Jambalaya

Part of the point of the Savings Plan system is to continue to use stuff out of the freezer before it becomes unrecognizable as food.  So, when I’m planning the meals for the week I spend a fair amount of time with my head in one of the two freezers and in the fridge to see what I have and what needs to be used pretty soon.  The nice thing about that approach is that it can really cut down on the grocery bill.  By the time I had identified the ingredients that I had available and found recipes to match I had only 9 items on my grocery list for the week.  I bought a few extra items, but managed to shop for the whole week and still checkout in the express lane!

This week I noticed that I had 6 chicken thighs in the freezer that I could use instead of buying chicken.  As you know if you’ve been reading, I make chicken stock fairly frequently and freeze it in batches so I have plenty of that as well.  I saw a freezer bag marked “trinity.”  Trinity is diced onions, peppers and celery.  Whenever I’m chopping trinity or sofrito I try to chop twice what I’ll need for the recipe at hand.  I freeze the rest to save myself time the next time around.  In the fridge I found a few slices of bacon that I cooked earlier in the week and needed to use.  Of course I also still have many quarts of tomatoes from last summer canned and waiting to be used.  All this to say that all I had to buy for this recipe was the fish.  I’m using catfish, a good Southern standby, and it was on sale!  So, current cost for a big pot of Gulf Coast Chicken and Fish Jambalaya?  About $4.00.  Nice!

I pulled the recipe card for this out of my box and realized that I’ve been making this dish for a dozen years now.  (The fact that there is a recipe card is a hint that it’s an old recipe for me.  I couldn’t tell you the last time I wrote out a recipe card for my own use).  I love it every time.  I don’t really make substitutions on this.  There’s just no need.  Today I did use fresh oregano and thyme instead of dried.  The thyme because I had it in the fridge and it wasn’t going to last a lot longer.  The oregano because I have some in the herb garden and I was beyond excited to get to pick herbs for the first time in many months! Just remember that if you use fresh herbs you’ll need twice as much as the dried.  If you cook your bacon the in microwave, or prefer not to use it, feel free to saute the vegetables in olive oil instead of bacon drippings.

I love that this dish is a one pot meal. It’s also great for every season. It’s a great accompaniment for for Fall football watching; a good warm up for cold Winter nights; a nice Spring dinner with a spring green salad; and fantastic on the patio with a bucket of cold beer. This is not a very spicy jambalaya.  That’s great if you’re serving to folks who may not care for the spicy, but for folks who do I always serve it with a choice of red or green Tabasco.
Good? Indeed.
Easy? Sure. Just a lot of chopping, but you can do pretty much everything ahead of time.
Good for company? Definitely. It makes a bunch.
Special shopping? Nope.

Note:  This doesn’t freeze very well.  It’s mushy after it’s thawed.  So if you’re not feeding a crowd or into leftovers you might want to half the recipe.

Gulf Coast Chicken-and-Fish Jambalaya

Ingredients

2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon paprika
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
3 bacon slices
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound skinned, boned chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
1 pound grouper or other firm white fish fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
1 cup thinly sliced green onion tops, divided
2 (10 1/2-ounce) cans low-salt chicken broth
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves

Preparation

Combine first 7 ingredients in a bowl.

Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble and set aside. Reserve 1 tablespoon bacon drippings in pan. Add onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic to bacon drippings in pan. Sprinkle with half of oregano mixture; sauté 10 minutes or until vegetables begin to brown, stirring frequently. Remove vegetables from pan.

Place remaining oregano mixture, chicken, and fish in a large zip-top plastic bag; seal and shake well. Add chicken mixture to pan; sauté 5 minutes. Add vegetable mixture, rice, 1/2 cup green onions, broth, tomatoes, and bay leaves to pan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Discard bay leaves. Garnish with crumbled bacon and 1/2 cup green onions.

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