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Monday, February 28, 2011

Jacked Jambalaya!

As in build muscles, that is! Just in time for Mardi Gras, this Jambalaya is chock-full of lean protein and whole grain carbs, perfect for anyone trying to stay healthy and/or watch their fat intake! It is modified from Emeril's Kicked Up Jambalaya, made up to be a healthier version: turkey andouille sausage, chicken breast, shrimp, brown rice, low-sodium chicken stock, and cooking spray.

But first, a brief interlude into the origin of that famous Louisiana dish, Jambalaya!

Jambalaya is a combination of meat, vegetables, and rice, similar to paella, and indeed it is of dual Spanish-French origin. There are actually two types of jambalaya: Creole and Cajun. They both start with what is known as the "holy trinity" of ingredients: onion, bell peppers and celery. Meat is then added, most often a spicy smoked sausage (andouille), poulty, and seafood. Stock and rice are also an integral part of the dish. The main difference between Creole and Cajun jambalaya is the addition of tomatoes. Creole jambalaya contains tomatoes, and is often also referred to as "red jambalaya" accordingly. Cajun jambalaya is more brownish in color, and without tomatoes.

Although there are many theories where the name "jambalaya" came from, the most likely is that it is derived from the Proven├žal (i.e. the French dialect spoken in Provence) word "Jambalaia", which literally means "mish mash" -- a pretty accurate description!

And now, back to the food!

This recipe is complex without being complicated, if that makes sense. It is a little time consuming, but the end result is so worth it. 

The first step is to make the Creole seasoning. This is actually commercially available if you can find it, as Emeril's Bayou Blast, but you can also make it from scratch. It contains paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic and onion powders, pepper, salt, thyme, oregano, and black pepper. At this point, you can control the heat by adjusting the amount of cayenne pepper in the mix. 1 tbls of cayenne gives it a nice hot pep. 2 tbls would be really hot. If you don't like hot spice at all, maybe 1/2 tbls, or eliminate it all together. There are two ways to modulate the heat in this recipe: adjust the amount of cayenne pepper in the Creole seasoning , or use less Creole seasoning overall. I'd probably opt to tweak the cayenne rather than less seasoning overall, but that is up to you.

Then, start chopping, this is the most labor-intensive part. I started with the veggies: onions, peppers and celery.

Then, some lovely turkey andouille sausage (I found mine at Whole Foods, Wellshire Farms brand), cut into 1/2" slices

Then, slice up some skinless chicken breasts (sorry, no pic), and prep some shrimp (peel, de-vein, and defrost if need be).

Now, it is time to flavor your meat with the Creole seasoning. I did this shake-n-bake style, putting each meat into a ziplock bag with the spices. I split the spices between all 3 because I wasn't reading the original recipe carefully -- Emeril actually only calls for you to season the chicken and shrimp (I guess because the sausage is already spiced). I don't think it much matters, to tell you the truth. Later, when it goes into the stock, most of the seasoning will go into the liquid anyway. How much seasoning you want to use is up to you, but I used it all. 

Toss those seasoned shrimp into the bottom of your dutch oven, with some olive oil spray. Periodically spray the shrimp as they cook, to keep the spices from burning. When they are done, take them out and set them aside.

Ditto for the chicken.

Now put the sausage in and brown it. This is not as critical to watch for done-ness if the sausage comes fully-cooked (check your package). 

Then, leaving the sausage in the pot, add in the onion, pepper and celery, along with chopped tomatoes, cayenne and some garlic. Let this cook for a few minutes, so the veggies can start to sweat. You can add some fresh thyme at this stage, although the thyme taste was a little strong for me.

Now it is time to add the stock, chicken, the can of crushed tomatoes (undrained), and the bay leaves.

This will simmer away happily for a bit, and then you add the rice. I pretty much used the whole box, because it was just a tad more than 2 cups, and it seemed like there was a lot of liquid that I was hoping the extra rice would absorb.

This cooks some more, and gets even happier.  Then, you add back in the shrimp, some chopped green onion, and some fresh chopped parsley (which I forgot), and it cooks a little more.

Take it off the heat for about 10 minutes. At this point, it seemed like there was a lot of excess liquid. But I used a slotted spoon and served 2 helpings in a bowl. 

By the time my husband came back for seconds (maybe 10-15 minutes later of it sitting uncovered), this happened:


It is a lot of steps, but once you get going, you realize that it isn't hard, just prep-intensive.

And there you have it, a filling and pretty lean meal. Comfort food that you can feel good about eating!

(Printable Recipe)


For the Creole Seasoning

  • 2 1/2 tbls paprika
  • 2 tbls salt
  • 2 tbls garlic powder
  • 1 tbls cayenne pepper* (see text)
  • 1 tbls black pepper
  • 1 tbls onion powder
  • 1 tbls thyme, dried
  • 1 tbls oregano, dried

For the Jambalaya

  • 1 1/2 lb turkey andouille sausage (24 oz)
  • 1 1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 lb shrimp, peeled, de-veined, and defrosted if frozen
  • 2 C onions, chopped
  • 1 C bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 C celery, chopped
  • 2 tbls garlic, minced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves (optional)
  • 1 C chopped tomatoes
  • 1-28oz can crushed tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 C low-sodium & lowfat chicken stock
  • 2 C brown rice (not minute rice)
  • 1 C green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 C fresh parsley, chopped.
  • Olive oil cooking spray


  1. Spray a large Dutch oven with olive oil spray over medium-high heat.
  2. Season shrimp with Creole seasoning and saute until almost cooked through, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove shrimp and set aside until later.
  3.  Season chicken pieces with Creole seasoning. Spray Dutch oven, and add chicken pieces and saute until browned on both sides, about 8 minutes. Remove and set aside. 
  4. Respray. Add sausage and cook until browned. 
  5. Add onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, bay leaves, cayenne and thyme (if using) and cook until vegetables are wilted, about 6 minutes. 
  6. Add tomatoes, can of crushed tomatoes and stock and return chicken pieces to pot. 
  7. Season with salt and pepper and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
  8.  Add rice to pot, stir well and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and cook for 15 minutes. 
  9. Add shrimp, green onions and parsley to Dutch oven, mixing carefully, and continue to cook, covered, for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit 10 minutes before serving.

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