A few weeks ago, I shared my delight with you all at receiving my first two blog awards. Today, I am tickled to share that the lovely Anali invited me to write a guest post on celiac for her terrific blog, Anali’s First Amendment. It’s up now—you can check it out here. It was a challenging assignment and I could have written a lot more, but you all know me, isn’t that always the case? LOL As those of us in the gluten-free community know though, celiac is a serious subject. It doesn’t quite fit into “the box” as neatly as we’d all like, and it’s a topic that merits thorough discussions. At least 3 million people have celiac disease and about 97% of them remain undiagnosed. Please read the post and share it with anyone who may find it helpful. Thanks so much, and my sincere thanks to Anali for giving me the opportunity to reach more readers who may be impacted by celiac disease in some way.
Now … jambalaya. Jambalaya, jambalaya. Don’t you just love saying that word? I know I do. That particular combination of consonants and vowels with the emphasis on the third syllable is just right. Say the word and immediately, you’re not only thinking of the fabulous dish with all its flavors, but also the heat and smells of bayou country and hearing the sweet sounds of Zydeco music. If you’re lucky, you’ve actually listened to some great Zydeco music. My absolute favorite Zydeco musician is Terrance Simien. Terrance hails from Mallet, LA and was featured with the Mallet Playboys (his band at the time) in the movie, The Big Easy. For years, he used to play in our area every few months. We, and many of our friends, packed into a local nightclub—standing room only and a hot and sweaty experience, but it was entirely worth it. Zydeco music has an energy and sound all its own and Terrance is a sweetheart of a guy and an incredibly talented musician. Now, Terrance’s group is more aptly named The Zydeco Experience. If you haven’t already, you absolutely must hear him live one day. An intimate venue would be ideal because not only does their sound and passion come through better, but you might just luck out and get called up on stage to play the frottoir (think washboard-type instrument worn like body armor—don’t worry … no domestic duties required). By the way, Terrance and his band won a Grammy for best Zydeco or Cajun music album last year–very well deserved. Jambalaya. Both the word and the dish are just fun and, sometimes, even sexy—thinking of Terrance or perhaps Ellen Barkin (and The Big Easy, back in the day). But, I digress a bit.
Jambalaya … the dish itself is as great to eat as the word is fun to say. Wikipedia says that jambalaya is a Louisiana Creole dish—“the New World Version of the Old World dish, paella.” Creole cooking is known to blend various influences, such as French, Mediterranean, Spanish, African, and American. Sometimes jambalaya is called Cajun, and while it seems there were once major differences between Creole and Cajun cooking, now the labels are used fairly synonymously for dishes. I was surprised to learn there are three versions of jambalaya—red, brown, and white.
I visited my wonderful and beautiful friend, Linda, last spring. She doesn’t live in Louisiana, but close enough. She lives in Fairhope, Alabama, on Mobile Bay. She relocated there from my neighborhood and has absolutely loved the vitality and beauty of Fairhope. It has a thriving arts community with warm, friendly people. In addition, it’s incredibly charming and picturesque, often being featured in Southern Living magazine. Linda picked me up at the airport and then drove us around the area briefly showing me some of the highlights of her every day life. When we finally opened the door to her new home, a fabulous aroma greeted us. She looked at me, smiled, and said, “jambalaya, crockpot.” I do love that word … and the dish.
Linda, who is also gluten free, modified a recipe she’d found in Better Homes and Gardens. When I made it on my own once back at home, I adjusted it a bit more. The original recipe was naturally gluten free, so no modifications needed to be made in that regard. However I often modify this dish to whatever I have on hand. The beauty of jambalaya is that it’s such a versatile dish. It readily adapts to different meats, seafood, and vegetables. You can even make a vegetarian version, if you like. This recipe calls for smoked sausage and shrimp, so I am submitting it for the Friday Foodie Fix to Diane of The W.H.O.L.E. Gang blog. As Diane mentioned in her post, she and I are both huge shrimp fans. I love how Diane writes up the nutritional merits of the special ingredient each week. I love my shrimp for the fabulous flavor, but thanks to Diane, now I feel more virtuous eating it! 🙂
Incidentally, another great point about shrimp is that shrimp dishes are often served gluten free easily (gfe!). Steamed shrimp (just be sure they are not steamed in beer—yes, it does happen) and shrimp Norfolk are two of favorite options for dining out. (Usually any Norfolk dish is just seafood that has been broiled in butter with safe seasonings, but always check on seasonings, and sometimes (but, rarely), bread crumbs are added.) Shrimp and Crab Norfolk was my meal when we dined at our favorite local waterfront restaurant on Mother’s Day. (By the way, my dessert was crème brulee— another gfe option when prepared safely … yum.)
My entire visit with Linda was a treat last year, but walking into the smell of jambalaya was the best possible welcome. I’ve made my version many times since. It’s now a favorite of my support group, too. And, because it’s another crockpot dish, it makes life just a bit simpler, and more economical. I heard today in a cost-saving segment on TV that you can operate your crockpot for 8 hours for 10 cents! Impressive savings, huh? The part I like just as much though is the negligible heat in the kitchen. That pesky air conditioner had to be run for a while today, and I just don’t like it. Crockpot meals (and grilling, of course) can help tremendously by not adding to the heat this time of year.
We are headed to our mountain property in the morning–our favorite retreat, with less heat and humidity. Hope everyone has a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! Let’s remember those we’ve lost in service to our country and spend special time with our family and friends—always the best way to spend any holiday, I think.
Jambalaya … what do you like to add in your version?
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped (1 cup)
- 8 oz smoked sausage, sliced (I used Hillshire Farms)
- 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes in juice, not drained (or one 14-oz can diced tomatoes and one 14-oz can of V-8—for extra zestiness)
- ⅔ cup wine (any kind) or gluten-free chicken broth
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped (or equivalent minced)
- 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- ½ tsp hot pepper sauce
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional, or dried, 2 tsp)
- 1 cup uncooked Minute brown rice (or 1 ½ cups cooked full-grain brown rice) (Note: Quinoa should work as a substitution, and would make the recipe grain free.)
- 1 lb peeled, deveined raw or cooked medium-sized or larger shrimp
- Mix all ingredients EXCEPT shrimp, parsley, and rice in a 3½-qt or larger crockpot. Cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hours until vegetables are tender. The mixture will still look a bit soupy, but will thicken once you complete the next step.
- Stir in rice; cover and cook 15 minutes or until done. Then stir in parsley and shrimp (uncooked shrimp will cook in about 5 minutes).
While Minute rice clearly doesn’t have the nutritional value of cooked full-grain brown rice, I still have issues with some whole grain products, so it works better for me.
If I will be cooking the jambalaya while I am at work and will be gone longer than 8 hours, I prepare everything in the crock pot the night before, so I don’t have to rush in the morning (and so it is not overcooked by the time I get home from work). The cold ingredients guarantee a slightly slower start. I follow this approach even with my crockpot that switches from cooking to warming to avoid overcooking.
When I am making this dish for a crowd, I cut the sausage slices in half and cut the shrmp into smaller pieces to ensure that they get distributed properly in all servings. If you'd like a bread to accompany your jambalaya, either gfe cornbread or popovers work well.