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Meaty jambalaya

Ingredients: 

3 tablespoons olive oil 

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into small chunks 

1 pound sausage, cut into rounds (you can use whatever type of sausage you like) 

3 small bell peppers, cored and diced 

2 ribs of celery, diced 

1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped and without seeds 

1 white onion, diced 

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced 

1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes 

3 cups chicken stock 

1 1/2 cups uncooked white rice 

2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning 

1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed 

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 

1 bay leaf 

1 pound raw large shrimp, peeled and deveined 

1 cup thinly-sliced okra 

Salt and black pepper 

Optional garnishes: 

Chopped fresh parsley 

Thinly-sliced green onions 

Hot sauce 

Instructions: 

Heat one tablespoon of oil in a large, deep sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and sausage then sauté them for five to seven minutes. Stir them occasionally until the chicken is cooked through and the sausage is lightly browned. Then transfer them to a separate plate and set them aside. 

Next, add the remaining two tablespoons of oil to the pan. Add the bell peppers, celery, jalapeño, onion and garlic. Sauté all the vegetables together for approximately six minutes, stirring them occasionally, until the onions are soft. 

Then add the tomatoes, chicken stock, rice, Cajun seasoning, thyme, cayenne, and bay leaf. Stir them all together to combine and continue to cook them until the mixture reaches a simmer. 

Once it reaches a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan and allow it to simmer for approximately 25-30 minutes. Wait until the rice is nearly cooked through and stir the mixture approximately every five minutes or so to make sure the rice doesn’t burn. 

Next, add the shrimp and okra then stir to combine. Continue to simmer the dish, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are cooked and pink. Stir in the sausage and chicken and remove the bay leaf. 

Finally, season the jambalaya with salt, pepper and additional Cajun seasoning to taste.  

Remove from the heat and serve warm with any desired garnishes. 

Commentary: 

My father originally comes from the South, so he has made us jambalaya on quite a few occasions growing up. The great thing about this dish is that it can feed quite a large crowd and can be customized depending on different tastes or what ingredients are available.  

A few ways to customize it are making it more or less hot depending on your taste. If you prefer spicier jambalaya, use two jalapeños in this recipe; and if you prefer milder jambalaya you can skip the jalapeño. If you’re vegetarian, you can still have this dish without the meat. Instead of meat, add lots of heart vegetables such as carrots, squash, mushrooms, broccoli etc. If you add some softer vegetables, I would recommend setting them aside after sautéing then add them back at the end, as some veggies don’t withstand the long cooking in the rice and may get too soft. 

If you’re not vegetarian but aren’t keen on the meats in this recipe, simply adjust and add other kinds of seafood, pork, tofu, or other proteins. 

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