What? She’s still alive?!

Yep, I’m back from California, all the Christmas decorations are put away (record time for this house), all three teenagers have started their community college courses, my man and I have started a new gym routine, and I’m starting to think about cooking again.

Well, I mean, I cook all the time. But most of it is on autopilot: six people, hungry, dinnertime, stagger around kitchen and patch something together pronto. But now I’m seeing some pockets of unclaimed time in my busy days, and I’m pulling out my cookbooks and looking around the ‘net and the newspaper for inspiration. Today, I saw a mention of jambalaya in the Sunday paper, and I KNEW it was the right day for it. I’ve never made the stuff before in my entire life, but the second the word sank into my brain, it was flashing like neon all day.

So I poked around on eGullet and found a recipe by someone who knew what they were doing. Unfortunately, it was for a crowd of 125. Also, I have a vegan and a vegetarian on hand, so I simultaneously had to create a veggie version (unless you beg, I’m not posting the recipe… it was a sad, sad parody of the real thing).

It was glorious. Just perfect for a cold and clear day like today, smoky and spicy and filling and hot.

Jambalaya
(adapted from the eGullet recipe by Mayhaw Man)

1 lb. chicken breasts, diced (I used SmartChicken)
1 lb. Andouille sausage, sliced (from Fritz’s Superior Sausage Co., a local company)
1 onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 large orange bell pepper, diced
1 Habanero pepper, seeded and chopped finely
5 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. Cayenne
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1/2 lemon
1 lb. peeled, deveined, cooked, frozen shrimp
6 c. cooked Basmati rice (cooked in 1/2 chicken stock and 1/2 water)

Dust the chicken with salt and pepper, then saute in about 1 T. olive oil until browned. Set aside.

In a large pot with a heavy bottom, brown the sausage.

Add the onions, celery, peppers, garlic and herbs, cook until vegetables are softened (I needed to add about half a cup of chicken stock at this point to keep things from getting stuck).

Add tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken, and lemon half (yep, just drop it in there).

Bring to a low simmer and cook uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you haven’t already started your rice, better get that going now, too (you DO have a rice cooker, right? If not, you can add the rice and the stock straight to the pot and let it cook all together, which is a “red jambalaya”… if you cook the rice separately, it’s a “white jambalaya”).

Toss the shrimp into the mix and cook for another five minutes. Scoop your hot rice in with everything else and stir gently.

Crack open a cold one (I had a Bell’s Amber Ale), toss some leafy greens into the salad bowl, call the kids to the table and dive in! (A rustic loaf of crusty bread would also have been a great addition, but alas, I didn’t think of it in time).

Heavenly!

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