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.

Shrimp Creole

I served this tasty dish for our Mardi Gras dinner followed by our essential celebratory King Cake for dessert. It was festive and delicious.

I admittedly used Cajun seasoning instead of Creole Seasoning- gasp! After making the dish, I read about the similarities and differences between the Cajun and Creole cuisines. Both cuisines use a roux, the “holy trinity” composed of onions, bell peppers, and celery sautéed in oil, and both are from Southern Louisiana. Cajun food incorporates more smoked meats and rice, such as jambalaya, and is from more rural parts of the region whereas Creole cuisine, such as étouffée, is from New Orleans. I included the recipe for the homemade Creole seasoning below. (for next time!)

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Vallery Lomas. I modified the cooking times and doubled the garlic. I also used store-bought seasoning and omitted the dried basil. The shrimp was cooked perfectly.

Yield: Serves 4

For the Creole Seasoning: (Optional)

  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or less, if desired)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the Shrimp:

  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used large tail-on shrimp)
  • 2 teaspoons homemade or store-bought Creole seasoning, divided (I used Slap ya Mama)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick / 4 T)
  • 1/3 cup (5 T) all-purpose flour
  • 1 medium or large yellow onion, finely chopped (I used a food processor)
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 4 to 8 garlic cloves, minced (I used a food processor)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce (no salt added)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce, to taste (optional) (I used Frank’s Red Hot)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1/2 T fresh thyme)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1/2 T fresh oregano)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil (or 1/2 T fresh basil)
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves and tender stems
  • steamed rice, for serving (I used white Basmati rice)
  1. Make the optional Creole seasoning: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir together. The seasoning makes about 1/4 cup; store it in a closed container in a cool, dry place. (Only 2 teaspoons are used in this dish.)
  2. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels. Then toss the raw shrimp with 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning and set aside.
  3. In a Dutch oven or large, heavy skillet with a lid, melt the butter over medium-low heat. (I used a low and wide enameled cast iron pot.)
  4. Sprinkle the flour on top and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until a roux the color of peanut butter forms, about 5 to 10 minutes. Watch carefully- if the roux burns it cannot be saved.
  5. Add the onion, celery, and bell pepper, increase the heat to medium and cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 8 minutes.
  6. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
  7. Stir in 1/3 cup water, then the tomato sauce, hot sauce (if using), sugar, thyme, oregano, basil (if using), bay leaves, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and the remaining 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low.
  8. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally to make sure that the bottom doesn’t burn. (If needed, add more water.)
  9. Once the stew has thickened, add the seasoned shrimp and simmer until opaque and cooked through, about 5 minutes, turning each piece halfway through the cooking time. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  10. Remove from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes, uncovered.
  11. Serve over steamed rice sprinkled with sliced scallions and chopped parsley.

Shrimp & Grits with Mustard Seed Chowchow

Charleston, South Carolina is a very special place for me. As a tribute, I make a lot of Southern food. 🙂 I also make shrimp and grits as part of our traditional Easter celebration.

We were lucky enough to travel back to Charleston recently and we brought home a couple of different types of grits. The fresh from South Carolina grits really made this dish extra special. I also baked the grits for the first time and the results were amazing. I used a blend of stone ground white and yellow grits for this dish, but, I also have special pink “unicorn grits” from Millers All Day which I’ll be sure to share with you in another dish.

This dish is from a Food and Wine “staff-favorite” recipe, contributed by Isaac Toups of Toups South in New Orleans. It was absolutely incredible. (We need to go to his restaurant!)  It may be quite difficult to try a new version next year. I served it with roasted asparagus. Lovely.

  1. Preheat oven to 200°F, preferably on convection.
  2. Toss together shrimp and Cajun seasoning in a medium bowl. Cover; refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Place milk and 1/4 cup butter in a medium ovenproof saucepan. Bring to a vigorous simmer over medium, stirring occasionally.
  4. Gradually add grits, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens slightly and grits are evenly suspended in milk, about 6 minutes.
  5. Cover saucepan; transfer to preheated oven. Bake until grits are tender, 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes. Remove from oven; stir in 2 teaspoons salt and remaining 1/4 cup butter. Cover to keep warm until ready to use. (I put the pot in a warming oven.)
  6. While the grits are in the oven, stir together vinegar, 3/4 cup water, sugar, and remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons salt in a saucepan; bring to a boil over high.
  7. Stir in mustard seeds. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, stirring occasionally, until seeds are tender, about 35 minutes.
  8. Add tomato and bell pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and mixture has thickened, 14 to 16 minutes. Remove from heat.
  9. Remove shrimp from refrigerator. Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet over high until smoking.
  10. Add shrimp to skillet in a single layer; cook until opaque and lightly charred, about 1 minute and 30 seconds per side.
  11. To serve, divide grits among 4 bowls. Top evenly with shrimp and chowchow; sprinkle with sliced scallion.

Note: The chowchow can be made up to a week in advance.

Quick New Orleans Red Beans & Rice

This quick recipe results in a full-flavored replica of a classic version that has simmered for hours. I served it to my family for our past two Mardi Gras feasts- followed by a mandatory King Cake, of course! 🙂

This recipe was adapted from David Guas, a New Orleans native and chef-owner of Bayou Coffee Bar and Eatery in Arlington, Virginia, via The Washington Post.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • 8 ounces smoked, cooked pork sausage
  • 2 15-oz cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 T canola oil
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 7-8 scallions, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs or 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 2-3 stems flat-leaf parsley, leaves minced
  • about 1-2 tsp coarse salt, to taste
  • 1 cup white Basmati rice cooked in 2 cups chicken stock, for serving
  • hot sauce, for serving, optional
  1. Cut the sausage in half lengthwise, then slice into half-moons.
  2. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.
  3. Add the sausage and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring a few times, so some of its fat renders. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage to a shallow bowl.
  4. Add the diced bell pepper, onion, scallions, and garlic to the rendered fat in the pot; stir to coat.
  5. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook for 2 minutes, stirring, until just softened.
  6. Add the beans, stock, thyme, bay leaves, black and cayenne peppers.
  7. Reduce the heat to medium; cover and cook for 25 minutes.
  8. Uncover and remove the bay leaves and thyme sprig stems with a slotted spoon.
  9. Using the back of a wooden spoon, mash about 1 cup of the beans against the side of the pot, or until desired thickness is achieved.
  10. Return the sausage to the pot. When heated through, stir in the parsley.
  11. Serve hot, over cooked rice, with hot sauce, as desired. I have served it in individual bowls topped with a scoop of rice or in a serving dish over rice.

Sticky Banana Toffee Pudding

Happy Mardi Gras! I am making our traditional King Cake today, but I thought that this dessert could also be an appropriate celebratory option. It reminded me of a New Orleans bread pudding with some of the flavors of Bananas Foster, another famous New Orleans dessert.

The recipe was part of a Food and Wine magazine article, contributed by Laura Rege, titled “Ugly Delicious!” The author makes the point that a lot of delicious food isn’t Instagram drool-worthy. I didn’t really think that this dessert was that ugly, but it was delicious! 🙂

Yield: Serves 9

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided, plus more for greasing
 (I used cooking oil spray for greasing)
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 6 ounces pitted dates, chopped (1 cup)
 (I used Medjool dates)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 3/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 medium-size overripe bananas, mashed (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • unsweetened whipped cream, for serving
  1. Preheat oven to 350°, preferably on convection. Grease a 9-inch square metal cake pan with butter or cooking oil spray.
  2. In a small heatproof bowl, pour the boiling water over the dates; stir in the baking soda.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat 1/4 cup of the butter with 3/4 cup of the brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
  5. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
  6. At low-speed, beat in the flour mixture until just combined.
  7. Add the date mixture and bananas, and beat at low-speed until just combined.
  8. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the heavy cream, the remaining 1/4 cup of butter, and the remaining 1 cup of brown sugar. Bring to a gentle boil over moderate heat, and cook until slightly thickened and deep golden, about 3 minutes. Keep warm.
  10. Transfer the pan to a wire rack. Using a skewer or toothpick, poke holes all over the cake.
  11. Pour half of the warm sauce over the cake, and let stand until absorbed, about 10 minutes.
  12. Serve warm with the remaining sauce and the whipped cream.

One Year Ago: Pear & Cranberry Pie

Two Years Ago: My Mother-in-Law’s Napoleon Torte

Three Years Ago:

Four Years Ago:

Five Years Ago:

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.

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

Three Years Ago:

Four Years Ago:

Fried Chicken Thighs & Cheesy Grits

My husband’s dream Valentine’s Day dinner has to involve fried chicken. ❤ Weeks earlier, I had seen this recipe in Bon Appetit and thought it would be perfect for our celebration… The problem was that I didn’t remember where I had seen my perfect recipe. :/ I had to search far and wide to finally track it down. Thankfully, that happened in time!

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Alison Roman. I used coarse yellow grits and added additional water and milk until the desired consistency was achieved. I also used a combination of baby kale, chard and spinach for the sautéed greens. My husband didn’t want hot pepper jelly (can you believe it?) so I didn’t add it to the greens while they were cooking. I added it to my plate at the end! (Tons of it!)

We ate this dish for dinner but it would be wonderful for any meal of the day- brunch too. 🙂 Absolutely Delicious!!

AND… I almost forgot… We had my homemade version of the best-selling Momofuku Milk Bar Crack Pie as our grand finale. What a meal. 🙂

Yield: Serves 4

For the Chicken:

  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs

For the Grits:

  • coarse salt
  • 1½ cups white or yellow grits (not instant)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 ounces finely grated Parmesan
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • milk, as needed, to achieve the desired consistency

For Frying And Assembly:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, plus more
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 T unsalted butter or olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds baby kale, chard and spinach or 2 bunches kale, or Swiss chard, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn into 2-inch pieces
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T distilled white vinegar
  • 1 T hot pepper jelly, plus more for serving (I used Trader Joe’s)

Marinade the Chicken:

  1. Combine buttermilk, cayenne, garlic powder, salt, and paprika in a large bowl or large resealable plastic bag. Add chicken thighs, cover bowl or seal bag, and toss to coat. Chill at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours. (I did 12 hours.)

Make the Grits:

  1. Bring 4 cups salted water to a boil and gradually add grits, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking occasionally, until grits are very tender and creamy, 25–30 minutes. Add cream cheese and Parmesan; whisk until melted and incorporated; season with salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve. Add more water or milk to adjust the consistency as needed.

For Frying And Assembly:

  1. Whisk flour, cayenne, garlic powder, paprika, and 2 tsp. salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Remove chicken thighs from brine, letting excess drip off.
  3. Working in batches, dredge chicken in flour mixture, occasionally dipping your fingers in brine as you pack on flour to help create moistened, shaggy bits (the makings of a super-crisp crust); transfer to a rimmed baking sheet.
  4. Fit a large cast-iron skillet with thermometer and heat oil until thermometer registers 350°.
  5. Working in batches and returning oil to 350° between batches, fry chicken thighs, turning occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and coating is deep golden brown and crisp, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack set inside a baking sheet and let sit while you cook the greens.
  6. Heat butter or olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add greens in large handfuls, letting it cook down slightly before adding more and tossing to coat. Season with salt and pepper and cook, tossing occasionally, until wilted and bright green, about 2 minutes. Add vinegar and 1 Tbsp. pepper jelly and toss to coat, if desired.
  7. Divide grits evenly among bowls and top with greens, fried chicken, and more pepper jelly.

Two Years Ago:

Three Years Ago:

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