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Celebrate with a traditional dish for Mardi Gras

Next Tuesday is Mardi Gras. It is French for Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday which is the beginning of Lent. Celebrate like a NOLA native with this frugal and fabulous jambalaya.

This stew combines rice with vegetables, meat, poultry and shellfish (usually shrimp or crawfish). This jambalaya recipe is a Creole dish, referring to the original French settlers who came to Louisiana. Creole cooking has roots in Spanish, French and African cuisines.

Like many traditional specialties, recipes vary from cook to cook. However, most start with the “holy trinity” of Creole cooking: 50 percent onions, 25 percent celery and 25 percent green or red bell pepper, although proportions can be altered to suit one’s taste. Also essential in jambalaya is andouille (an-DOO-ee) sausage, which has a spicy kick. For a milder sausage, substitute kielbasa or another smoked sausage.

Here is where I break from tradition. Customarily, rice is cooked in the stew. I cook my rice separately because this recipe makes a good amount so there are usually leftovers. If the rice holds in the stew it gets mushy. It’s still delicious but not as visually appealing. I also use some frozen veggies because they’re convenient and cost less.

Jambalaya

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Time: 1 hour

What you’ll need:

1 tablespoon butter

1 (13.5 ounces) andouille sausage, sliced into rounds

2 pounds chicken, pork or a combo – cut into 1-inch cubes

Salt and pepper – to taste

2 bags (16 oz. each) frozen pepper and onion blend – or fresh equivalent

1½ cups (4 ribs) celery – sliced

4 green onions – chopped – white and green separated

1 can (28 oz.) petite-diced tomatoes

1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce

2 teaspoons garlic – minced

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon Cajun or Old Bay Seasoning

1 teaspoon thyme

2 (14.5 oz. cans) chicken stock (3 cups)

1 tablespoon Louisiana pepper sauce – optional

1 pound raw medium shrimp, peeled

3 cups long-grain white rice

Here’s How:

Thaw the pepper blend and the shrimp, if frozen. In a stock pot or Dutch oven, on medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the sausage and cook until the fat is rendered. Add the cubed meats and brown, about five minutes, stirring occasionally, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Add the pepper and onion blend with any liquid and the white part of the green onions. Cook the vegetables about five minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, garlic, bay leaf, Old Bay and thyme. Cook and stir about five minutes.

Add the chicken stock plus two cups water, and pepper sauce if using, and bring to a simmer. Simmer uncovered about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the rice.

Right before serving, add shrimp and cook until they turn pink, about three minutes. Don’t overcook! Serve over rice. Garnish with green onions.

Serve with cold beer and corn bread for a quintessential pairing. As they say in New Orleans – “Laissez les bons temps rouler!” Let the good times roll!

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is the recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com

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