Today is Fat Tuesday and while I’m not meandering down Bourbon Street with a daiquiri in hand, I am enjoying a bowl of shrimp jambalaya here in icy North Carolina. I’ve always loved the food of New Orleans. Decadent and bold in flavor, it’s casual and raucous and best enjoyed without rush and with good company.
This year, for New Year’s, instead of welcoming in 2015 with steaks, lobster or indulgent caviar, we spread our table with newspaper and invited friends to join us for a dinner of New Orleans-style barbecued shrimp. We all sat around, fingers and mouths greasy and glistening from butter, peeling shrimp by hand and sopping up the buttery sauce with wedges of bread. It was one of the best New Year’s I can remember for its simple emphasis on good food and friends.
Tonight, icy roads mean my table won’t hold a crowd, but my immediate family (the best company I know) will surround my table and the heat of creole seasoning will offer some much-needed warmth on this cold winter day. Whether you are sipping a Hurricane in New Orleans or huddled by a fire in the Northeast, I hope that your Fat Tuesday includes a similarly satisfying meal shared with the best company you can find.
Shrimp Jambalaya – Printer Friendly Recipe
Just like I save chicken bones for chicken stock, I never throw out shrimp shells. Instead, I place them in a pot with water to cover and bring them to a simmer. Simmered gently, in fifteen minutes, I have a flavorful broth that adds oomph to any dish.
1 ½ lbs (21/30 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved
2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil, more if needed
¾ lb smoked Andouille sausage, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves
2 cups long-grain white rice
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with their juices
1 dried bay leaf
2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
¼ teaspoon ground red “cayenne” pepper
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 green onions, roots trimmed, white and green parts thinly sliced
Place the shrimp shells in a medium saucepan and cover with 4 cups cold water. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer the shells in the water for about 15 minutes. Strain the shells out of the water and reserve 3 cups of the liquid (shrimp stock). Note: Leftover shrimp stock can be frozen and used in other dishes.
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the Andouille sausage to the pot and cook, stirring constantly, until just beginning to brown. Add the chopped celery, green bell pepper, and yellow onion to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just soft about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and rice and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
Stir in the diced tomatoes with their juices, the bay leaf, the Creole seasoning, cayenne pepper, and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Stir to combine then pour in the 3 cups shrimp stock. Bring the mixture to a boil then cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook for 15 minutes. Add the shrimp to the pot and toss to combine. Cover and cook for another 8 to 15 minutes until the rice is just tender and the shrimp are cooked through. Serve immediately garnished with sliced green onions.