Holiday Jambalaya

Minus lechon and roast fowl, what's a more festive dish than a colourful jambalaya? This recipe is adapted from Ina Garten's jambalaya, but I made my own spin with the sausages and seafood. I adore Ina's Barefoot Contessa cookbooks and shows, and find her to be earthy and elegant at the same time, like a cool aunt who you want to visit more than others, because she loves to feed you.


In my version, I replaced kielbasa sausages with chistorra, a Basque chorizo which is thinner, and I find, lent a deeper, richer taste. You can of course use regular chorizo or sausages. I've also loaded up on the seafood, because it's the Christmas season, and we want ingredients to be extra! in addition to shrimp, I added soft shell crabs, squid and little neck clams -- although you can also use mussels, or both!


For one-pot rice dishes like this, I prefer to use basmati because the grains are fragrant and cook very well in the pot together with all the aromatics, vegetables and meats. Of course, you can substitute this with jasmine rice, brown, red, black or adlai grains.


If you want to skip the rice altogether, you can check out my gumbo recipe; the main difference between jambalaya and gumbo is rice anyway. One can also argue that okra isn't in jambalaya, nor is flour for the roux, but we don't have to get into the specifics.


One last note: Ina's recipe calls for squeezing lemon juice at the end, once heat source has been turned off. I recommend stirring in the lemon juice after tossing in the crabs, clams, shrimps and squid, and letting it simmer with the natural seafood juices, before turning the heat off. Having tried both, I must say the latter gave a deeper tang as the juices percolate in low heat.


 

Cooking time: 1 hour and 10 minutes

Serves: 4-6


Ingredients:


4 soft shell crabs

1 egg

salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 chistorra or chorizo sausages, sliced into coins

4 chicken breasts, cut into thin strips, about 1 inch

1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon oregano, chopped

2 whole red bell peppers, sliced

2 sticks celery

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon red chilli flakes

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 sprig rosemary

1 cup dry white white

3 cups of chicken stock or seafood stock, or clam juice

1 1/2 cups basmati rice

2 bay leaves

1 can or 400 grams tomato pulp

1 pound (about 16-20 pieces) of shrimp, tails on, peeled and deveined

1/2 pound littleneck clams

2 pieces squid, chopped into rings. Include the heads

1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, chopped

1/2 lemon, juiced



1. Crack egg and whisk until frothy. Heat vegetable oil in a wok at medium-high heat until simmering. Coat soft shell crab in egg mixture and dip in wok. Fry for 5 to 6 minutes, turning the crabs once, until they turn a deep golden orange.


Turn off heat and set aside. Meanwhile, pat the chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle both sides with a generous amount of salt and pepper before slicing into strips.


2. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium heat. Sear the chistorra or chorizo, cooking until reddish-brown, about 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a bowl using a slotted spoon.


Add the chicken to the same pot, coating it with the leftover chistorra sauce. Cook for another 5 to 8 minutes, and set aside in the same bowl as the chistorra.


3. Add onions, and allow it to become translucent, about 2 minutes, then add in garlic, bell peppers, celery, oregano, thyme and rosemary. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and black pepper. Cook for about 8 minutes. Then add tomato pulp, cayenne and red chilli flakes, and cook for another 2 minutes.


4. Pour in white wine and scrape the up the browned bits at the bottom of pot. Add rice, and pour in stock or clam juice. Put back the chistorra, chicken and soft shell crabs. Cover pot, reduce to low heat, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Toss in shrimps, squid and clams, stir in lemon juice and simmer covered for another 10 minutes. Turn off heat. Sprinkle parsley and cover pot again, allowing the jambalaya to steam within for 10 more minutes, until ready to serve.