Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya

Happy Mardi Gras!  I was not raised observing Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, or any of the other Lent traditions, but I’m certainly happy to use a holiday as an excuse to try a new recipe!

Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya

I’ve been a huge fan of hearty one pot meals this winter so last weekend when we realized that Mardi Gras was just a few days away we decided that a flavorful Jambalaya would be the perfect recipe for Sunday night.   We consulted our trusty Cook’s Illustrated The New Best Recipe cook book and decided to make their version of a creole-style Jambalaya with shredded chicken thighs, andouille sausage, shrimp, tomatoes and rice.  The recipe came together fairly quickly (compared to some of our stews, at least!) and the resulting dish featured an impressive range of flavors from the smoky andouille and clam-juiced shrimp to the fresh parsley, and slow-cooked chicken.  Yum!

Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya (from The New Best Recipe; serves 5-6)

You will need…
1 Yellow Onion, quartered
1 Celery Rib, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
1 Red Bell Pepper, quartered
5 Garlic Cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons Vegetable Oil
4 Bone-In, Skin-On Chicken Thighs
8 oz. Andouille Sausage, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4″ pieces (buy a good brand of Andouille if possible; it should give this dish a lot of flavor!)
1 1/2 cups Long Grain White Rice (uncooked)
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Fresh Thyme, minced (we used dried Thyme)
1/4 teaspoons Cayenne Pepper
1 – 14.5 oz. can Diced Tomatoes, drained with 1/4 cup of juice reserved
8 oz. Clam Juice
1 1/2 cups Chicken Broth
2 Bay Leaves
1 lb. Shrimp, peeled and deveined (we used frozen 30 ct. shrimp and thawed them beforehand)
2 tablespoons minced fresh Parsley

Directions:
Begin by transferring the onion, celery, red pepper and garlic into a food processor.  Pulse the vegetables briefly to finely chop them without pureeing them.  We have a miniature food processor so Matt did this in 4 steps (one per vegetable) and then combined all of the chopped veggies together on a plate.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Use tongs to place the chicken thighs in the oil, skin-side down, and cook, undisturbed, for 5 minutes or until golden brown.  (Watch out, there’s a lot of splattering!)  Use the tongs to flip the thighs over and continue to cook for another 3 minutes, then transfer the thighs to a plate.  Reduce the heat to medium, add the chopped andouille, and brown for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  (This step smells amazing, in my opinion.)  Transfer the browned andouille to a paper towel-lined plate.

Reduce the heat further to medium low, then add in the chopped vegetables.  Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot and stir the veggies until softened, about 4 minutes.  Add in the rice, salt, thyme, and cayenne and stir well for about a minute to coat the rice in the chicken fat.  Stir in the tomatoes, tomato juice, clam juice, chicken broth, bay leaves and andouille.  Remove the skin from the chicken thighs then use your tongs to place the chicken, skinned-side down, on top of the rice mixture.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes stir the mixture once and flip the chicken thighs over, then cover and simmer for another 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.  Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Place the shrimp on top of the rice mixture then cover and cook for 5 minutes until the shrimp are pink and cooked through.  (Be careful not to overcook the shrimp.)  When the shrimp are fully cooked remove the pot from heat and discard the bay leaves.  As soon as the chicken thighs are cool enough to work with, shred the meat into thin strands with your fingers.  Gently stir the shredded chicken and minced parsley into the stew and serve immediately.

Jambalaya

728 Jambalaya

Do you have a favorite Mardi Gras-inspired dish or tradition?
Please tell me about it in the comments section!

Quick and Easy Barbecue Sauce

Last weekend I made oven-roasted pork spareribs and, since I time to kill during the 4 1/2 hours that the ribs were cooking, I also made a batch of homemade barbecue sauce.  This sauce is “quick and easy” because it uses ketchup as the tomato base rather than whole canned tomatoes which would take hours to break down into sauce.

Homemade BBQ Sauce

Quick and Easy Barbecue Sauce (from The New Best Recipe)
Makes about 2 cups of delicious, tangy sauce!

You will need…
1 Yellow Onion, peeled and quartered
1/4 cup Water
1 cup Ketchup
2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
5 tablespoons Molasses
1 teaspoon Hot Pepper Sauce (I used Cholula)
1/4 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons Liquid Smoke
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1-2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Chili Powder
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

Directions:
Place the onion and water in a food processor and blend for about 30 seconds until the mixture looks like a slushy.  Use a mesh strainer to strain the mixture into a bowl or measuring cup until you have 1/2 cup of onion juice.  Discard the solids.

Mix the onion juice and the next 8 ingredients (vinegar thru liquid smoke) together in a bowl.  Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat until it is shimmering, then add in the garlic, chili powder and cayenne pepper.  Allow to cook for 30 seconds, then stir in the ketchup mixture.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer the sauce for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature before using.

Pork Spare Ribs with Homemade BBQ Sauce

Easy Tomato-Basil Bruschetta

In addition to our Shrimp with Penne and Herbed Cream Sauce Matt and I made a double batch of traditional Tomato-Basil Bruschetta for Christmas Eve dinner.  The bruschetta was surprisingly easy to make and everyone loved it!

Super Easy Bruschetta!

Super-Easy Tomato-Basil Bruschetta (from The New Best Recipe)

You will need…
8-9 medium Tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2/3 cup Basil, shredded
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1 loaf of crusty Bread – we used Ciabatta
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
1-2 cloves Garlic, cut in half lengthwise

Directions:
Combine the tomatoes, basil and salt and pepper.  Cut the loaf into 3/4 inch thick slices and place on a baking sheet.  Toast the bread under a broiler, flipping once, until both sides are golden brown.  Rub the cut sides of the garlic clove over the top side of each slice of bread and then brush on a small amount of olive oil.  Top the slices with a generous helping of the tomato-basil mixture and serve immediately.

Pozole Verde

After (finally!) finishing our Thanksgiving leftovers Matt and I decided that we wanted to make a meal that featured tons of flavor, fresh veggies, and oh… NOT turkey! 🙂 We pulled out our trusty The New Best Recipe cookbook and found Pozole waiting for us in the stews chapter. Pozole is a traditional Mexican soup made with shredded pork and hominy (a type of corn) and it is DELICIOUS! We enjoyed our Pozole for dinner on Sunday and then happily ate it for lunch the next four days (and I’m still not tired of it!).

There are different types of Pozole including Rojo (made with chiles) and Blanco (made without any added sauces). This recipe is for Pozole Verde which includes a liberal amount of blended tomatillos, jalapeños, and cilantro. Make sure not to skimp on the garnishes – although Matt preferred the Pozole without any added flavors, I really enjoyed the freshness that the chopped onion, avocado, radish and tomato added to the finished dish!

Pozole Verde

Pozole Verde (Pork and Hominy Stew with Tomatillos, Cilantro and Jalapeño)
Serves 8-10; from Cook’s Illustrated – The New Best Recipe

Pozole Ingredients…
1 bone-in Pork Picnic Roast or Shoulder Roast, about 4-5 lbs.
Salt and Pepper
2 tablespoons Canola Oil
2 1/2 White Onions; 2 coarsely chopped, 1/2 quartered
5 cloves Garlic, minced
6 cups Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
1 pound Tomatillos, husked and quartered
3 Jalapeño Peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
1/2 cup Water
2 bunches (5 cups) Cilantro Leaves and Stems (thin parts)
3-15 oz. cans White or Yellow Hominy, drained and rinsed

Garnishes…
1/2 White Onion, finely chopped
1 Avocado, sliced
1 Jalapeño Pepper, finely chopped
6 Radishes, thinly sliced
1 Lime, sliced into wedges
8-10 Corn Tortillas, warmed and sliced into quarters or strips
1-2 Fresh Tomatoes, chopped
Tortilla Chips

Garnishes on Pozole Verde

Directions:
Trim excess fat off of the pork roast and cut along the muscle into several large pieces (approx. 8-9 pieces for a 4 lb. roast). Reserve the bones. Season the pork generously with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large (8 qt.) oven-proof dutch oven over medium heat. Add the 2 coarsely chopped onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for approximately 4 minutes until the onions have softened and released moisture. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the pork and bones to the onion mixture and stir frequently for approximately 8 minutes until the outside of the meat is no longer pink. Add the chicken broth and another 1/2 teaspoon salt and increase the heat to high. Bring the mixture to a simmer on the stove, then cover and cook in a preheated 300°F oven for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, place the tomatillos, jalapeños, water, and the quartered 1/2 onion in a blender. Blend for 2-3 minutes until smooth. Add the cilantro and blend for another 2 minutes. Set this brilliant green mixture aside.

Pozole Verde with Pork and White Hominy (pre-garnishes)

Pozole Verde with Pork and White Hominy (before we added garnishes)

After 2 hours, remove the dutch oven from the oven and return to the stove. Remove the pork and bones and place on a plate to cool. Stir the rinsed hominy into the broth mixture and bring to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Once the pork is cool, shred the pork with your fingers (or with two forks). Pull any remaining meat off of the bones and discard the bones. Stir the shredded meat and the green tomatillo mixture into the stew and simmer for approximately 10 minutes until the meat is hot. Serve in a large bowl with a liberal helping of the garnishes on top.

350 Pozole Verde

Liked this Pozole Verde recipe?  You may also enjoy my post on Pozole Rojo!

Bucatini with Meatballs and Tomato Sauce

We have been on a quest for the perfect meatball recipe for several months and I think last weekend we finally found it!  Previously we had made gluten-free meatballs, turkey meatballs, and ground beef meatballs based on recipes we found on the internet.  All of these came out fine but were lacking the wow factor (and yes, now I know that there can be a wow factor when it comes to meatballs!).  Ironically, after all of that searching on the world wide web we found the perfect recipe within the pages of our very own Cooks Illustrated The New Best Recipe book.  Page 253, to be exact.

These meatballs were decadent and were so tender that they were almost creamy.  The combination of ground chuck and ground pork was way better than the turkey (duh) and standard ground beef that we tried in previous attempts and the tomato sauce was tasty and thick.

Bucatini with Meatballs and Tomato Sauce

You will need:
For the meatballs…
2 slices White Bread, crust removed and slices torn into small pieces
6 tablespoons Plain Yogurt thinned with 2 tablespoons fat free Half and Half
3/4 pound Ground Chuck
1/4 pound Ground Pork
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese (or Parmesan/Romano Blend)
2 tablespoon minced Parsley Leaves
1 Egg Yolk
1 Garlic Clove, minced
3/4 teaspoon Salt
Pepper, to taste
1 cup Canola Oil, for pan-frying

For the tomato sauce…
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Garlic Clove, minced
1 28 oz. can Crushed Tomatoes
1 tablespoon minced Basil Leaves
Salt and Pepper

1 pound Bucatini Pasta, cooked according to package instructions

Directions:
Combine the bread and yogurt mixture in a small bowl.  Mash together with a fork and let sit for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until a paste forms.

Place the next eight ingredients (ground chuck through pepper) in a small bowl and add the bread-yogurt paste.  Mix together very gently (just as was the case with the guacamole-chipotle burgers, the lighter your touch, the more tender your end product will be!) and form the mixture into 1 1/2 inch diameter meatballs.  Press the meatballs together somewhat firmly to make sure they hold togethery during the cooking process. (Some of our very gently-formed meatballs fell apart but they were still delicious!)  You should end up with 10-14 meatballs.

Pan-Frying the Meatballs

Pour the canola oil into a large straight-sided skillet so that it is approximately 1/4″ deep.  Heat the pan over medium-high heat until the edge of a meatball browns if it is inserted into the oil.  Once the oil is hot enough, place the meatballs in the pan in a single layer.  Fry, turning several times, until the meatballs are evenly browned and slightly crispy on all sides (approx. 10 minutes).  Remove the meatballs from the pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels.  Set aside.

Meatballs warming up in the Tomato Sauce

Discard the oil in the skillet but retain any browned bits of meatball.  Add the olive oil and garlic and saute until garlic becomes golden, approx. 30 seconds.  Add the crushed tomatoes, stir, and simmer until sauce thickens, approx. 10 minutes.  Stir in the basil, salt and pepper, then carefully add the meatballs.  Stir gently to coat the meatballs and then allow to simmer for about 5 minutes to reheat meatballs.

Spoon several spoonfuls of the sauce over your cooked Bucatini and stir well to coat the pasta.  Serve the pasta and top with meatballs and sauce.  Enjoy!

Spaghetti and Meatballs