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.

White Borscht

Before I was introduced to this recipe, I thought that borscht was always a deep red, beet-based soup. I now know that borscht means “sour.” The sour tang in this soup comes from soaking sourdough bread in the broth, puréeing it, and incorporating it into the finished soup, along with crème fraiche which is stirred in just prior to serving.

I made my first homemade borscht (the beet-based version) for Christmas Eve, and my husband purchased pierogies at a Polish store for the same meal. Luckily, I saw this recipe and he was also able to buy house-made garlic kielbasa for this soup. The quality of the kielbasa is very important because it is used to create the broth for the base of this soup.

This recipe is from The New York Times, contributed by Gabrielle Hamilton.  I followed the recipe closely, but may decrease the amount of butter next time- I’m not sure it was necessary! (but it was quite delicious 😉 ) It was a creamy, indulgent, and delicious upgrade of potato-leek soup. Fabulous cold-weather comfort food.

Yield: 5 quarts, Serves 10 to 12

  • 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 pounds full horseshoe link of high-quality smoked kielbasa
  • 5 fresh bay leaves
  • 3 pounds leeks (6 long, lively leeks)
  • 3 pounds russet potatoes (about 4)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 large yellow onion, small-diced (about 2 cups)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 (4-ounce) hunk of dense, very sour sourdough bread, crusts removed
  • 1 full tablespoon finely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
  • 1 bunch fresh dill, woody stems removed, fronds minced

Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya

My entire family really looks forward to our Mardi Gras dinner. In all honesty, it’s because the meal is topped off with our traditional freshly-baked King Cake. Just writing about it makes me want some. 🙂

I typically make a Cajun main dish- usually shrimp jambalaya. This chicken and sausage version was incredible. My mother-in-law had just given us tons of fabulous Polish kielbasa as well. I was happy that my husband agreed to “sacrifice” it for our special dinner as it really added to the finished dish. This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Ian Knauer.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 10 boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 10-12 ounces Andouille sausage or kielbasa, sliced
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 green bell peppers, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 6-10 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 (28 ounce) can whole San Marzano tomatoes in juice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup long grain white rice (I used Basmati)
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves
  1. Season the chicken with 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper.
  2. In a large heavy pot, heat the oil over medium high heat until hot. Brown the chicken, turning once, until golden, about 6 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
  3. Add the sausage to the pot and cook, turning once, until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer the sausage to the plate with the chicken.
  4. Stir the onions, bell peppers, celery, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper into the pot.
  5. Cook vegetables, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 8 minutes.
  6. Stir in the garlic, bay leaves and cayenne and continue to cook until golden, about 6 minutes.
  7. Stir in the tomatoes, rice, water reserved chicken and reserved sausage along with any accumulated juices and bring to a boil.
  8. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 25 to 30 minutes.
  9. Season the jambalaya with salt and pepper to taste, then sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

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Lentil-Kielbasa Soup

I make this soup from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, (via Martha Stewart Living) every year. I usually make it around Thanksgiving because when I used to order our turkey at the local butcher, I picked up some terrific kielbasa made in Lindenhurst, New York. The past couple of years, I changed to a brined Trader Joe’s turkey- but I still go to the butcher to get the kielbasa. I made this soup after Thanksgiving this year and it was the best it has ever been! We love it already, but the use of homemade turkey stock and fresh parmesan grated over the top made it even more wonderful.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

  • 1 pound French green lentils
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 large yellow onions (about 3 pounds), finely chopped
  • 3 medium leeks (about 1 1/2 pounds), white part only, cut into 1/4-inch half moons and washed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 T coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 8 stalks (about 1 1/2 pounds) celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 pound (about 6) carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 quarts homemade chicken stock, or canned low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 pound Kielbasa sausage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 T red-wine vinegar
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese
  1. In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water, and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside. (I always skip this step!)
  2. Warm the olive oil in a large stockpot set over medium heat. Add the onions, leeks, garlic, thyme, cumin, salt, and pepper, and sauté, stirring frequently, until vegetables are translucent, about 20 minutes. Add the celery and carrots, and sauté, stirring frequently, 5 minutes more. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and lentils; cover, and bring to a boil.
  3. Uncover, reduce heat to medium low, and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are cooked through, about 1 hour. Stir in the sausage and red-wine vinegar, and simmer until sausage is heated through, about 5 minutes more. Serve hot, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with parmesan cheese.

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