Outside of New Orleans, Jambalaya is one of the most overlooked American comfort foods. This spicy mix of sausage, shrimp, and rice is perfect on a rainy day, and if you've got a cold, it is sure to help clear your sinuses. My recipe calls for 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper, which doesn't seem like much, but it can be pretty hardcore. It cooks in hot oil, which causes it to bloom, intensify, and saturate every molecule of the finished product. In other words, if you don't like the feeling of a tongue on fire, maybe you shouldn't be looking for a Jambalaya recipe. If you want, you could reduce the amount of cayenne, I suppose. Also, this recipe calls for fully-cooked andouille sausage, which can be found in most large supermarkets. If you can't find it, you can substitute it with hot Italian sausage, though the taste won't be as authentically Cajun. I also use frozen salad shrimp, thawed ahead of time, but you can use fresh shrimp (as long as you cook it separately) or shrimp of any size. Lastly, the rice will be al dente, which is traditional. If you'd rather have mushy rice, add an extra 1/2 cup to the water and an extra 10 minutes to the long simmer near the end of the recipe.
Heat oil over medium-low heat in a medium or large pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add onions and bell pepper. Make sure your kitchen is well-ventilated or else this next step will be like declaring chemical warfare on yourself. I highly recommend opening a window and turning on a fan. Add salt, garlic powder, and cayenne to the onion mixture. Stir.
Continue cooking for 5 minutes or until vegetables are softened, stirring occasionally. Raise heat to high and add water. Stir and bring to a boil.
Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, rice, herbs, and bay leaf.
Add boullion cubes and andouille. Stir and cover.
Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Remove cover and add shrimp. Stir heavily, scraping up any burned bits from the bottom of the pot, until shrimp is heated through (anywhere between 1 and 3 minutes depending on size). Discard bay leaf and serve hot.
-e. magill 8/4/2011
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