Dad's Homemade Jambalaya

During the cold winter months, there's nothing more comforting than a big bowl of Cajun jambalaya, piled high with shrimp and veggies, and topped with hot sauce. It keeps my body warm, my tongue happy and my belly full. 


Growing up, my dad — who lived in New Orleans for a few years while attending Tulane University Law School — would make a big batch of his famous jambalaya a couple times a year. Usually this Stiehl family staple would be prepared as a warm comfort food on a cold Sunday afternoon, and we could definitely look forward to it as a Fat Tuesday treat in honor of Mardi Gras.

Dad's Homemade Jambalaya combines the classic New Orleans-style flavors of fresh seafood, spicy andouille sausage and hearty veggies, all piled on top of a bed of long grain rice. Although my dad only lived in New Orleans for a few years, he fell in love with its distinct culture and cuisine. This recipe was a fun way for him to relive that time in his life, and pass down his love of Cajun culture to us. Mardi Gras is also a big celebration in St. Louis (where I grew up), he made sure to honor the holiday with an authentic New Orleans-inspired dinner.

Yes, I had to spend all afternoon peeling and deveining the shrimp ("shrimp tastes the best when it's deveined and peeled by hand!"), but it was all worth it when the spices would blend together, and our kitchen would fill with the unbeatable aroma of warm, hearty jambalaya.

Making this recipe for the first time as an adult proved that it wasn't as labor-intensive or long as I remember. (I also bought the shrimp already peeled and deveined, which I highly recommend). The hardest part is smelling the delicious full pot while it's simmering, and waiting patiently for it to be done. 

Serve this with a baguette or fresh side salad for an unbeatable family dinner. Plus, the ingredients are so filling and satisfying, a little goes a long way. 

Ingredients
  • 1 pound andouille sausage, in 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled
  • 1/2 pound fish fillets, diced (trout, catfish, redfish, bass or bluefish — I used catfish)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large bell pepper in large dice
  • 1 large onion in large dice
  • 3 ribs celery in large dice
  • 2 bunches green onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 large tomatoes cored, cored, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 large head garlic, cloves peeled and minced
  • 3 cups long grain rice, rinsed 3 times
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Creole seafood seasoning, to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce, or to taste
Directions

Combine the butter and sausage in a Dutch oven or heavy-gauge pot over high heat, and sauté for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the bell pepper, onion celery, and garlic, and season with Creole seasoning, salt, and black pepper. Sauté, still over high heat for about 8 minutes, or until the natural sugars in the vegetables have browned and caramelized.

Add the tomatoes, shrimp, fish, and bay leaves and stir. Add the rice, stir gently, and add the water. Gently move the spoon across the bottom of the pot, making sure that the rice is not sticking.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid. Turn off the heat, then stir, cover, and let sit for about 8 minutes, during which time the jambalaya will continue cooking from residual heat.

To serve, transfer to a serving bowl, and mix in the green onions. Season with hot sauce.

Makes: About 12 (1-cup) servings.

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