Say you’re me, and you’ve got book club scheduled for your house this month. In the couple days immediately prior, what do you do?
I’ll tell you what I do. Finish the book. Vacuum. Think a lot about what to serve for dinner. Consider what everyone likes. Come up with some great dinner ideas that aren’t practical, since I get home from work about six seconds before everyone arrives. Think some more about what to serve for dinner.
Last week I had book club at my house, and as I brainstormed dinner options, I kept coming back to the stash of freshly made Andouille sausage in my freezer. I wanted to make my friend Michelle’s kick-ass Jambalaya. But I hesitated over whether I could pull it off with the limited cooking time I would have before everyone arrived, as ravenous and expectant as hungry lions at the watering hole. Realistically, there is only so long I can pacify them with wine and olives.
Fortunately, it turns out that this Jambalaya recipe is easily cooked in two segments. The night before, I did all of the chopping and mixed all of the ingredients except the shrimp and rice together and put them in the refrigerator in a large bowl. The night of book club, I preheated the oven as soon as I got home, turned everything into a dutch oven, and brought it up to a simmer on top of the stove. I stirred in the rice and shrimp, clapped a lid on it, and put the whole thing in the oven for 30 minutes while I set the table.
Everyone arrived, spent a few minutes shedding coats, getting drinks, and catching up. By then the Jamabalaya was ready to come out of the oven.
It was the perfect hearty dinner to share with friends on a cold winter’s evening. It was so good in fact—so hot and spicy and filled with bits of delicious sausage and chicken and shrimp, so filling and satisfying, that I had to turn right around and make another batch for the final Amazing Race dinner party of the season on Sunday night. And I’d still be happy to eat it a third time in a week, should the opportunity present itself.
(adapted from Esquire Magazine)
- 5 tbsp butter
- 1 lb diced Andouille sausage
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 medium bell pepper, chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-3 lb roasted chicken—discard skin and pull meat from bones
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tbsp hot sauce
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/3 lb small, cooked shrimp
- 2 cups Uncle Ben’s Original Converted Parboiled Rice
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
In a large oven-safe pot such as a dutch oven, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add Andouille and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
Add onions, celery, bell peppers, salt, and pepper and cook until onions are translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds more.
Add chicken, chicken stock, tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves, hot sauce, Worcestershire, and coriander. Stir to combine. When liquid comes to a simmer, add rice and shrimp, cover, and transfer pot to preheated oven. Cook until rice has absorbed all of the liquid and is tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Do not remove lid before 30 minutes to check for doneness. Remove from oven. Discard bay leaf.
Serve in bowls, passing extra hot sauce on the side. Serves 6-8.
Elsewhere: Read my post: Book Club Tips: Top Five Ways to Get Your Book at Edible Books