Beans and rice
Bill Hogan/ Chicago Tribune/MCT

New Orleans brings to mind the great foods of Louisiana. What could be better than a big bowl of gumbo or, my Cajun favorite, jambalaya? Or how about a big pot of red beans and rice?

Making any of these traditional main dishes can be time consuming, but it’s definitely worth the effort when you have the time to do it the right way. However, I must admit that I took a shortcut several years ago when I wanted some jambalaya but my time was limited.

I made a jambalaya stir-fry with some of the same ingredients called for in the recipe I had brought home from New Orleans. Maybe this version is not quite as full-flavored as the classic version, but it satisfied my hunger at the time.

When I make red beans and rice, I prefer to use the small red beans rather than the large red kidney beans used in the traditional version. The following is my version of this Louisiana favorite. Simplicity with flavor. What more could we want?

JAMBALAYA STIR-FRY

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup thinly sliced green onion
  • 1 large green bell pepper, cut in ⅛ inch-wide strips
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut in ⅛ inch-wide strips
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ¾ cup chopped, cooked ham
  • 1 pound raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lite soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 ½ tablespoons chili powder (or to taste)
  • Hot steamed rice
  • ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted

Heat butter and oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, bell peppers and celery. Cook until peppers and celery are almost tender. Stir in ham and shrimp. Cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes, or until shrimp changes color from gray to pink. Combine lemon juice, soy sauce and cornstarch. Mix well and stir into shrimp/pepper mixture. Add chili powder and mix well. Continue cooking until mixture is slightly thickened. Serve over rice and sprinkle toasted almonds over top.

RED BEANS AND RICE

  • 1 pound bag of dry small red beans
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 pound andouille or kielbasa sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ½ cup butter
  • ⅔ cup chopped celery
  • ⅔ cup chopped onion
  • ⅔ cup chopped bell pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoons Emeril’s Essence seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco (or to taste)
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and black pepper to taste, if needed
  • Cooked rice

Rinse the beans and put in 6 quart Dutch oven. Add water until it is at least 2 inches above beans. Allow to soak overnight. Drain. Add 5 cups water and bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat for 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally and adding water as needed. While beans are cooking, place sausage pieces in a skillet and cook over medium heat until lightly browned. When beans are cooked until fork tender, add sausage and continue cooking for 30 minutes. Melt butter in skillet and saute celery, onions, and bell pepper until tender. Add to the beans along with the bay leaves, Essence and Tabasco. If needed, add more water. Bring to a boil and continue cooking for 30 minutes. Beans should be very tender and the liquid should have thickened slightly. Remove bay leaves and stir in parsley. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Serve over cooked rice.

Contact Prudence Hilburn at prudencehilburn@aol.com.