OK, it's no secret that I am a giant meat eater and eat probably way more than I should. There are a lot of brilliantly delicious ways to prepare all kinds of meats, but there's one that is universal, functional and almost always delicious and that's a friend the world round: the sausage.
What defines sausage? Well, according to Oxford, a sausage is: an item of food in the form of a cylindrical length of minced pork or other meat encased in a skin, typically sold raw to be grilled or fried before eating.
Simple enough, eh? And yet, there's pretty much no food item that has more varieties in all manners of cuisine than the sausage. I recently borrowed the following book from the library and it maps out the various types of sausage and regions where they can be found and it's pretty much everywhere worldwide except maybe Antartica and Nauru. Just take a look at what wikipedia has to say.
Boasting a versatility like few other ingredients, sausage can be used in all manner of recipes and adds a whole lot of flavour with small amounts, which is good since there's probably no such thing as a "healthy" sausage.
Lately I've been using all manner of sausage in different recipes and as a result, I have all kinds of posts in the offing revolving around tasty sausage-based creations.
In this first post, I'll be looking at the Andouille sausage. Andouille is originally a French creation, but has since come to prominence in Cajun cooking, where it features heavily in many dishes. Andouille is a smoked pork sausage seasoned with wine, garlic and spices (sage, thyme and cayenne usually feature prominently). You'll find Andouille in Gumbo, sausage gravy, pasta dishes and so on.
|A tubular pillar of Cajun cooking|
Perhaps the most famous dish that makes use of Andouille, other than Gumbo, is Jambalaya. Jambalaya is a rice dish laden with Andouille, chicken and shrimp, as well as a whack of veggies and seasoning. As you may already know, Cajuns don't skimp on flavour when they cook and that is certainly evident in a heaping bowl of Jambalaya.
The thing is about Jambalaya is that it's one of those somewhat labour-intensive and time-consuming dishes that tends to intimidate the average cook, but if you follow the instructions fairly accurately, it isn't all that difficult to get right the first and every time. And even then, it's kind of remarkable how many different ways of making it I've found out there and they probably all work. So, here's my version, mainly adapted from a recipe I found on the 'Net many years ago:
- 400-450 g/1 pound Andouille sausage, sliced
- 400-450 g/1 pound boneless chicken meat, cubed
- 200-225 g shrimp, peeled
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 large red pepper, diced
- 4-5 celery ribs, sliced about 1/2 inch thick
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cans tomato paste
- 2 large tomatoes, diced
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp black pepper
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- salt to taste (might not be necessary depending on how salty the stock is)
- 2 cups rice, uncooked
- hot sauce to taste
- In a pot, heat oil to medium-high. Cook chicken pieces and sausage for about 5 minutes, then add onions, peppers, celery, garlic and tomato paste.
- Cook veggies and tomato paste for about 5-6 minutes, allowing the paste to darken, but not burn.
- Stir in tomatoes and sauté for 2 minutes.
- Stir in chicken stock, seasonings and rice. Reduce heat to medium-low (3 or 4).
|Sauce and rice cooking together...|
- Cover pot and cook for 25-30 minutes, allowing rice to absorb liquid.
- Stir in shrimp and cook uncovered for another 10 minutes on medium-low until shrimp is fully cooked through, but not tough. Keep stirring to prevent rice from sticking to bottom of pot. NOTE: you can simply pan fry the shrimp in a little bit of olive oil and stir in to the cooked jambalaya as well.
- Discard bay leaves and serve, keeping a bottle of your favourite hot sauce on the side, just in case you want that extra kick.
|... to make this!|
You can serve the Jambalaya with whatever you want (salad, bread, etc.), but I find just a good sized bowl is more than enough of a meal on its own.
|One of the best rice dishes in the world|
The verdict is very simple: This is one of the only rice dishes I truly enjoy making. It's simple, hard to screw up and just exploding with rich, deep flavour, especially from the Andouille. I'd made it previously with Italian sausage and it just wasn't the same. I recommend trying this recipe at the first chance you get, you won't regret it.
So, that's the first look into the wide world of sausage. From the kitchens of New Orleans, we'll next be travelling across the Atlantic. But where to? Well, stay tuned to find out!