Although I was raised in Houston, I didn’t discover my love of cooking until I had moved to the Golden State. Throughout my college years I reconnected to my Gulf Coast roots by learning more about Cajun and creole cuisines. I love all the warm herbs and spices, luscious sausages and liberal use of the trinity: garlic, onions, and green bell peppers.
One of my favorite creole dishes, by far, is jambalaya! To tailor this dish to my budget, I always wait for a good deal on sausages at my local discount grocery store or a coupon and loss leader match up at a conventional grocery store; usually $2 per pound or less. Recently, I got a package of cajun style chicken sausage for $.97! Another thing I do to stretch my grocery dollars, is add some celery to my trinity, I think it adds great bulk and fiber and soaks up all the lovely flavors like a sponge.
I’m not adding any shrimp for a few reasons; I don’t live close to where shrimp live, anything I can get in the mountains here probably isn’t fresh or the best quality, and they’re expensive! If you have some more wiggle room in your budget this week, by all means, throw some shrimp in during the last few minutes of cooking, they’ll be delicious! If you have a shellfish allergy, or love someone who does, this may be a better jambalaya option for you.
Go ahead, take a culinary day trip and put some ‘South’ in your mouth!
Serves 4 – cost approx $.91 per serving
- 2 oz bacon, cut in thin strips ($.31)
- 1 medium onion, medium dice ($.17)
- 1/2 green bell pepper, medium dice ($.50)
- 3 ribs celery, medium dice ($.38)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 12 oz fully cooked, link sausages, sliced 1/4″ — Andouie, Louisiana hot links, or any ‘cajun style’ sausage would be perfect! ($.97)
- salt – to taste
- 1/2 tsp garlic salt
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper – to taste! The spiciness is up to you!
- 1/2 tsp dry thyme
- 1/2 tsp dry sage
- 2 cups long grain white rice ($.47)
- 4 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 Tbs parsley, minced
- 1 Tbs scallions, minced ($.12)
- 2 cups cooked kidney beans – from about 1 cup dry beans, red beans would be a great substitution if you don’t have kidney beans ($.47)
If you are starting your kidney beans from dried beans and not using canned, begin to boil them in salted water while you prep ingredients and begin the jambalaya.
Start the main jambalaya by rendering the bacon over medium low heat in a large pot. Once the bacon is cooked, add in the onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook until the veggies have started to sweat, about 5 minutes. Add in the sliced sausages and cook another 2-3 minutes. Next, add all the dry herbs and spices and the rice, stir for a minute or two so that all the rice grains are coated with bacon fat and the herbs and spices are fully mixed in.
Add in the stock, increase the heat and bring up to a simmer. Once your steamy pot of goodness is simmering, cover it and reduce the heat to low. Let your rice cook in its cajun jacuzzi of love for about 20 minutes, after that taste a bit to see if the rice is fully cooked and check the seasonings.
This ratio of rice to liquid usually works for me, but if you find the rice is still a little undercooked and all the stock is absorbed go ahead and add a little more liquid. If you see the opposite, your jambalaya has too much liquid and the rice is fully cooked, just simmer a few minutes uncovered.
Once everything is just right, add in the fresh herbs and cooked kidney beans and cook covered for a final 5 minutes to let all the flavors meld. Now it’s done, tuck in!