february 6, 2015
Sometimes I think proponents of the Paleo Diet are on to something. These folks eat the way our hunter-gatherer ancestors purportedly did, grain and dairy free, with a diet mostly composed of animals proteins, vegetables and fruits. There is no sugar, and therefore no wine or alcohol, and no legumes, thus no beans, lentils or peanuts. Bummer. I am simplifying things a bit, but if you want a good read, Wikipedia is a good place to start. Also no coffee. Double bummer.
So why do I think Paleo practitioners embrace a sound principle or two? Focus is on fruits and vegetables, and off starchy carbs like rice, wheat and potatoes. We could all stand to enjoy more of the former and less of the latter, no matter our diet plan. By that, I don’t mean the four letter negative connotation of “going on a diet“, but rather diet as in how we generally eat to stay well.
The Holy Trinity of Cajun and Creole cooking is onion, green bell pepper and celery. Without this trio, jambalaya falls flat, as it would also do if you omit the garlic, thyme and Cajun seasoning that give this dish its unique flavor. Your protein can be poultry, seafood or a combination of the two, and spicy andouille sausage is a must for texture and pizzazz. Chicken and andouille sausage jambalaya shows up each winter on menus for The Good Eats company, and is usually made with creamy medium grain rice ( I like Goya brand).
Recipes for cauliflower “rice” abound on the electronic informational superhighway, and all you need is a food processor or at least the patience to chop it finely by hand, to yield what resembles grains of its starchy counterpart.
Saute briefly, roast it, steam it, but recognize that it gives off a lot of liquid when baked in a dish like jambalaya. Use less stock accordingly. You still have a chance to evaporate liquid further if you make ahead and then reheat in the oven uncovered. No matter the technique, you will get the fluffy look of rice, albeit without the toothsome creaminess. Upside: you are on your way to increasing your daily vegetable intake, and that is a good thing.
Say amen and hallelujah to more fruits and vegetables, but you will have to pry my cold, dead hands from that sack of potatoes. Rice? I can usually do without, so I am offering a lower carb version of jambalaya, sure to please the Paleo folks, and the rest of us who admire their willpower. No chocolate? Triple bummer.
recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company
makes four servings
one cup diced green pepper, from one small pepper
one cup diced sweet onion
one cup diced celery, from about two stalks
neutral oil like canola or grape seed
Cajun or Creole seasoning – I like Chacheres
one large clove garlic, zested or minced finely
two teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, or a pinch of dry
one small cauliflower, trimmed and chopped coarsely, then pulsed in food processor in several batches until similar to rice grains – about six or seven cups total
one 14.5 ounce can petite dice tomatoes
two 3-ounce fully cooked andouille sausage links, diced
3 ½ cups cooked chicken, large dice or coarsely pulled *
½ cup best quality chicken stock
*cook’s note : best flavor comes from chicken you cook yourself, so in heavy large saucepan, cover two skinless bone-in chicken breasts with one quart of best quality chicken stock, bring to boil, then simmer gently for 40 minutes; when cool enough to handle, pull meat off the bone, strain the stock, using ½ cup for this recipe and storing remainder for another use
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- In heavy large sauté pan, coat green pepper, onion and celery with about two tablespoons of oil and ½ teaspoon Cajun seasoning and bring to high heat; when mixture begins to sizzle, turn heat to medium/medium low and stir occasionally until vegetables are softened but not browned, about 10-15 minutes.
- Add garlic and thyme and stir until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
- Add cauliflower and stir to coat.
- Add tomatoes, chicken and sausage, with ½ cup stock, and increase heat to high.
- When liquid at bottom of pan begins to simmer, adjust seasoning to your taste, stir well, then cover and bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove lid, stir gently, then continue baking uncovered until most liquid has evaporated and cauliflower is tender, about 20 minutes longer.
- Serve immediately, or make ahead up to three days; to reheat, bake uncovered at 350 degrees until just hot (time depends on size of casserole dish or skillet).