(Rice-Free) Jambalaya

Inspiration: I’ve always loved the flavors of jambalaya and consider it one of my favorite dishes (…I say that way too often, don’t I?). For the past several years at Mardi Gras time, I’ve been trying to concoct the perfect recipe for us – which isn’t a traditional one by any means. We always skip the celery and green peppers because we don’t prefer their flavors, and we skip the rice. But I’ve never quite gotten a version that we love just right – until now.

What we Loved: One of the reasons that I love jambalaya in any form is because there is so much going on. Bacon, chicken, sausage, shrimp – what a great variety. Another reason that I love it is because of the heat. This is a spicy dish that pairs well with a nice tall glass of ice water. This particular recipe had both of those components, and then some. After cooking for a few hours, the resulting sauce was amazing. It was rich and somewhat thick, with a perfect blend of seasonings (Cajun spices, peppers and onions that seemed to have melted away, bacon fat, salt, and the juices from all of the meats) that formed a solid backbone for the dish. And I also want to note how much we loved the chicken in this dish. It was the first thing that Brandon mentioned – that the chicken was ridiculously tender. As you can see in the photos, it started shredded apart all on its own. And the pieces themselves were some of the most tender pieces of chicken that I’ve ever tasted. We both truly adored everything about this meal.

Helpful Hints: This is a very spicy dish, so you might want to use less seasonings to suit your preferences if you don’t love really spicy foods. The serrano, cayenne, chili powder, and Cajun seasoning all lend quite a bit of heat, so you could leave some of these out if you’d like (though not the Cajun seasoning, because that flavor is pretty essential to the dish). 

Rice-Free Jambalaya
Source: Adapted from Guilty Kitchen

Extra virgin olive oil
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced
6 slices bacon, diced
3 links Andouille sausage, chopped
1 onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 serrano pepper, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
Kosher salt, to taste
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed

1. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil. Sprinkle the chicken well with Cajun seasoning, then add it to the pan. Cook until the chicken is just browned on the outsides. Remove and set aside.

2. Add the bacon to the pan, and saute until beginning to crisp. Add the andouille sausage and cook for a few minutes longer until the sausage begins to brown. Return the chicken to the pan.

3. Add the onions, red peppers, and serrano peppers. Cook for about 5 minutes more, until softened. Mix in all of the spices, stirring well to coat.

4. Pour in the tomatoes and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Cook until thickened, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan occasionally, about 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

5. Stir in the shrimp and cook until just barely cooked through, about 3 minutes. Serve.

Cajun Shrimp in Andouille Cream Sauce over Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Shrimp with Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Andouille Cream

Inspiration: Though I’ve never been to New Orleans (I will make it there one day!), I’m somewhat fascinated by the culture of the city. The people, the food, the drinks, the celebration – it all holds a certain magnetic quality. That being said, when Mardi Gras season rolls around every year, I like to cook about a week’s worth of New Orleans-inspired food. There’s no better way to celebrate a culture from afar than to enjoy its food, right? I do the same for St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo….there sure are a whole lot of great cultures out there and a whole lot of great foods.

What we Loved: I obviously only share recipes on my blog that we both enjoyed (and boy it’s the worst when I get good photos of a meal that’s just not blog-worthy), but this is one of those recipes that stands out above the rest. A lot. If you know me, you’ll know that this is exactly the kind of food that I love best, so I knew that I would enjoy this recipe going into it. But still. The sweet potatoes have the perfect creamy texture, with a wonderfully sweet cinnamon flavor. The andouille cream is rich and complex, with notes of garlic and spicy sausage. And the shrimp are fresh and buttery, coated in a fantastic spicy seasoning mix that has just the right amount of heat. All together, these three components of the meal really play off of each other and create the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. Not to overstate the case for how much we loved this, but we just might have to eat it every day from now on. :)

Helpful Hints: With blackening seasoning, you can get a nice black crust if you use very high heat, don’t flip the meat other than just once, and cook for just the right amount of time. Shrimp are so delicate and very easy to overcook, so I just coated them in the seasoning and sauteed them for a few minutes. Still delicious, and I won’t change that method the next time that I make this.

Shrimp with Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Andouille Cream
Source: Adapted from Antony Field via Food Network

Sweet Potatoes
2 sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Kosher salt and black pepper

1. Bake the potatoes at 350 degrees until tender, about an hour.

2. Remove the skins from the potatoes. Place them in a small sauce pan, and then add the butter, cinnamon, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well to combine. Keep warm over low heat.

Andouille Cream
Extra virgin olive oil
3 slices onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 link andouille sausage, finely diced
1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon cajun seasoning
1 tablespoon butter

1. Add a drizzle of olive oil to a sauce pan. Add the onions, and cook until softened. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional minute.

2. Add the sausage and thyme, and cook for a few minutes more.

3. Add the cream, and bring to a low simmer. Cook until reduced by half and thickened.

4. Add the cajun seasoning and butter. Keep warm over low heat.

Extra virgin olive oil
1 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
Cajun blackening seasoning
Kosher salt

1. Place the shrimp in a bowl, and coat completely in blackening seasoning. Sprinkle with Kosher salt.

2. Heat a drizzle of olive oil and a pat of butter in a saute pan. Add the shrimp, and saute until just cooked through, about 3-4 minutes.

3. Serve the sweet potatoes topped with the cream and shrimp. 

Shrimp Saganaki

Inspiration: Saganaki piqued my interest when I first stumbled across it, and it’s been on my list ever since. I would love to go to Greece some day for the real thing, but in the meantime, trying out some recipes at home is pretty fun, too. Saganaki refers to the small pan that the meal is traditionally cooked in, so this recipe is actually a variation where the meal is baked in single serving dishes.

What we Loved: There’s something charming about dinner served in your own indiviual dish right out of the oven, isn’t there? Served that way, everything in this recipe stayed nice and hot all through dinner, with the cheese melting down into the rich tomato sauce as we ate.  With the fresh seafood flavor of the shrimp, a little kick of heat from the red pepper, and that nice and earthy oregano flavor, this was really a delicious supper. I couldn’t get enough of that rich tomato sauce!

Helpful Hints: Make sure to use enough salt in the sauce, as it really needs a good amount to bring out all of the other flavors. I think it’s best to taste as you season until it’s salty enough.

Shrimp Saganaki
Source: Adapted from Closet Cooking

Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
~1/2 of a 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon oregano
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed

1. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saute pan. Add the onions, and saute until soft. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook for an additional 30 seconds.

2. Add the tomato, crushed tomatoes, and oregano, and simmer until the sauce thickens, approximately 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Add the shrimp, and simmer for about 1 minute while stirring.

4. Transfer the mixture to individual baking dishes. Top with feta cheese, and bake for 10-15 minutes in a preheated 400 degree oven.

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Inspiration: I’ll admit, one of my favorite things about recipes that call for wine is that we get to enjoy the rest of the bottle with dinner. Now that spring is here, we’ve been craving meals that pair well with white wine and have been going through white wine like crazy. It just tastes so good right now!

What we Loved: This recipe had a great, spicy kick! B and I both thought that there was just enough spice for it to be an integral part of the dish without being overpowering. I really love spicy foods, but I always hate when a dish is too ridiculously spicy to actually taste what you’re eating. The spice level with this one was just perfect! Combined with the light flavors of the shrimp, vegetables, and fresh basil, this was really a great springtime meal with a nice edge. We enjoyed it with some broccolini and a few glasses of sauvignon blanc.

Helpful Hints: The original recipe calls for the basil to be mixed into the sauce, but I always feel like the flavor of basil changes a lot when it’s mixed into a hot dish. We like the fresh and crisp qualities of basil when it’s used as a topping or garnish, but if you’d like to mute the flavors a little bit, you could chop the basil much smaller and mix it into the sauce.

Shrimp Fra Diavolo
Source: Giada De Laurentiis

I only made a few changes to the recipe. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

1 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1/3 cup dry white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
Handful of fresh basil leaves, sliced

1. Toss the shrimp in a bowl with the salt and red pepper flakes. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saute pan, add the shrimp, and saute until just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a plate and set aside.

2. Add the onion to the same pan, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices, the wine, the garlic, and the oregano. Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.

3. Return the shrimp to the pan, tossing to coat.

4. Serve, topped with the fresh basil.

Almond Coconut Shrimp

Inspiration: We recently bought a container of coconut oil for the first time and are starting to incorporate it into our diets. If you’ve never had it before, it’s fantastic and has a wonderful coconut flavor and scent that carries over to your food when you use it. It makes for a great tropical spin on fried eggs for breakfast! While we were eating our coconut fried eggs for breakfast one morning, B suggested using the oil to make coconut shrimp, and it was, of course, a great idea :)

What we Loved: B and I both loved these shrimp. Since we avoid carbs, I mixed together some almond meal and unsweetened coconut for the breading, and it turned out fantastic! The coconut flavor was nice and mild, though not so mild as to be undetectable, and there was the definite texture of coconut. The almond meal provided a mild, nutty flavor and acted as a great “breading” along with the coconut. I served these with some lima beans sauteed with almonds and topped with some shaved Parmesan, and to tell you the truth, I’m not sure which part of the meal I enjoyed more! It was a great, summery supper for one of the first days in so long that we’ve seen the sun!

Helpful Hints: My only little problem with this recipe is that the shrimp turned out a little bit greasy. Not that we mind too much, as we get a large portion of our calories from healthy fats, but if you’d like these to be a little less greasy, I’d suggest placing them onto paper towels after cooking, like you would with bacon, so that the paper towels can absorb some of the extra oil.

Almond Coconut Shrimp
Source: Original recipe

20-25 large shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails on
2 eggs
1/4 cup almond meal
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut
Coconut oil

1. Pat the shrimp dry on paper towels, getting them as dry as you can.

2. Beat the eggs together in a shallow bowl. Mix the almond meal and coconut together in a second shallow bowl.

3. Dip the shrimp into the eggs, and then dip them into the coconut mixture. Completely coat the shrimp in the coconut mixture, and then place them aside onto a plate.

4. Heat a good amount of coconut oil in a saute pan over medium high heat, enough to completely coat the bottom of the pan to about 1/8 inch deep. When the oil is hot, add the shrimp to the pan. Saute for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, and then flip the shrimp and cook the other side for the same amount of time. Cook in batches to avoid overcrowding your pan, and add more oil if necessary between batches.

5. Drain the cooked shrimp on a paper towel lined plate. Keep warm under foil until all of the shrimp are cooked.

Anaheim Shrimp Scampi

Inspiration: I’m so glad that I discovered spaghetti squash recently, because it’s one of those ingredients that is just so versatile. I was hunting around for something unique to make, when I found this recipe. Shrimp scampi with chunks of avocado and cheese? It was a strange combination that had me intrigued.

What we Loved: I adored this meal. Loved it. The shrimp were cooked in an amazingly rich scampi butter, then combined with creamy, cool avocado and nutty pieces of asiago cheese. It’s sounds like an odd combination, but everything went so well together! The cheese added such a sharp bite, which contrasted really well with the mild avocado and squash. But what really made this meal fantastic was the scampi sauce. The shrimp were saturated in the buttery flavor, and the extra sauce poured atop everything was really out of this world. I plan to make this meal again in the summer, with a nice bottle of chardonnay and some sunshine :)

Helpful Hints: I used chives in the scampi butter instead of parsley, but they browned up a bit and I don’t think that they added too much flavor, as far as herbs go. I would recommend adding some fresh cilantro on top of this after it’s plated, instead. Cilantro’s bright, fresh flavor would work really well and give this dish even more of a Southwestern spin.

Anaheim Shrimp Scampi
Source: George Stella, Food Network

I modified the recipe a touch. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

For the scampi butter
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup Vidalia onion, minced
1 handful chives, minced
Sprinkle of garlic powder
Sprinkle of Kosher salt
Sprinkle of black pepper
Dash Worcestershire sauce
1/2 lemon, juiced

For the rest of the meal
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tail removed
3 oz Asiago cheese, cut into small chunks
1 avocado, cut into chunks
1 spaghetti squash

1. Poke the spaghetti squash all over with a fork. Place the squash in a baking dish, and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for one hour. Remove the squash from the oven, let cool, and then cut in half. Discard the seeds, and then scrape the spaghetti squash strands into a sauce pan or pot. Place the pan on the stove over very low heat to keep warm.

2. While the squash is cooking, make the scampi butter. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and mix to combine.

3. Place 2/3 of the scampi butter in a saute pan over high heat, and melt. Add the shrimp, and cook for approximately 3-4 minutes, until the shrimp are opaque and cooked through.

4. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the remaining scampi butter.

5. Plate the spaghetti squash. Top with shrimp, avocado, and cheese. Pour the remaining scampi butter in the pan atop everything, and serve.

Shrimp and Vegetable Skewers

Shrimp and Vegetable Skewers

*updated June 2011 with some new pictures.

Inspiration: Our Memorial Day weekend was filled with fabulous weather, and there’s no better time to start grilling than on Memorial Day. B and I took a nice bike ride in the afternoon, and it seemed like the whole city smelled like grilled food. It was fabulous.

What we Loved:  This was easily the best meal that we’ve had in months. B grilled everything just perfectly, and I couldn’t believe the flavor. Neither B nor I have ever had grilled shrimp before, and because shrimp cooks so quickly, I wasn’t expecting it to taste that much different than shrimp cooked inside. But the grilled, charred flavor of the shrimp was just amazing, and we couldn’t get over how great it was. It was like the shrimp soaked up the entire essence and flavor of the grill in the few short minutes that they were cooking. The vegetables were just as good, with my favorite being the slightly crisp and blackened onions. I coated all of the vegetables and shrimp with lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, cilantro, and plenty of garlic before cooking, so everything also had a nice, garlicy flavor. We enjoyed these skewers with some Belgian Training Wheels beer from Original Gravity Brewing Company for a lovely summer evening dinner.

Helpful Hints: The shrimp will cook much more quickly than the vegetables, so be sure to skewer the shrimp on their own skewers, so you can start grilling the vegetables first.

Shrimp and Vegetable Kabobs
Source: Original Recipe to serve 2

14 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 small zucchini, cut into thick chunks
8 baby portabella mushrooms
1/2 red pepper, cut into thick slices
1/2 vidalia onion, cut into thick wedges
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 lime
A handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced

1. Place 8-10 wooden skewers in a dish of water to soak for 30 minutes.

2. Place the vegetables in a bowl, and place the the shrimp in a second bowl. To each bowl, add a liberal drizzle of olive oil and the juice of 1/2 lime. Sprinkle with Kosher salt, black pepper, cilantro, and minced garlic. Mix to combine.

3. When you’re ready to grill, skewer the vegetables and the shrimp, making sure to keep them on different skewers because the shrimp will cook much more quickly than the vegetables.

4. Grill the vegetable skewers first, for approximately 7-10 minutes per side. Pour any extra marinade that has accumulated in the bowl over the skewers after you place them on the grill. When the vegetable skewers are just about finished, grill the shrimp skewers for approximately 1-2 minutes per side.