I’m settling back into the grove after what turned out to be a fantastic weekend in Birmingham attending the Food Blog South 2012 conference. This was my first food blog conference and one that I won’t soon forget. To be surrounded by people who eat, drink and sleep food is a wonderful thing. Their passion is undeniable, their knowledge unsurpassable and their willingness to share incredibly generous. I learned so much and made plenty of new friends. I feel refreshed, re-energized and psyched about the future and what it holds for food bloggers and anyone else who loves to eat, drink and share.
One of the fringe benefits of attending a conference like this is receiving a cool swag bag. Among the stash in the Food Blog South bag? Zatarain’s jambalaya mix. That’s right. My beloved Zatarain’s–New Orleans’ own, flavor-maker, culture conveyor and provider of many, many pantry staples–was an event sponsor. Needless to say, I stalked the company rep, Mananya, like I had just stepped off the set of Single White Female. Had it not been for the hubby, my weekend escort and confererence partner extraordinaire, she probably would have snuck out of the conference early and sought legal protection. Okay. It wasn’t that bad. I was simply overcome with passion and excitement. But based on her comments, she gets that a lot from New Orleanians. Go figure!
Anyway, knowing full well this would be a challenging week I turned to the boxed jambalaya mix. With it, I was able to pull together these delicious stuffed peppers in half the time it would’ve taken to make my traditional batch from scratch. Now I know I’m always touting the virtures of cooking your culture with time-honored family recipes. But the truth is, we don’t always have time to cook what we want when we want it. That’s when products like these come in handy. I’m not a Zatarain’s spokesperson or anything (although I really should be because I have a lot of great things to say). I’m speaking from experience. Their products are reliable and consistent. And many of my recipes and those of my family wouldn’t be the same without them. On to the peppers….
I like my stuffed peppers sauced. So I broke out the usual jambalaya combination of seafood and pork into two separate recipes. I added the shrimp to the rice mixture and reserved the sausage for the gravy. Because I banked on the gravy to carry the majority of flavor, I kept the jambalaya part simple. You, on the other hand, can mix it up anyway you’d like. Approach the Zatarain’s box just like you would a jambalaya recipe. Substitute chicken and/or crawfish for the shrimp, add the Holy Trinity (onions, celery and more bell peppers) or throw in some mushrooms and diced tomatoes. You know the drill–anything goes!
Jambalaya-Stuffed Bell Peppers with Smoked Sausage Gravy Recipe
2 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 8-ounce box Zatarain’s Original Jambalaya Mix
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 large bell peppers (any color)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups Smoked Sausage Gravy, see recipe
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, combine chicken stock and oil; bring to a boil. Add jambalaya mix; return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Add shrimp; cook until shrimp turn pink and most of the water is absorbed, 5-10 more minutes. Meanwhile, place a large saucepan over high heat; fill with 1-inch of salted water. Cut off top fourth of peppers; reserve tops. Scoop seeds and white membranes from cavities. Place peppers and tops upright in saucepan; bring water to a boil. Cover pan and reduce heat to a slow simmer; steam peppers for 5 minutes. Carefully remove peppers from water and drain upside down on paper towels. Rub outside of peppers with oil; transfer to a baking dish. When jambalaya is cooked, remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese. Spoon equal amounts of jambalaya into peppers; return tops to peppers. Bake, uncovered, until tender, 20-25 minutes. Serve immediately with Smoked Sausage Gravy ladled on top. Serves 6.
Smoked Sausage Gravy Recipe
6-ounces smoked sausage, diced
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup sliced green onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 cups chicken stock or broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Place sausage and oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add green onions and garlic; cook until tender, 2-3 minutes. Whisk in flour, thyme and cayenne pepper; cook, stirring constantly, until mixture starts to stick to pan, about 2 minutes. Gradually add stock, whisking until smooth; bring to a strong simmer. Reduce heat to low and continue simmering, stirring frequently, until ready to serve. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.