Ooh, I love bold, spicy food; how about you? I thoroughly enjoy eating it any time, but in the winter, when my inner thermostat needs a little kick every now and then to wake it up so it can warm me up better, I especially crave that little tingle in the back of my throat, that zip that keeps me coming back for more, bite after addicting bite. Funny thing is, there was a time not all that many years back when I actually used to shy away from foods that were on the spicy side; but now to my shock and surprise, I can even surpass my husband in the “heat” department and love every hot minute of it. When I’m craving something spirited and spicy, I love to start out with a few dashes of a hot sauce, Sambal or red chili flakes added to my meal to warm up my palette; and then, as the meal progresses, I’ll find myself continually adding more and more spice to my food. So by the time my husband may want try a little taste of the dish that I’m enjoying at our favorite local Thai place, for example, I’ve kicked it up to the degree that he’s about ready to start coughing fireballs, poor guy. It kinda plays out something to this effect: “Whoa…(surprise, with eyes tearing up)…honey, this tastes really good (cough)…wow…(clearing throat, getting slightly red in the face)…you weren’t playing around with this…(clearing throat again, getting progressively redder )…you made that SPICY!” Well, what can I say? “Yes, my precious hubs—I made it spicy, alright; it’s spicy like your silly wife”, who by now has a runny nose and is perspiring like Adam Richman on any given episode of “Man v. Food”, but loving every minute of that sweet burn.
I’m the type of gal that loves a good stew; and stews that have a rich, tangy, tomatoey base and lots of zesty flavors are the types that I enjoy going a bit heavy with the spice on—a Jambalaya-style stew is a tasty example of just such a thing. Over the years, I’ve always made my own version of something that could sort of be a cross between a gumbo and jambalaya (I happen to adore okra, so I add it along with the trio of sausage, chicken and shrimp, but with the rice on the side), and it’s always made me feel quite comforted and warmed from the inside out. It can be light and fresh, yet have plenty of depth and rich flavor at the same time; and it gives my metabolism a much needed jolt in the wintertime when I spice it up nicely. The bonus? A couple of days after making it, the flavors intensify and mingle together that much more, so it’s great when it comes to enjoying the left-overs, as well. Quick to cook and satisfying, this “Gumbo-laya” will turn the heat up a notch on the winter season; and frankly, I could really go for that right about now.
So before I scare any of you away from giving this recipe a try due to fact that you may fear that your head will burst into flames, based what I wrote earlier in the post, fear not, dear reader. For recipe’s sake, I’ll just have you add whatever amount of spice that you’d like to add to your own bowl of this, and provide you instead with a much milder version of what I personally like to indulge in. “Gumbo-laya” is a zippy little ditty that’ll bring the body’s thermostat back up to high during this cold season and add a little spring into our winter step. So pass that ol’ stew pot and ladle around. Oh, and by the way, would you also mind passing the red chili pepper flakes while you’re at it? Hee-hee.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
“Gumbo-laya” Stew with Spicy Sausage, Chicken and Shrimp with Okra over Fragrant Garlic Rice
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(Serves about 6-8)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound spicy andouille (or smoked) sausage, sliced
8 chicken tenderloins (or 2 skinless/boneless chicken breasts), cut into bite-size pieces
3 celery stalks, finely diced
1 large onion, finely diced
1 large bell pepper, finely diced
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon Creole seasoning
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon, heaping, tomato paste
½ pound okra, sliced into ¼ – ½” thick slices
1 (28 oz) can organic diced tomatoes with juice
2 cups chicken stock, hot
½ pound peeled and cleaned, medium size shrimp (raw)
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
• Fragrant Garlic Rice (recipe below)
-Place a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, and add the olive oil; once the oil is hot, add the sliced sausage in, and allow it to caramelize and brown for a few minutes; once well browned, remove the sausage from the pot, and set it aside for a moment; next, add the chicken pieces into the pot along with a sprinkle or two of salt and pepper, and allow them to brown in the oil/sausage drippings for about 2-3 minutes; remove the chicken pieces from the pot, and set aside for a moment; next, add in the diced celery, onion and bell pepper, and caramelize it for about 2-3 minutes in the oil, then add in the bay leaves, the Creole seasoning, the cayenne pepper, ½ teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of black pepper, and stir to combine; next, add in the garlic and stir, and once it becomes aromatic, add in the tomato paste, and cook for about 1 minute to cook out the “raw” tomato flavor; next, add in the sliced okra, the diced tomatoes with juice, the hot chicken stock, and the browned sausage and chicken, and stir to combine, and allow the stew to simmer gently on low/medium-low, uncovered, for 20 minutes; after 20 minutes, add in the shrimp (you can season it with a sprinkle of salt/pepper if you wish), and simmer for only 2 minutes more as to not overcook the shrimp; finish by stirring in the chopped parsley and cilantro, and serve over the Fragrant Garlic Rice, with some additional spice/heat options like hot sauce, red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper, if desired.
Fragrant Garlic Rice ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
2 cups jasmine rice
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
3 cups water
-Place a medium pot over medium-high heat, and add in the olive oil; once hot, add in the pressed garlic, and stir to combine; once the garlic becomes fragrant, add in the rice, the salt and the pepper and stir, and allow the rice to “toast” in the garlic oil for about 2 minutes; next, add in the water, stir, and simmer the rice, covered, for about 20 minutes, or until tender; turn off the heat, and after 5 minutes, fluff with fork and serve.