It’s spicy, it’s hearty, and it makes you want to dance down the street flinging Mardi Gras beads!
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Let the Good Times Roll!
I’m always happy to see the good times of Mardi Gras roll around. Winter hangs on, and we’re hungry for spring and something different to eat, and what could fit the bill better than the delightful flavors of Cajun and Creole specialties –– gumbos and other flavorful rice dishes, including jambalaya. We’re ready to kick out the jams, and there’s usually Mardi Gras parties, dancing, and celebrations to be found in our valley, along with the feasting.
Easy to make, satisfying to eat!
I fell in love with jambalaya when I lived in the south many years ago. In addition to being absolutely packed with flavor, it is an easy dish to prepare. It is basically rice cooked in tomatoes with lots of seasoning and peppers, usually made with andouille sausage, chicken, or shrimp, other meats, or combination.
I decided to make vegetarian version so that everyone in the family could enjoy. You can use either “meaty” portabella mushrooms or a vegan sausage. I prefer the mushrooms over the processed sausage, but the faux sausage makes the meat eaters in the family happy! For this dish I looked for sausage that was not made with GMOs, and I didn’t add it until ready to serve since they sometimes soften to a strange consistency if left to sit in anything with liquid.
Creole or Cajun?
In addition to the different proteins used, a jambalaya could be either Creole, using tomatoes, or Cajun, with no tomatoes. I opted to make the Creole version because the flavor of rice with tomatoes is so good. If it was summer and the fresh tomatoes were in season, that is what I would use. But in the dead of winter in New England, we’ll use canned tomatoes, or tomatoes we tucked in the freezer for a day like this. My store was all used up, so canned it was.
Got to have the peppers!
I used red, green, and yellow sweet peppers, but any combination works. In the past, I’ve also added peas, other types of beans, even green beans because I had them on hand. This is another dish where you can add what you like.
Often, long-grain white rice is used in a jambalaya, but I prefer to use my house long-grain brown jasmine rice. There’s more nutrition in the whole grain, and I think it has more flavor.
The secret is in the simmer
The technique is simple, a quick sauté of the vegetables, addition of spices, liquid, uncooked rice, beans. Let it all simmer until the rice is cooked exactly the way you like it. I’ve used my own blend of Creole seasoning, but you can use any favorite blend. If you can find filé (sassafras), add a teaspoon along with the other spices.
Put on some lively music, fling some brightly colored beads, and dance around the kitchen while everything simmers!
Mushroom and Vegetable Jambalaya
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 or 3 portabella mushrooms, sliced, or vegan sausage links, sliced
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, sliced into coins
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 to 2 tbsp. creole seasoning* recipe follows
1 sweet red pepper, sliced
1 sweet green pepper, sliced
1 yellow pepper or 4 baby yellow peppers, sliced into rings
2 jalapeño peppers, finely minced
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, crushed
2 cups cooked or canned kidney beans, plus liquid
1 cup brown Jasmine rice, uncooked
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp. cider vinegar
Flat leafed parsley
Heat a large pot and add the oil. Sauté the sausage links or mushrooms until browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.
To the same pan, add the onion , celery, and carrots. Sauté until just softened.
Add the spices, the garlic and tomato paste, and continue stirring so the spices bloom and garlic becomes fragrant.
Immediately add all the peppers and continue stirring. There will be lots of stuff gathering on the bottom of the pot, and that is a good thing. Add the tomatoes along with a can of water, scraping the bottom of the pan to release the glaze.
Once everything is nicely mixed, add the beans and the rice, salt and pepper, and bay leaves. If you are using the portabella mushrooms, add them back in at this point.
Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until rice is perfect. This will depend on exactly what rice you use and will probably take between 35 and 45 minutes.
If using the vegetarian sausage, add it back once the rice is finished and let warm.
Once ready, remove the bay leaves, add the vinegar to the pot and stir well. Garnish with the parsley, serve with hot sauce on the side, and don’t forget the Mardi Gras beads!
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
*My Creole Seasoning
Play around with your own blend of spices and herbs. Do you like it really hot? Add more cayenne and hot paprika. Don’t care for the heat? Reduce them!
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. onion powder
2 tbsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. hot smoked paprika
2 tsp. cayenne
2 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Place everything in a canning jar and shake up to mix well. You can also whisk it together in a bowl. This makes about a third of a cup, plenty for quite a few recipes!
Store in a dark, cool spot in a tightly covered jar.
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