Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Zatarain's New Orleans Mixes

I can make red beans and rice, jambalaya, dirty rice, etoufee, shrimp creole and other Cajun goodies from scratch... and when I have the time, I like to do just that. After working all day plus a couple of hours on the road, that is just not happening very often. This is where Zatarain's comes in.

Besides their Creole seasoning, which I use all the time, I love their mixes as quick and easy bases for dinners in a hurry that cost almost nothing. For those concerned about it, Zatarain's even makes reduced sodium versions of their most popular items. Most of the mixes are between $2 and $3 each and will feed a few people for dinner, especially when paired with salad and bread.

Of course, I don't leave the mixes alone! Even though I love spicy food, the jambalaya mix packs a bit of a punch for most people, so I add 1/2 cup extra parboiled rice and 1 1/2 cups more water to it. I use Eckrich skinless smoked sausage (which is also available in an all turkey variety) ($2), a can of stewed tomatoes, diced finely ($1), and a little dry white wine ($$ up to you!) to take a boxed dinner to a new level with very little effort.

Jambalaya for 4:
1 box Zatarain's Jambalaya mix, regular or reduced sodium
1 pound smoked sausage, sliced in 1/2 inch thick rounds
1 14 ounce can stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup parboiled rice

Drain the tomatoes well and measure their liquid to include as part of the liquid called for on the package directions. Mince drained tomatoes finely. (It's almost more mushing than mincing!)

Heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add sliced sausage and saute for a few minutes, until sausage is browned a bit. Add white wine to pan and let cook until wine is almost gone. Add liquid from tomatoes with enough water to make 2 cups required by package. Add an extra 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil.

Add in rice and seasonings from Zatarain's package, extra 1/2 cup rice and tomatoes. Stir well. Bring back to a boil, cover and reduce heat to medium. Let simmer 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Stir occasionally while cooking. Rice should be moist with a little liquid still on it.

Serve immediately with hot French bread and a mixed green salad. Serve with extra Tabasco, Crystal or Frank's Red Hot Sauce on the side if desired.

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