Saturday, June 10, 2017

Brown rice jambalaya (Instant Pot, pressure cooker, and stovetop recipes) from a native Louisianian

As is tradition, I made my brown rice jambalaya recipe for my lab's end-of-year party yesterday. This time, I wanted to try to "hack" jambalaya to make it a little easier and tastier. I've been experimenting with my new Instant Pot multicooker lately and have learned that it makes excellent brown rice using the pressure cooker setting. The pressure cooks it quickly and evenly, forcing just the right amount of moisture into the grain without it getting mushy, breaking up, or sticking to the bottom. Don't get me wrong, my jambalaya recipe comes out great when made on the stovetop as well, but it does take some patience for all the rice to cook through.

I used the same recipe I have already posted on this blog, except I halved it because I have a 6-quart Instant Pot. An 8-quart or larger cooker would allow you to make the full recipe. The original recipe makes an almost comical amount of food, so I had no qualms about halving it and still having enough for a party of 9. In fact, I'll post the halved recipe below with Instant Pot and stovetop instructions so those who would like to make a more reasonable amount of food don't have to do the math.

Jambalaya is a Cajun rice dish in which rice is cooked in stock with lots of seasoning, meat, and veggies, all in one pot. By the end of cooking, the rice should absorb all the liquid, have fluffy, distinct grains, and have an al dente texture. The key to making good jambalaya is getting the ratio of liquid to rice just right. I have seen restaurants outside of Louisiana serving meat and sauce on top of steamed white rice and calling it jambalaya. This is not jambalaya!

I make my jambalaya with brown rice. Why not? It's healthier, and it's going to end up brown anyway from the caramelized onions and delicious meat juices. No one will know the difference. Brown rice has a slightly firmer texture than white rice, so it holds together better. My jambalaya combines elements of both traditional Cajun and Creole recipes, it has the fluffy texture of Cajun (brown) jambalaya with just a subtle hint of tomato, without being bright red or tomato saucy like a Creole jambalaya. The bit of tomato adds just enough acidity to perk up the flavor. Garnishing the jambalaya with fresh green onions brightens the flavor and adds color.

Brown Rice Jambalaya (serves 8-10)
1 lbs boneless chicken thighs, raw or cooked, cut into bite-sized pieces. Leftover turkey works great here too. One of the best jambalayas I made was with leftovers from Thanksgiving turkey that Glutenless Goddess made.
1 lb sausage, cut into 1/4 inch slices (Ideally, Savoie's andouille. If you don't happen to live in Louisiana, kielbasa or smoked sausage will work. When I lived in Boston, I borrowed chourico from the large Portuguese population, which was an excellent substitute. Now that I live in Oregon, the best sausage I can reliably get is Johnsonville Andoullie [insert lament about Oregon's lack of diversity here]).
1 large yellow or white onion, chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 T Tony Chachere's seasoning. This is our standard seasoning blend for almost everything we make in Louisiana. You can find it at any grocery store. It may change your cooking life.
2 t Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
1 lb long grain brown rice (about 2 heaping cups), rinsed and drained
15 oz can diced tomatoes
just shy 2 cups chicken or turkey stock
Tabasco sauce to taste
1 bunch chopped green onions, for garnish

Instant Pot or pressure cooker instructions:
Set cooker to saute. If using raw chicken, brown, then remove and cut into bite-sized pieces. Next, brown sausage until it's almost blackened. Add the veggies and saute until they reach a dark caramelized color. Add all remaining ingredients except green onions and stir.

Secure lid and ensure it is set to "sealing." Set the Instant Pot or pressure cooker to 20 minutes. Once it is finished cooking, allow it to naturally release pressure for 10 minutes, then manually release the rest of the pressure. Stir in green onions and serve with extra Tabasco sauce, if needed.

Traditional stovetop instructions:
Heat a large dutch oven to medium-high heat. If using raw chicken, brown, then remove and cut into bite-sized pieces. Next, brown sausage until it's almost blackened. Add the veggies and saute until they reach a dark caramelized color. Add all remaining ingredients except green onions and stir. 

Cover with a tight-fitting lid and bring to a simmer. Reduce to low heat, and cook, covered for 50 minutes. At this point, check to see if rice is tender. If not, cover and return to low heat until the rice is tender. Resist the urge to add more liquid if the rice is not cooked yet. There is plenty of steam floating around in there, and as long as you keep it covered, it WILL cook through! Only stir the jambalaya once or twice once it starts cooking--stirring too much will break down the rice, and you will end up with something resembling risotto! Stir in green onions and serve with extra Tabasco sauce, if needed.

NOTE FOR STOVETOP VERSION: Thanks to a reader comment, I've started soaking my rice in the chicken stock or broth called for in the recipe. It makes the rice cook a bit quicker (usually in about an hour) and more evenly. I soak it for 8 hours to overnight, but even just a little while helps. Pour the rice and the soaking liquid into your pot after all of your meats and veggies have browned, cover, bring to a simmer, and cook as directed above. Soaking is not needed if using an Instant Pot/pressure cooker, because these cookers are so efficient at getting moisture into the rice.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Jalapeno Popper Cauliflower Gratin

I was so in love with my recipe for jalapeno popper mac and cheese that I had to make a low carb version. Essentially, it is a combination of that recipe and my recipe for cauliflower cheese. This recipe has all the creamy, spicy flavors of a jalapeno popper, and the cauliflower takes on the texture of pasta. And it only has about five ingredients!

Jalapeno Popper Cauliflower Gratin
Approximately 2.5 to 3 lbs cauliflower florets
2 T water
3/4 t salt
8 oz cream cheese I use lowfat
8 ounces grated cheddar or cheddar jack, a handful reserved for sprinkling over the top.
2-4 jalapenos, thinly sliced (2 will yield a mild-medium dish, and 4 will yield a spicy dish)
1 t garlic powder
black pepper to taste (I like a lot)
6 slices cooked, crumbled bacon or 1/4 cup bacon bits (optional)
1/3 cup salsa verde (optional; adds a nice kick of zesty flavor)

In a large oven and microwave safe casserole dish, microwave frozen cauliflower, 2 T water and salt until softened, about 15 minutes, stirring and checking every now and then. Preheat oven to 375. In a separate mixing bowl microwave cream cheese or put in preheating oven until soft, mix all remaining ingredients except cauliflower. Once mix is combined, stir in cauliflower and any remaining liquid, and return to casserole dish. Bake, uncovered for 20 minutes, until cauliflower is hot and bubbly, and the top is slightly browned. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving; the cauliflower will absorb the remaining liquid and "set".