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~ Spicy Creole-Style Shrimp and Rice-a-Jamba-Roni ~

IMG_0911In my kitchen, this one-skillet dish is affectionately referred to as Jamba-Roni.  Why?  This quick-to-make mixture of tomato-laced long-grain white rice and vermicelli, plus lots of succulent shrimp and flavorful bell peppers, celery and onions simply reminds everyone who eats it of jambalaya (a rustic one-pot meal that combines long-grain white rice with meat, poultry or shellfish, pork or sausage, and, the Cajun-Creole culinary "holy trinity" -- onion, celery and green bell pepper).

IMG_1009Creole-style jambalaya, sometimes called red jambalaya, incorporates tomato.  The most popular Creole jambalaya contains shrimp (or crawfish).  Cajun-style jambalaya, sometimes called brown jambalaya, doesn't contain tomato.  The most popular Cajun jambalaya contains chicken (or alligator). Jambalaya comes from the French word jambalaia, meaning "to mix or mash" and "a rice pilaf".  The finished dish resembles Spanish paella, which is a rice pilaf cooked with broth.

My younger brother named mom's dish "jamba-roni". 

6a0120a8551282970b0240a51a5586200bBack in the 1960's my mom was the queen of Rice-a-Roni recipes.  I was the princess who loved them.  If I was feeling under the weather, she knew I'd rather have a bowl of chicken-flavored Rice-a-Roni than a bowl of Campbell's chicken-noodle soup.  She served the prince (my brother) and I pan-seared hamburgers and gravy atop a bed of beef-flavored Rice-a-Roni, to prevent us from bugging her to buy overpriced Salisbury-steak TV dinners.  To two boxes of Spanish-style Rice-a-Roni she added two cans of stewed tomatoes and two pounds of peeled, sautéed shrimp.  In our kingdom, our family of four ate it as a sort-of Creole-Style jambalaya dinner. To two boxes of Chicken Rice-a-Roni, she'd add sautéed chicken thighs or tenders along with some sausage.  We four enjoyed it as a sort-of Cajun-style jambalaya dinner. It was my brother who named these meals, "jamba-roni".  Fond memories indeed. Try my super-easy recipes for all three: copycat chicken, beef & Spanish-style Rice-a-Roni.  

Diced "holy trinity" & three easy steps:

IMG_08352  tablespoons olive oil

1  teaspoon onion powder

1  teaspoon garlic powder

2  pounds medium shrimp (41-50 count), peeled and deveined, tails off

8  ounces diced yellow or sweet onion (about 2 cups)

4  ounces diced celery (about 1 cup)

4  ounces each: diced green bell pepper, red bell pepper and yellow bell pepper (about 1 cup each)

6  tablespoons salted butter

2  6.8-ounce boxes Rice-a-Roni Spanish Rice Mix + seasoning packets*, or, 2  times (double) my recipe for copycat Spanish-style Rice-a-Roni, prepared using stewed tomatoes in place of fire-roasted diced tomatoes + red pepper flakes 

4  cups water

2  14 1/2-ounce cans stewed tomatoes

1-2  teaspoons red pepper flakes

cayenne pepper sauce (Louisianna Gold, Crystal, Frank's RedHot, etc., your favorite brand), for accompaniment 

IMG_0841 IMG_0841 IMG_0845 IMG_0845 IMG_0845 IMG_0845 IMG_0845 IMG_0845 IMG_0845 IMG_0863~Step 1.  To sauté the shrimp and the vegetables, in a 5 1/2-quart chef's pan, heat the olive oil over low heat.  Stir in the garlic and onion powder,  Add the shrimp and increase heat to medium- medium-high.  Using a large slotted spoon, sauté the shrimp, stirring constantly, until shrimp are just short of being cooked through, about 3-4 minutes. Do not fully-cook shrimp.  Using the slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to a large bowl, leaving all the flavorful juices remaining in the pan.  Add all of the diced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently, until nicely-softened but still crunch tender, about 5-6 minutes.  Do not overcook veggies.  Turn the heat off.  Using the slotted spoon, transfer veggies to the bowl with the shrimp and set aside.

IMG_0868 IMG_0870 IMG_0870 IMG_0870 IMG_0876 IMG_0876 IMG_0882 IMG_0883 IMG_0883 IMG_0889 IMG_0889 IMG_0889~Step 2.  In the same chef's pan, melt the butter over low heat.  Prepare the Rice-a-Roni according to package directions, or my copycat directions (brown the rice and vermicelli in the butter, add the water, seasonings and tomatoes) and cook, covered for 14-15 minutes, adding two cans of stewed tomatoes in place of diced tomatoes, plus 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

IMG_0896 IMG_0900~ Step 3.  Using a fork, rake the Rice-a-Roni to separate the rice grains and pasta strands.  Stir the warm shrimp and vegetables into the rice. Turn heat off.  Cover and rest on hot stovetop 5 minutes.  Residual heat will finish-cook shrimp.

Portion into bowls & serve ASAP w/your favorite hot sauce:   

IMG_0921Spicy Creole-Style Shrimp and Rice-a-Roni:  Recipe yields 6-8 hearty main-dish servings.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 5 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; 1-quart measuring container; large spoon or spatula

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c879404d970bCook's Note: Shrimp a la Creole or Creole-style shrimp is the first Creole recipe I ever cooked, and, I made it because I wanted to try my 19-year-old hand at something "new to me".  I was a new bride and the recipe was on page 311 of the 1974 Edition of Betty Crocker's Cookbook.  While their recipe was "quick and easy", it was fundamentally sound and it tasted good too.  It served its purpose in that its success prompted me to try more sophisticated versions, the best one made with fresh Gulf shrimp in the New Orleans French Quarter in the 1980's.  Try my ~ Shrimp Creole:  The King of Creole Shrimp Dishes ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)


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