It has been said, “necessity is the mother of invention.” I know for sure there is truth in that saying as being without a functioning kitchen for a month has truly ignited my creative juices. I am constantly thinking about ways to get around the inconvenience and still satisfy my love of good food and need to create it. At first I kept it simple with sandwiches, salads and grilling the standard steak, chop or burger but now I am hungry for more. Perhaps it was the delicious etouffee and Cajun inspired meal prepared for us by friends recently that got me thinking about New Orleans and its unique and eclectic cuisines. Or the book “Gumbo Shop” those same friends loaned me that whet my appetite. Whatever the inspiration, the presence of gulf shrimp and Andouille sausage lurking in my freezer sealed the deal.
Let’s start with a little background. The cuisine(s) of this area have many influences; French, Italian, Spanish, African, Native American to name a few. Some believe the idea of jambalaya originated from the Spanish and their love of paella (the national dish of Spain). It is a rice based dish combined with a variety of meats, shellfish and vegetables originally cooked by the gauchos (cowboys) over an open fire. That said, it did not seem such a reach to make it on the grill. Traditionally the raw rice is toasted a bit in the fat and then the liquid is added cooking it with the selected ingredients. I decided instead to utilize the steamed rice left over from Chinese takeout that was hanging in the fridge. This reduced the amount of time needed for cooking and made me feel good about not wasting.
Here is how I did it using a cast iron skillet. The result was a smoky goodness with just enough heat to wake the palate and stimulate the taste buds. You adjust to suit yourself.
Jambalaya On The Grill Serves 6
Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis
½ lb. shrimp Peeled, deveined, placed on skewers, brushed with olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper and Cajun spice
½ c each “holy trinity”, cut into small dice (green or red bell pepper, celery, onion)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2T bacon drippings, lard or cooking oil
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes or equivalent of fresh, if in season
1 ½ c cooked rice
1 c chicken stock
Cajun spice, to taste
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat grill to high.
- Prep all ingredients and place them on a baking sheet to carry outside.
- Place whole sausage on the grill and cook until outside is a bit charred. Remove and set aside.
- Place skewers with shrimp on the grill and cook for just a few seconds on each side. Remove and set aside (they will cook further later on).
- Adjust the heat on the grill to achieve medium high heat.
- Place a large cast iron skillet on the top with 2T of whatever fat you have chosen. When heated, add the “holy trinity,” season with salt, pepper and Cajun spice, sauté until soft. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so, stirring to avoid burning.
- Slice the sausage into bite sized pieces and add back into skillet. Stir and cook a minute or so.
- Add the diced tomato and cook for 5-10 minutes to allow the tomatoes to break down.
- Add the rice and stir in to fully incorporate. Add the chicken stock and cook for 5 minutes or more until the mixture is thick and not soupy.
- Remove the shrimp from the skewers and add to skillet. Stir for about a minute.
- Taste, and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve hot.
If you do the prep ahead, the actual cooking time is quick and easy. I substituted red bell pepper for the traditional green because I prefer the added sweetness it provides but like I say, “whatever makes you happy.” I know you are going to love this!
Ok, now for this weeks installment of Jeanne’s kitchen makeover. It has been both a gratifying and frustrating process this week. The good news is I have a beautiful functioning sink and dishwasher (I no longer have to hand wash) with a fully installed glass backsplash (waiting for the electrics to be finished) that has caused me to walk by for a loving glance at regular intervals.
My refrigerator is in and making ice along with the wall oven which is fully functioning. The housing for my cookbooks lies in wait of its residents and I am so excited to assist them with their relocation. Ah, the bad news, still no stove! What? It’s the heartbeat of the kitchen, right? It seems to be lost and no one can find it. Long story and many emails and phone calls later the frustration continues with still no word as to when I might actually lay eyes on it. I guess my finesse with the grill will continue until further notice or the stove fairies bring one in the night. I will keep you posted.
Summer is the best time for grilling so why not bust out and try something out of the ordinary. You would be amazed what you can do especially if you employ the assistance of the trusty cast iron skillet, indestructible and old school, it is one cooking tool I would not want to do without. Until next time whether grilling or not, keep spreading the love, one dish at a time. For me, from my grill and my partially renovated kitchen, I send my love to you. Jeanne