I had Jambalaya on the brain for weeks before I made it. The idea was stewing, marinating. It began with the andouille chicken sausages that Evan’s parents brought us from the States. Not exactly something that is readily available in Israel (why oh why haven’t kosher chicken sausages caught on here?). I hoarded them, doling them out slowly, a few to go with pasta for a quick meal here, a few for a barbecue there. But the whole time I knew what I was really saving them for: gumbo or jambalaya, those two staples of Cajun cuisine, hearty, filling, flavorful one pot meals that could satiate the most epic hunger.
But then it got hot. And I mean really, really melt in the sun hot, so gumbo suddenly seemed less appealing (although really, is our climate so different from New Orleans?). Slowly I gathered the ingredients: frozen shrimp from the Russian market, frozen okra (it wasn’t in season yet). The rest of the ingredient list, the rice and spices, I already had on hand. As usual, I looked at countless recipes.
As usual, Mark Bittman came through. In How to Cook Everything he offers two jambalaya recipes, a red and a white one. I had a very clear vision in my head of what kind of jambalaya I wanted, and it was a combination of the two. So using both recipes as guidelines, I took what I liked from each and made one ultimate gumbo, with shrimp, sausage, okra, rice, tomatoes. And man, was it good. I mean really, really good.
The piece de resistance, what really makes this recipe, was the homemade shrimp stock. Don’t skip that step. It takes a mere 15 minutes and adds such depth of flavor (don’t worry, if you’re using good seafood it won’t make it “fishy) that really it’s silly not to. But, should you have bought your shrimp shelled, or should you want to make this shellfish free, a chicken or vegetable broth would do.
- Shrimp Stock (makes 4 cups):
- Shells from 1-2 pounds shrimp (about 4 cups)
- ½ onion, sliced
- 1 carrot, sliced
- 4½ cups water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups diced onion
- 2 cups diced bell pepper
- 1 pound andouille chicken sausage, thinly sliced
- Salt and pepper
- 2 cups white rice
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- 2 cups chopped tomatoes
- 1 cup sliced okra
- 4 cups shrimp stock (recipe above)
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
- For the Shrimp Stock:
- Combine the shrimp shells, onion, carrot, and water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to very low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Strain, pressing on the shells to get out all the juice. Either use immediately or allow to cool completely and refrigerate or freeze.
- For the Jambalaya:
- Put the olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, pepper, and sausage and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and golden and the sausage has begun to brown, around 15 minutes. Stir in the rice, garlic, paprika, and thyme and stir 1 minute. And the tomatoes and okra and cook, stirring, until tomato begins to break up, about 5 minutes. Stir in the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender and the liquid is almost absorbed, 20 to 30 minutes. Add the shrimp and stir. Cook for an additional 2 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and allow to rest for 10 to 20 minutes before serving.