I love the complex, sometimes rich and exotic flavours of Cajun cooking. Unique to Louisiana, it features French, African, Spanish and Native American influences – depending on liberal application of regional spice blends and with the availability of wonderful fresh shell fish these dishes really shine!
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: About 70 minutes
Makes: 8 servings
1/2 lb. fresh dry andouille sausages, about 2 to 3 depending on size
3 Tbsp Canola oil (approx)
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
6 tsp homemade Cajun spice (divided; see Note 1 below)
1 large onion, finely diced
4 celery ribs, finely diced
1 medium green bell pepper, finely diced
1 medium yellow bell pepper, finely diced
1 Poblano chile, 2 Jalapeno chile, 2 Serrano chile, 1 Habanero chile and
2 Thai red chiles
2 cups Jasmine rice
4 cups low salt chicken stock
2 bay leaves
• salt to taste
12 large prawns – peeled with tail portion left intact, and deveined (see Note 2 below)
Alternately – 2 standard tubs of fresh Oysters (chopped in 4’s)
Heat oil in Dutch oven or wide pot set over medium-high.
Add the chicken and sprinkle with 1 1/2 tsp of the Cajun spice.
Cook and stir until the chicken is cooked through and nicely coloured, about five to seven minutes.
Lift the chicken out of the pot with a slotted spoon and set in a bowl.
Lower the heat under the pot to medium. And the onion, celery and pepper assortment and cook until very tender and slightly caramelized, about six minutes.
Note – you can dial back on the Habanero and Thai chiles to dial back the heat — because these two kick it up a big notch!
Mix in the rice and remaining Cajun spice and cook, stirring occasionally, for two minutes more.
Mix in the stock, bay leaves, sliced sausage and chicken.
Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. When boiling, cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the rice is almost tender, about 18 minutes.
Nestle the prawns or oysters into the top of the rice and cover and cook five minutes, or until the prawns are cooked and the rice is tender. Serve.
Note 1: Cajun spice is available in the bottle herb and spice aisle of most supermarkets.
Cajun spice, in a small bowl combine 4 tsp paprika, 2 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp dried marjoram, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp cayenne pepper and 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper. Use what you need for the recipe and save the rest for another time.
Note 2: To peel and devein a prawn, hold the tail of the prawn in one hand and slip the thumb of your other hand under the shell between its swimmerets (little legs). Pull off the shell, leaving the very bottom portion of the tail intact. Use a small paring knife to make a lengthwise slit along the back of the prawn. Pull out, or rinse out with cold water, the dark vein. Pat the prawns dry and they are ready to use.
Many thanks to Chef Eric Akis of the Times-Colonist newspaper for this inspiration!