Mixed Metaphor Jambalaya

Mixed Metaphor JambalayaIf you are like me your refrigerator tends to accumulate odds and ends of ingredients. Today I found half a can of diced tomatoes, about a cup of water I had steamed some shrimp over, a cup of thin coconut milk with a bit of green curry paste mixed in, a couple Thai eggplants, and four ounces of chicken breast. Foraging in the freezer turned up shrimp, bay scallops, and a hot pepper. And, of course, there were the usual pantry staples like onions, celery, garlic, rice, and pancetta or bacon. It all said to me: jambalaya!

Now jambalaya, whatever etymology of the word you chose to believe, is basically Creole paella. And like paella it is best built with a variety of meats, seafood, and vegetables. I say “built” advisedly because any recipe you see that has you removing things from a pan when you are making paella or jambalaya is simply wrong. Our foremothers’ kitchens were equipped with a large wooden table for food preparation and eating while cooking was done at the hearth. Do you think they really schlepped hot food back and forth to the table? Not likely. The trick is to add ingredients according to how long they need to cook. It takes a bit of practice but the result is worth the effort. By the way, do not be concerned if the rice sticks to the bottom of the pot a bit. That is the sign of a good jambalaya or paella.

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ½ stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 medium hot pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 4 ounces chicken breast, cubed
  • 4 ounces medium (26 to 30 per pound), shelled and deveined
  • 4 ounces bay scallops
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1½ cups water, stock, or other flavorful liquid (see above)
  • 2 Thai eggplant, quartered
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method

Put a large enameled Dutch oven over medium high heat and render the pancetta or bacon until it begins to color and there is enough fat to sauté the onions. Turn the heat down to medium and add the onion, celery, and pepper. Sauté until the onions are medium brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute or two.

Raise the heat a bit and add the chicken. Cook for a few minutes until it is no longer pink. Add the shrimp and toss until slightly pink then add the scallops and cook for another minute. Stir in the rice and cook, stirring constantly for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes and liquid. Mix well scraping any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the Thai eggplants and a good grind of black pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, and set over medium-low heat for 30 minutes.

Uncover the pot and fluff the jambalaya, scraping the bits stuck to the pot. Recover and let sit off heat for five minutes.

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