularly gourmet, but a nice lower-cal version of spicy autumn comfort food. I've done a lot worse.
Notes: For a lazy Sunday-evening meal, this is perfect. We chilled in the kitchen, we gabbed, and the time flew by. If you're really really hungry, or just want a meal in a jiffy, this isn't the dish for you. The rice took longer to cook than the 35 minutes it called for on the package, but that was partially because I added some of the tomato juice, which adds more liquid for the rice to absorb. On the upside, I spent about $30 at the store (including wine - although I had a few ingredients on hand at home to begin with), and I fed three of us, with at least two servings left over, plus some leftover veggies for my salad lunches later in the week. For 4-5 people, this meal would be cheap and filling, perfect on a cool night. A nice dark beer would offset it nicely, as well.
Until next time, aspiring foodies, enjoy cooking at home! I'll be back with another post soon.
Thanks for reading!