Friday, February 4, 2011

Snowpocalypse Mardi Gras Jambalaya!

Laissez les bons temps rouler!!! Next week, I’m headed down to New Orleans with some triathlon friends to do the Mardi Gras Marathon and ½! To celebrate, we decided to have a mini-Mardi Gras party. Of course, being triathletes, this means we meet for our usual weekly indoor bike ride together, followed by Mardi-Gras-inspired healthy food! One friend made her version of vegetarian gumbo, and I volunteered to make a jambalaya!

Ok, so I’ve never made jambalaya, so I didn’t know where to start. The only thing I knew was that I wanted it to be vegetarian and quinoa-based. I figure I’d do some recipe searches and see what came up. Unfortunately, the vegetarian quinoa-based jambalayas didn’t appeal to me, so I just went searching for GOOD jambalaya recipes. I happened upon a few by Emeril that received high ratings. Though none were vegetarian, I tried to dissect the ingredients, seasonings, and methods he used in his more popular recipes, and tried to see where I could make substitutions and modifications.

In the end, I chose to combine two of his recipes that were very similar. One was duck-based, while the other was chicken- and ham- based. Both recipes called for shrimp and andouille sausage. So I decided to omit the shrimp, and just go with mock duck, chicken-style seitan, veggie ham, and the Field Roast Mexican Chipotle Sausage. Here are some pics of the cut-up ham and pan-frying sausage:

However, the huge Snowmageddon of 2011 hit before I could restock my pantry with a few of the things on my grocery list. Luckily, I had most of what I needed, so I just used what I had rather than what I’d planned. Instead of a half cup each of green and red peppers, I just used the lone red pepper I had in the fridge. Also, since Whole Foods wasn’t open, I couldn’t get my usual chicken-style seitan, so just used the tofu in the fridge. I cut them into 1-inch triangles and dry-fried them. Ended up working great!

The last thing on my list that I didn’t have was canned mock duck; but I had a few packages of smoked veggie duck in the freezer that I decided to use instead. Here’s a picture of the duck I ended up going with. The canned variety already comes in small, bit-sized chunks, so I had to slice this one into smaller pieces. I may have sliced it a little to thinly, as it fell apart a little in the dish. In the future, if I don’t go with canned, I would do ½ to 1-inch pieces.

The only other modifications I made was omitting the cayenne pepper and black pepper in the recipe, making it optional, since the Essence of Emeril already contained both. Since I wasn’t familiar with the heat tolerance of many of our guests, I decided to keep it safe by leaving out the extra spice. If I were making it for myself, though, I would definitely add them back in! I also omitted the white onions from the recipe since one of the party hosts doesn’t tolerate onions too well. Again, that’s something I’ll leave in the recipe, though, to add back in when just making for myself! Oh, also, I forgot to bring cut-up green onions and parsley to dinner; I was supposed to add them in at the very end, but I forgot to bring them to my friend's house. It was totally fine without it, though!

Honestly, this turned out waaaay better than I imagined! I can definitely see myself making this again in the future, and perhaps with the variations I’d originally intended. This was definitely an Emeril WIN!

An Emeril-Inspired Snowpocalypse Mardi Gras Jambalaya
1-14oz package of firm or extra firm tofu, drained, pressed, & cut into ½-1 inch pieces
½ cup vegetable oil
2- 10oz packages vegetarian duck, sliced into 1-inch pieces
½ pound vegetarian ham, cubed (I used Veri Soy)
2 cups chopped yellow onions
½ cup chopped green bell peppers
½ cup chopped red bell peppers
½ cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Emeril's Original Essence, recipe follows
½ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme leaves OR 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
2 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
3 bay leaves
6 cups chicken-style or regular vegetable broth (made with NO chicken!)
3 cups quinoa
1 pound vegetarian andouille or other spicy smoked sausage, diced (Field Roast Mexican Chipotle)
1 cup chopped green onions (green and white parts)
½ cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Dry fry the tofu by cooking over low to medium heat in a non-stick skillet. Flip tofu when browned on one side, and repeat on other side. Remove from heat and set aside when golden brown on both sides. Season with salt and pepper as desired.

While tofu is cooking, Heat the oil in a large heavy pot or cast-iron Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the duck and ham, and cook until browned. Remove meats from heat, leaving as much of the oil behind in the pan as possible. Add onions, bell peppers, celery, salt, and the Essence. If using cayenne, black pepper, and dried thyme, add it as well. Stirring often, brown the vegetables until they are caramelized. Scrape the bottom and sides of the pot to loosen any browned particles; it may be necessary to add a little water to remove particles from the bottom of the pan.

Add tofu, duck, ham, the tomatoes and garlic to the vegetables, stirring thoroughly to allow spices to coat evenly. Cook, stirring gently, until the tomatoes give off some of their juices, about 2 minutes. Be careful not to over-stir the mock meats, as they may break apart if handled too roughly. Add the quinoa and bay leaves to the pot. Stir for 2 to 3 minutes to coat evenly. Add fresh thyme if using, and broth. Stir to combine, then cover. Cook over medium heat for 15 to 17 minutes, without stirring, or until the quinoa is tender and the liquid has been absorbed.

If desired, brown sausage in the tofu pan; otherwise, use cut-up sausages directly. Add sausages to the cooked quinoa at the end of cooking and mix thoroughly. Remove the pot from the heat and let stand, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the bay leaves. Stir in the green onions and parsley, and serve.

Chef’s Note: It’s best to use a pot with a glass lid in order to better monitor the quinoa without disturbing the pot. If most of the liquid has not evaporated after 15 minutes, remove lid and stir thoroughly to make sure the broth is evenly distributed through the dish. Replace cover and cook for an additional 5 minutes. This should help the quinoa absorb the remaining broth.

Essence of Emeril
2 ½ tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.

In case you were wondering, here were the inspiration recipes I used:
Clean Out the Ice Box and Freezer Jambalaya
Mardi Gras Jambalaya

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