When my son, Mike, called last Wednesday to say that he and his family were thinking of driving from Boston to Amherst for the weekend, I knew they were all angling for some home-cooked meals. Since Mike, his wife, and both kids all love seafood, I decided on a shrimp jambalaya for the first night. My husband and I both spent childhood vacations as well as our college years in New Orleans and so are longtime devotees of this dish.
Instead of a classic version in which the rice is cooked separately, then topped with a tomato-based sauce with shrimp, for this variation the rice and sauce are conveniently baked together in a casserole. The shrimp are arranged atop the spicy mélange during the last few minutes in the oven. I gilded the lily by buying mini-lobster tails on sale at Whole Foods last week. They were quickly steamed, their meat picked out and added as an extra garnish when the dish came out of the oven.
A salad of mixed greens dressed in a tarragon mustard vinaigrette and a warm, crusty pain de campagne (from a local bakery) rounded out our menu. Homemade oatmeal crisps and an apple pie satisfied our sweet cravings.
Since Mardi Gras is just a few days away on Tuesday, March 4, I thought my readers might like some early inspiration for celebrating this special New Orleans holiday.
New Orleans Shrimp and Andouille Jambalaya
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for the baking dish
12 oz andouille sausage
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1 tbsp chopped garlic
Two 15-oz cans diced tomatoes with their juices
5 cups reduced sodium chicken stock
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves, broken in half
2 cups long grain rice
18 large (16- 20 count per pd) shrimp, peeled and deveined, preferably Gulf Coast shrimp 1/2 cup chopped green onions, including 2-in of the green stems
1. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat the oven 350 degrees F. Generously oil a 9-by-13-in or a shallow 3-qt baking dish.
2. Halve the andouille sausages lengthwise, and then cut them crosswise into 1/8-in thick slices. Heat the oil in a large, heavy frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the sausage, and stir and cook until lightly browned, for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels.
3. Remove all but 1 tbsp of the drippings in the frying pan and set over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and red bell pepper, then stir and cook until vegetables are just softened, for about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute more.
4. Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, stock, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, 1 tsp salt, cayenne, and bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a simmer, and then add the sausage. Taste and season the mixture with salt if needed.
5. Spread the rice in the casserole. Remove and reserve 1/2 cup of the simmering tomato mixture, then pour the remainder over the rice and mix well to combine. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until the rice is tender and has almost absorbed all liquids, for about 30 minutes.
6. Remove the dish from the oven and carefully remove the foil, using pot holders or mitts. Using a fork or spoon, arrange the shrimp on top of the casserole, pushing them slightly into the rice mixture. Ladle the reserved 1/2 cup tomato mixture over the shrimp. Replace the foil, covering the pan tightly, and return to the oven. Bake until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, for 8 to 10 minutes more.
7. Remove the bay leaves and sprinkle the dish with green onions. Serves 6.
Adapted from Sunday Casseroles by Betty Rosbottom (Fall 2014 Chronicle Books).
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