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Divas on a Dime: Celebrate with a traditional dish for Mardi Gras

Next Tuesday is Mardi Gras! Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of Lent. Celebrate like a NOLA native with this frugal and fabulous jambalaya.

This traditional Creole stew combines rice with vegetables, meat, poultry, and shellfish (usually shrimp or crawfish).

Like many traditional specialties, recipes vary from cook to cook. However, most start with the “holy trinity” of Creole cooking: 50% onions, 25% celery, and 25% green or red bell pepper, although proportions can be altered to suit one’s taste. Also essential in jambalaya is andouille (an-DOO-ee) sausage, which has a spicy kick. For a milder sausage, substitute kielbasa or another smoked sausage.

Here is where I break from tradition. Customarily, rice is cooked in the stew. I cook my rice separately because this recipe makes a good amount so there are usually leftovers. If the rice holds in the stew it gets mushy. It’s still delicious but not as visually appealing. I also use some frozen veggies because they’re convenient and cost less.

JAMBALAYA

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Time: 1 hour

What You’ll Need:

1 tablespoon butter

1 (13.5 ounces) andouille sausage, sliced into rounds

2 pounds chicken, pork or a combo – cut into 1-inch cubes

Salt and pepper – to taste

2 bags (16 ounces each) frozen pepper and onion blend – or fresh equivalent

1 ½ cups (4 ribs) celery – sliced

4 green onions – chopped – white and green separated

1 can (28 ounce) petite-diced tomatoes

1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce

2 teaspoons garlic – minced

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon Cajun or Old Bay Seasoning

1 teaspoon thyme

2 (14.5 ounce cans) chicken stock (3 cups)

1 tablespoon Louisiana pepper sauce – optional

1 pound raw medium shrimp, peeled

3 cups long-grain white rice

Here’s How:

Thaw the pepper blend and the shrimp, if frozen. In a stock pot or Dutch oven, on medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the sausage and cook until the fat is rendered. Add the cubed meats and brown, about five minutes, stirring occasionally, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Add the pepper and onion blend with any liquid and the white part of the green onions. Cook the vegetables about five minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, garlic, bay leaf, Old Bay and thyme. Cook and stir about five minutes.

Add the chicken stock plus two cups water, and pepper sauce if using, and bring to a simmer. Simmer uncovered about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the rice.

Right before serving, add shrimp and cook until they turn pink, about three minutes. Don’t overcook! Serve over rice. Garnish with green onions.

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is the recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com

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