'Cause tonight I'm gonna see ma chère ami-o”
– opening chorus to the Hank Williams song who, by the way, was born just a few miles as the crow flies from my hometown.
Jambalaya is a regional favorite in the south and the flavorful dish has aggressively caught on around the world as well. The reason is simple just as it is to make - It has a remarkable taste. There are countless variations of this classic and the first mention in English print comes from Mobile AL, where I reside. In 1878, the Ladies of the St. Francis Street Methodist Episcopal Church in Mobile published ‘The Gulf City Cook Book’, which features a recipe titled ‘Jam Bolaya’. It consists of oysters, chicken, tomatoes and the familiar rice.
Like all recipes, as time progresses, so do ingredients according to regional taste. Take the recipe I am preparing for you, Pastalaya made with pasta instead of rice. This recipe contains many of the same ingredients as the traditional ‘red jambalaya’ famous from Creole cooks in New Orleans and melds beautifully with its low-country Cajun cousins. Influenced from the French and Spanish with a little Italian thrown in for good company is how I would describe this amazing recipe that tastes so darn good. Enjoy!
Makes about 8 servings
1/4 cup salt plus 3/4 teaspoon, divided
1 -16 oz penne pasta
3 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Creole Seasoning, divided
3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes
3/4 pound Andouille or Spicy Conecuh sausage, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
1/2 cup diced green pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 -14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Add water to a large stockpot 3/4 full and bring to a boil over high heat. Add 1/4 cup of the salt as it begins to boil. Place the pasta in the water and return to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook the pasta until nearly al dente, 8 to 12 minutes. Drain and set aside. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water to use later.
Season the shrimp with 2 teaspoons of the Creole Seasoning and 1/8 teaspoon salt, set aside. Do the same with the chicken using 2 teaspoons of the Creole Seasoning and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt, set aside.
In a large skillet, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and coat the bottom, heat to medium heat. Place the shrimp in the pan and sear for 1 minute per side. Remove the shrimp and set aside. Add another tablespoon olive oil to the pan and sear the chicken for 3 minutes, turning to ensure even browning. Remove the chicken and set aside with the shrimp.
Place the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the pan and add the sausage, onions and bell peppers. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is lightly brown and the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock and scrape with a spoon to remove any browned bits that have formed, cook about 30 seconds. Add the diced tomatoes, fresh thyme, the remaining tablespoon of Creole Seasoning and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook for 2 minutes. Add the heavy cream and cook an additional 2 minutes. Return the shrimp and chicken to the pan, as well as the pasta and the reserved 1-cup of pasta cooking water. Continue to cook the sauce and pasta, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp and chicken cooks through and until most of the pasta cooking water has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the basil and Parmesan. Toss to combine and serve hot with warm French bread.
Note: Made in Alabama, Conecuh brand sausage is a southern favorite.