down in the bayou

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Judging from the posts around here, you’re probably guessing that I’m spending a LOT more time in the kitchen these days. My kitchen output is usually a good barometer for how well (or not so well) things are going in the rest of my life. This summer I find myself eating a lot of the same foods I enjoy in the winter. This is partly because I haven’t had much time for farmers markets and partly because my attempts to buy good produce have been largely unsuccessful. If I have to eat another sour or mealy peach, I’m going to scream. There are many reasons I yearn to return to the West Coast, but I would say that great year round produce and abundant seafood are two pretty good ones. I think my attraction to hearty, heavier, wintery foods also signals how stressed out I’ve been this summer. For me salads are refreshing, virtuous eating, but comforting they are not.

Last Sunday, while sucking down my morning cup of joe, I saw the Barefoot Contessa making a ginormous pot of jambalaya and knew that this was just the sort of comfort I needed. I’ve not been a huge fan of jambalaya in the past. The rice is usually a bit gummy, the shrimp overcooked, and the whole dish weighed down by a heavy tomato flavor. This recipe has a few clever little tricks that take care of all that–rinsing the rice, steaming the shrimp at the end in the residual heat of the rice, and a little lemon juice to brighten things up. This recipe is a definite keeper.

Shrimp and Sausage Jambalaya
Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound kielbasa (half sliced and half cubed)
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1 green bell pepper, cored and diced
1 red bell pepper, cored and diced
1 cup seeded and diced tomato
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 1/2 cups basmati rice, rinsed well
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3-4 dashes Tabasco (optional)
1/4 cup chopped scallions divided,
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 pound medium shrimp, deveined (31-40 count)

Directions
Heat half the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, add the kielbasa and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, until browned. Remove the kielbasa to a bowl, and set aside. Add the remaining oil, onion, celery and peppers to the same pot and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the tomato, garlic, cayenne, oregano, thyme, and tomato paste and cook until all the vegetables and herbs are blended well. Add the stock and bring to a rolling boil. Stir in the rice, and add the sausage, bay leaves, salt, pepper and Tabasco. Return to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of the scallions, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, the lemon juice and the shrimp, and stir well. Cover the pot, remove it from the heat and allow the jambalaya steam, for 15 minutes, before serving.

Garnish with the remaining scallions and parsley, and a dash of Tabasco, if desired.

Serves 4-5 generously.

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