Slow-Cooker Jambalaya

My father-in-law makes jambalaya year round. I always enjoy it! I typically make it once a year after finding a new version to try for our celebratory Mardi Gras meal.

I was drawn to this recipe because it utilizes a slow cooker- and mine is underutilized. I learned that I should stick with my typical cooking methods! I significantly extended the cooking time for the rice, probably because I didn’t use parboiled rice. Oops. It was a little bit of a struggle. In the end, the rice did absorb all of the wonderful flavors of the dish. It was worth the wait!

The recipe was adapted from food52.com, contributed by Kristina Vanni. I used kielbasa instead of andouille sausage, chicken thigh instead of chicken breast meat, and modified the method and proportions. I loved that this version incorporated chicken, sausage, and shrimp.

We ended the feast with our annual King Cake, a family favorite.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 T tomato paste
  • 1 T chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 T Creole seasoning (I used Slap ya Mama)
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 (12 ounce) package andouille or kielbasa sausage, cut in half lengthwise and then into 1/4-inch half-moons
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice, preferably parboiled (I used Basmati)
  • 1 pound raw large shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used 21-25 count per pound)
  • sliced scallions, for garnish
  • Louisiana-style hot sauce, optional, for serving
  1. In a large skillet or sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat, heat the 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add the onion, green bell pepper, and celery. Cook until the vegetables are softened. (Alternatively, set the slow cooker to the sauté setting and complete these steps.)
  2. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
  3. Add the tomato paste, fresh thyme, Creole seasoning, salt, pepper, and bay leaves. Stir to combine. Remove from heat and transfer to the slow cooker.
  4. In the same pan over medium to medium-high heat, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the sliced sausage and cook until lightly browned on both sides. Transfer to the slow cooker.
  5. Add the cubed chicken to the skillet and cook until lightly browned; transfer to the slow cooker.
  6. Add the chicken stock and diced tomatoes. Stir to combine.
  7. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours, or on high for 2 to 3 hours. (I cooked the dish on high for 3 hours.)
  8. If cooking on high and using long grain white rice that is not parboiled, add the rice to the pot after 1 1/2 hours. (I used Basmati rice and it took 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours on high to be fully cooked.)(If using parboiled rice, add it to the pot 20 to 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time.)
  9. Once the rice is tender, add the shrimp to the slow cooker, stir, and cook on high for 2 to 5 minutes more, stirring once or twice, until the shrimp are pink throughout and are fully cooked. 
  10. To serve, top with chopped scallions for garnish. Serve with Louisiana hot sauce for additional heat, as desired.

Pappardelle with Pancetta, Broccoli Rabe, & Pine Nuts

I could eat broccoli rabe with a side of broccoli rabe- an absolute favorite. My husband could eat pappardelle with a side of pappardelle. 😉 Now you can see why this dish was perfect for our Valentine’s Day dinner! Everyone loved it. ❤

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Kristine Kidd. I modified the proportions and method. Fabulous.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled, flattened
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces cubed pancetta
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed (I used a mortar & pestle)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 large bunches broccoli rabe (also called rapini; generous 2 pounds), stems sliced 1/2 inch thick, tops cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups water
  • 17.64-ounce (500 g) package dried pappardelle pasta
  • 2 cups freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus additional for serving
  • 1/2 cup raw pine nuts, toasted (@375 degrees for about 5 minutes)
  1. Heat 4 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet, preferably with a lid, over medium heat. (I used a large enameled cast iron pan.)
  2. Add garlic and cook until golden brown, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Discard garlic.
  3. Add onion, pancetta, and fennel seeds to skillet; sauté until onion is tender and pancetta begins to brown, about 8 minutes.
  4. Add dried crushed red pepper, then broccoli rabe stems and cook 4 minutes to soften slightly, stirring occasionally.
  5. Stir in broccoli rabe tops, sprinkle with salt, and add 2 cups water. Cover and cook until stems and tops are tender, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain pasta, reserving 2 cups cooking liquid.
  7. Add pasta to skillet with broccoli rabe and stir over low heat to combine, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls to moisten if necessary.
  8. Stir in 2 cups of the cheese. Season to taste with salt and generous amount of pepper.
  9. Transfer to shallow bowls, if desired. (I served it in the pot.) Sprinkle with pine nuts and garnish with additional cheese.

One-Pot White Bean & Sausage Stew

This is another one-pot, cold weather, comfort food stew. Before our first snow, I rescued some rosemary and thyme from my garden- I was so happy to incorporate both in this dish. 🙂

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I added parmesan rind to the pot while the beans were simmering. I also modified the method and used an immersion blender to purée some of the beans after they were cooked to add creaminess to the finished dish.

The recipe can also be adapted to make in a slow cooker, noted below. Easy and delicious with rich and deep flavor.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1+ pounds sweet Italian sausage, sliced 3/4-inch thick (I used 5 links)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 pound dried great Northern beans, rinsed and picked through
  • 4 cups (1 quart) water
  • 4 cups (1 quart) chicken or turkey stock (I used homemade turkey stock)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1 large rosemary sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • parmesan rind, optional
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
  • minced parsley, for garnish, optional
  1. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  2. Add the sausage and brown until cooked through, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.
  3. Add the tomato paste and cumin to the pot. Cook, stirring, until dark golden, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the carrots, celery, and onion. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the garlic and stir for an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  6. Stir in the beans, 4 cups water, 4 cups stock, salt, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil.
  7. Then reduce heat to low, add the parmesan rind (highly recommend!), cover the pot, and simmer gently until the beans are tender, about 2 hours, adding more water if needed to make sure the beans remain submerged. (I covered the pot and did not have to add any additional liquid.)
  8. To add creaminess, use an immersion blender to purée some of the stew. (I blended for about 10 seconds.)(Alternatively, 1 or 2 cups of beans can be removed, puréed, and returned to the pot.)
  9. When beans are tender, return the sausage to the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  10. Stir in the vinegar and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle into warm bowls and serve drizzled with more vinegar and olive oil, if desired. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

To Make the Stew in a Slow Cooker:

  1. Add all of the ingredients, except the sausage and garnishes, and 7 cups water/stock (instead of 8) to the machine.
  2. Cook on low for 8 hours. (It holds well on low for 2 more hours.)
  3. When you’re ready to serve, roast the sausage on a sheet pan at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes.
  4. Slice and add the sausage, as well as any accumulated juices from the pan, to the soup. Warm through and serve.

One-Pot Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage & Spinach

In New York, today is a day for cheesy snow-day comfort food.

This dish could be made in a single pot but I must confess that I transferred the pasta to a casserole dish prior to browning it in the oven. This was completely unnecessary but I liked the increased surface area exposed for browning.

The recipe was adapted from Cook’s Country. I modified the method and proportions. I also used crushed tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. We ate it with garlic bread and green salad. Great.

Yield: Serves 8

  • 10 to 11 ounces (about 4 links) sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 2/3 cups water
  • 16 ounces (1 pound) ziti
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) chopped fresh basil (chiffonade)
  • 9-10 ounces (9 cups) baby spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 8 ounces whole-milk fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 2/3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 1/3 cups), divided (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 11 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese
  1. Cook sausage in Dutch oven over medium-high heat, breaking up pieces with spoon, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  2. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Stir in crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes and their juice, salt, oregano, sugar, and pepper flakes. Bring mixture to boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in water, pasta, and 6 tablespoons chopped basil. Increase heat to high and bring to boil.
  5. Reduce heat to medium and simmer vigorously, uncovered, until pasta is still very firm but just starting to soften, 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Adjust oven rack 8 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. (I set my oven to Broil+Max @450 degrees.)
  7. Remove pot from heat and stir in spinach, half of the mozzarella, and 1 cup grated Parmesan. If using a separate casserole dish, transfer the mixture after incorporating the spinach and cheese. (I placed the casserole dish on a rimmed baking sheet and covered the handles with foil to protect them.)
  8. Dollop surface of pasta evenly with spoonfuls of ricotta.
  9. Top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.
  10. Broil ziti until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, 5 to 7 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the cooking time.
  11. Transfer to wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes.
  12. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons basil and serve.

Greek Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

This flavor-packed weeknight dish was included in Milk Street Magazine’s “Tuesday Nights” series which features weeknight dishes with bold and fresh flavors. I have found that meatballs that incorporate a panade, hydrated breadcrumbs, are very tender- great.

The recipe was adapted from Milk Street Magazine, contributed by Calvin Cox. According to the original article, these Greek oblong shaped meatballs are known as soutzoukakia smyrneika. Traditionally, they are served with tiganites patates (potatoes fried in olive oil). We ate them with crusty bread to sop up every bit of sauce. The dish could also be served with roasted potatoes or a rice or orzo pilaf.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3 large garlic cloves, 2 finely gratedn(I used a garlic press), 1 thinly sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, divided
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the panko, egg and 1/2 cup water, then mix until homogeneous. Let stand for 5 minutes to allow the panko to hydrate. (This step is very important in order to create soft and tender meatballs.)
  2. Add the pork, cumin, the grated (or pressed) garlic, 1/2 teaspoon pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon oregano, 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, then mix well.
  3. Divide into 11 or 12 portions (each about a scant 1/4 cup), then shape each into a 2 1/2-inch-long cigar (oblong) shape.
  4. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. (Non-stick can be used; I used a 12-inch stainless all-in-one pan.)
  5. Add the meatballs and cook without disturbing until browned on the bottoms, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip the meatballs and cook until browned on the second sides, another 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Remove the skillet from the heat, transfer the meatballs to a paper towel–lined plate and set aside.
  7. Return the skillet to medium-high and add the sliced garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant and starting to brown, 1 to 2 minutes.
  8. Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  9. Stir in the tomatoes, cinnamon, honey and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper, then bring to a simmer.
  10. Place the meatballs in the pan and return to a simmer. Cover and simmer, undisturbed, until the centers of the meatballs reach 160°F, 12 to 14 minutes.
  11. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper.
  12. Transfer the meatballs and sauce to serving dish. Drizzle with additional oil, if desired, and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oregano.

Weeknight Ragù

This comfort food dish was very well-received in my house. Everyone in my family was fighting over the leftovers! It was easy, full-flavored, and absolutely delicious.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Chris Morocco. I modified the proportions and substituted sour cream for the heavy cream. I also adjusted the consistency of the finished dish with pasta cooking water. Great.

Yield: Serves 8

  • 6 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 3/4 lbs ground pork, turkey, beef, or chicken, preferably dark meat
  • kosher salt
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 Calabrian chiles in oil, finely chopped, or 1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 7 T double-concentrated tomato paste
  • 7 T sour cream or heavy cream
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs (20 to 24 oz) rigatoni, gemelli or other short pasta
  • 2 oz Parmesan, finely grated, plus more for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • basil leaves, for serving
  1. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven over medium to medium-high.
  2. Add ground meat in 12–14 pieces (patties), spacing evenly, and season with salt.
  3. Let cook, undisturbed, until deeply browned underneath, about 3 minutes.
  4. Turn over and cook until deeply browned on opposite side, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate. (It won’t be cooked through.)
  5. Add remaining 3 tablespoons of oil to pot over medium heat.
  6. Cook onion, stirring often, until softened and just beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  8. Add chiles/red pepper flakes and tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until paste is slightly darkened in color, about 3 minutes.
  9. Return meat to the pot and break up into small pieces.
  10. Add sour cream/heavy cream and 2 1/4 cups water.
  11. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat, and simmer gently until liquid is reduced by one third and flavors have come together, 15–20 minutes.
  12. Season ragù with salt and pepper.
  13. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 2 cups pasta cooking liquid.
  14. Add pasta to ragù along with 1 cup pasta cooking liquid and Parmesan.
  15. Cook, stirring and adding more pasta cooking liquid if needed, until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes.
  16. Transfer to a serving dish or individual bowls. Garnish with basil and reserved Parmesan. Serve.

Buttermilk Cornbread Dressing with Italian Sausage

I loved that this recipe used buttermilk to moisten the stuffing- in addition to the more typical stock and butter. The sausage was not overpowering in the finished dish but added great flavor. I used locally made sweet Italian sausage with fennel seeds- perfect.

This recipe was adapted from the New York Times, contributed by Yewande Komolafe. The sausage could be omitted for a vegetarian version. The original recipe notes that if store-bought or boxed mix cornbread is used, it should be crumbled and and spread out on a sheet pan to dry for 4 to 12 hours prior to assembling the dish. I made the accompanying cornbread recipe, which does not require drying time, two days prior to making the dish.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

For the Cornbread:

  • 8 T/115 grams/1 stick unsalted butter, melted, plus more for brushing the pan
  • 1 1/2 cups/250 g medium-coarse yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup/114 g all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup/55 g granulated sugar
  • 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups/470 milliliters buttermilk, preferably full-fat (I used low-fat)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

For the Dressing:

  • 3 T unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan
  • 1 T neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola, plus more if needed
  • 1 pound loose pork sausage (I used sweet Italian sausage)
  • 1 large yellow onion, very finely chopped (2 cups)
  • 4 celery ribs, very finely chopped (2 cups)
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 T chopped fresh sage (from 10 large leaves)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 recipe cornbread for dressing, broken into 1-inch pieces, or 10 cups loosely packed cornbread
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken, turkey or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup buttermilk, preferably full-fat (I used low-fat)

To Make the Cornbread:

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch skillet, preferably cast-iron, and set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. (I weighed the dry ingredients when possible.)
  4. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk and eggs. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to stir until incorporated.
  5. Fold in the melted butter.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared skillet and smooth the top.
  7. Bake until the top is lightly browned and the sides pull away cleanly from the skillet, about 25 to 30 minutes.
  8. Cool completely and serve warm or room temperature, or reserve to make cornbread dressing.

To Assemble & Bake the Dressing:

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium and pour in the oil.
  3. Add the sausage and cook, using a wooden spoon to break it into small pieces, until the meat is cooked through and no longer pink, about 8 minutes.
  4. Transfer the cooked sausage to a plate, keeping any fat in the skillet. Add a few additional tablespoons oil if needed to evenly coat the bottom.
  5. Add the onion and celery to the skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes.
  6. Add the garlic, thyme, oregano, fennel seeds and sage, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  7. Return the cooked sausage to the skillet and stir to incorporate. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, add the cornbread pieces and toss to combine.
  9. Pour in the stock and buttermilk, and stir until well mixed. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.
  10. Transfer the cornbread mixture to your prepared dish and spread evenly.
  11. Drizzle the melted butter over the top.
  12. Cover the dish with foil and bake until heated through, 30 to 35 minutes.
  13. Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees, remove the foil and bake until the surface is golden brown in spots, 15 to 20 minutes.
  14. Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving warm.

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