Parade Route Jambalaya
Sometimes slow-cooked can be better
Personally, I am not a crock pot cook. But I fully support working couples who find meals that slow-cook all day a wonderful way to bring dinner to a family at night and ease the load for themselves.
Even I find February to be the month for exception because serving a crowd during Carnival is no easy task. That is, if you put anything homemade on the table. A Mardi Gras favorite, jambalaya, can be cooked and served in the same slow-cook pot, and, what’s more, it stays warm while serving.
As most jambalaya cooks know, rice can be a problem. Sometimes this distinctive south Louisiana dish turns out crunchy or mushy or both. I have solved the problem with my traditional jambalaya by cooking Louisiana long-grain rice separately and gently folding it into the sauced meat and seafood when it is fully cooked. But slow cooker jambalaya is different. The key is using converted, or parboiled, rice such as Uncle Ben’s. Some people say converted rice is processed; others say cooks in rice-growing countries have used it for years. Regardless, even if you always use regular rice, it will make your life easier to use converted rice in the slow cooker version.
I was amazed to find that my crock pot version of jambalaya, shown here, was the best that I have ever cooked. Much research convinced me that the sauce must be highly seasoned in order to do the rice justice, and that a good amount of liquid is needed to keep the jambalaya moist. The latter is important to me because I’ve eaten way too many jambalayas that were dry.
Since I don’t live on a parade route but have friends who do, I find slow-cooked jambalaya a good choice to take along for a parade or on the big day. We like to cook briskets or pulled pork for the parties as well because the home-cooked items on the the table are the first things to go. For lunch, that is. But my annual choice of breakfast on Fat Tuesday is a piece of spicy Popeye’s fried chicken.
Slow Cooker Jambalaya
1 ½ pounds boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
1 pound smoked sausage
3 tablespoons canola oil plus more if needed
2 cups chicken broth, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
6 green onions, chopped, white and green parts separated
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 ½-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1½ cups converted long-grain rice, uncooked
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1. Cut chicken into 1-inch cubes and sausage into ¼-inch circles. Sprinkle chicken lightly with Creole seasoning. Heat oil in a large skillet. Over high heat, brown chicken on all sides and place in a 12-cup slow cooker. Brown sausage on both sides, adding a little oil if needed, and place in slow cooker. Deglaze skillet with ½ cup of the broth and pour over shrimp and sausage.
2. In the same skillet, add another 1 or 2 tablespoons oil and over medium heat, saute the white onions, bell pepper and celery for 2 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and saute a minute more. Add mixture to slow cooker. Add tomatoes, seasonings and remaining broth and mix well. Cook on high for 3 hours.
2. Gently stir in rice, shrimp, parsley and green onion tops, and cook for 30 to 40 more minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, or until rice is done. Fluff with a fork, if necessary. This can be kept warm over low heat. Serves a crowd.
for using a slow cooker
1. Fill pot between ½ to 2/3 full.
2. Trim fat on meat to avoid greasiness.
3. Brown meat on stovetop to boost flavor.
4. Do not refrigerate food in pot before or after cooking or timing to cook or reheat will be affected.
5. Don’t peek while cooking. Each peek adds 15-20 minutes in cooking time.