Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Quick sausage-shrimp skillet celebrates the flavors of New Orleans

I won't pretend that this quick dish is authentic New Orleans fare -- far from it -- but I was inspired by this month's Mardi Gras celebrations.

As a bonus, this skillet supper is far lower in fat than tradional Cajun food. Spoon this slightly spicy mixture of lean protein and vegetables over brown rice and enjoy any time of year, not just on Fat Tuesday.

The key ingredient is andouille sausage, which is packed with spicy flavor. I used a chicken version from Whole Food's butcher case. You could substitute pork sausage, which is far easier to find, but you'll need to drain the fat after browning the sausage and vegetables. You also can buy links of smoked chicken or turkey andouille, which need only to be warmed. I like to cut them into 1/2-inch rounds and  brown them along with the vegetables.

And speaking of vegetables ... here in the Midwest in midwinter, good fresh okra is impossible to find. I substituted frozen. I've found that the quality of frozen vegetables varies greatly among brands, and sad to say, the less expensive brands are usually watery and lacking in flavor. I've also found that organic frozen vegetables are usually the best bets.

Yield: 4 servings

1/2 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil
2/3 pound fresh andouille sausage, preferably made from chicken (see note)
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 rib celery, coarsely chopped
1/2 large red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 cup chicken stock
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup fresh or frozen sliced okra
1 cup fresh or frozen trimmed green beans
1/2 pound shrimp, thawed if frozen, shelled and deveined
Hot cooked rice
Hot sauce

Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Crumble andouille into the skillet; cook, crumbling it further with a spoon. When the sausage starts to brown, add onion, celery and red pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables soften and begin to brown.

Stir in stock, drained tomatoes, okra and green beans. Reduce heat until liquid simmers briskly; cover and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in shrimp; cover and cook until shrimp is pink and okra and beans are tender, about 5 minutes.

Serve over hot cooked rice, passing hot sauce at the table.

Note: If you can't find fresh chicken andouille, use pork andouille and drain well. Alternately, use smoked andouille links cut into wedges or rounds.

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