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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Shrimp Jumbalaya

Creole and Cajun cooking were once considered regionally distinct, but the differences have blurred. One of the classic dishes associated with Louisianna-style cooking is Shrimp Jumbalaya. A good Jumbalaya has a tomato-rice base, a generous helping of spicy sausage and seafood, and a seasoning mix with a kick. When a reader asked me to suggest a way to prepare and transport this colorful and spicy dish for her gourmet group to enjoy, I immediately thought of making it in a slow cooker. When I couldn’t find a recipe that met my reader’s needs, I invented one for Jumbalaya and created a seasoning I thought her group might enjoy. 

Nicole's Shrimp Jumbalaya (with green beans on the side)

You can buy Cajun or Creole seasoning blends in the spice section of your supermarket, but they generally cost a lot, are loaded with additives and preservatives, and may not have the depth of flavor of a seasoning blend you make yourself. My Creole Seasoning offers complex, interesting flavors. I made the recipe in a deliberately small quantity to ensure its future freshness. Don’t omit the pinch of sugar! It smoothes out the blend’s sharp edges. 
While many foods have seen steep prices increases over the past few years, shrimp and prawns cost far less than they formerly did - at least, in the Time Zone and at the Latitude Where I Live. I suspect that this is in part due to land-based shrimp farming, as well as to the greater accessibility to supplies from countries such as Bangladesh. Ron and I are strong proponents of conservation, and don’t often consume exotic seafoods, so this delectable dish is a treat - worthy of any gourmet group! Let’s give this recipe a whirl, shall we?
Shrimp Jumbalaya:
To Prepare Nicole Parton’s Creole Seasoning:
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. paprika
1-½ tsp. celery salt
¼ tsp. dried parsley flakes
1-½ tsp. garlic powder 
1 tsp. onion salt 
1-½ tsp. cayenne 
1-½ tsp. black pepper 
1-½ tsp. oregano leaves, crushed 
1-½ tsp. thyme leaves, crushed 
1 tsp. dry mustard 
½ tsp. sugar 
Combine all ingredients in small bowl. Label and store in a dark place in a tightly sealed jar. Makes just over ½ c. of seasoning mix.

Combine fragrant and flavorful herbs and spices

Bottle, label, and store for next time!

To Prepare the Rice:
1 c. long-grain white rice such as basmati
1-½ c. cold water
Rinse rice under cold, running water to wash off starch. Combine rice with water, cooking 20 min. in a rice cooker or on the stove top. Do not add salt. Set aside until needed. (Cooking rice normally requires more water, but because it will later be combined with the tomato sauce in the Jumbalaya, I reduced the water for the rice’s initial cooking so it wouldn’t become a gummy mess later.) 
For detailed instructions on How to Cook Rice, see the post that appears below this one. Most of you won’t need to read that, but Dollinks, everyone has to start somewhere.
To Prepare the Shrimp Jumbalaya:
1 - 28 oz. (796 mL) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 - 14 oz. can (398 mL) tomato sauce
2 tbsp. Nicole Parton’s Creole Seasoning or 2 tbsp. commercial blend
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp. hot sauce
3 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 c. diced celery
1 hot green pepper, approximately 3 in. x 1 in., coarsely chopped
1 lb. (454 g) chorizo or other spicy sausage, in 1-in. slices (see Note)
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 lb. (900 g) raw prawns, peeled, deveined, thawed (I used jumbo prawns, with about a dozen prawns to the pound)
½ c. canned (or dried and reconstituted) chickpeas, drained and rinsed or ½ c. fava beans
½ c. coarsely chopped cilantro leaves (about ½ bunch - no stems)
1 firm fresh tomato, diced
In standard-sized slow cooker set to high 3-½ hr. before you expect to serve Jumbalaya, combine diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, Creole or Cajun seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce. In a large skillet at medium-high heat 3 hr. before you expect to serve Jumbalaya, sauté onion, celery. hot green pepper, and sausage in oil until onion is translucent and sausage is cooked through. Add to tomato mixture in slow cooker; reduce heat to low. Add pre-cooked rice to slow cooker 45 min. before you expect to serve Jumbalaya, stirring in well. Add raw jumbo prawns and beans to slow cooker 15 min. before you expect to serve Jumbalaya, also stirring in well. Add firm, fresh tomato to slow cooker 5 min. before you expect to serve Jumbalaya, stirring well to heat through. Add fresh cilantro to slow cooker immediately before serving Jumbalaya. Serves 10-to-12 as a small main dish. 
Note: In the photos that show me preparing this dish, I’m slicing the sausage into ⅜-in. pieces. My subsequent taste test concluded that the sausage needs equal predominance with the prawns - slice it too thinly and you’ll lose the contrast between sausage and shrimp that makes this recipe so tasty. 

You'll need a pound of spicy sausages

For best results, slice sausage 1-in. thick (see Note)

Add a generous chunk of hot pepper - including the seeds!

Combine sautéed ingredients with
tomato mixture in slow cooker

Use only jumbo shrimp or prawns in this recipe!
With its hot pepper, Creole seasonings, and hot sauce, you may well assume this recipe is going to be too hot. Trust me: It has a pleasant kick, but it won’t toast your tonsils. My reader’s gourmet group will love this dish!  

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