Simmering down a black pot of rice infused with vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh aromatics, and garden-grown herbs punched with the depth of flavor of smoky sausage is about as comforting as South Louisiana food can get. But when those tomatoes are of the Creole variety, the sausage features the bold flavors of venison mixed with pork, and briny Gulf shrimp are added for good measure, this Smoked Deer Sausage and Shrimp Jambalaya is a unique combination that calls out to me.
Jambalaya is a beloved Cajun and Creole recipe. I love the way long-grain white rice acts as a blank canvas that can be painted with the spicy flavors of ordinary ingredients and combine to produce an extraordinary one-pot meal that will feed a hungry crowd. Plain and simple, this is Creole jambalaya.
Deer sausage is common in South Louisiana cuisine. Hunting deer during the winter months brings a steady supply of venison to local family tables, and sausage is a utility cut for using much of the meat of the large animal. Deer processing is a lucrative sideline of many sausage makers and slaughter houses during the hunting season.
These days, there are numerous commercially produced deer sausage products available year-round in local supermarkets and meat markets. One of my favorites is the deer and pork sausage from the folks at Nonc Kev’s Specialty Meats based in Rayne, Louisiana. Located right off I-10, where you can fill up your tank, fill up your stomach, and fill up your ice chest: this is gas station gourmet at its best. The specialty meat case is full of hot boudin, smoked, sausage, crawfish-stuffed whole chickens, and pork chops, and you can even give them a call and pick up your order at the drive-thru window.
Their smoked sausage, like most deer sausage, is combined with pork to add fat since most venison has a low-fat content. It is this combination that balances flavor and moisture with the bold taste of deer shining through. It is the focus of today’s recipe: Smoked Deer Sausage and Shrimp Jambalaya.
Truth be told, tomatoes would never touch a true Cajun jambalaya; that would be a breach of culinary protocol bordering on heresy. But armed with a bushel basket of bright red tomatoes during the height of the summer season, I am locked and loaded, and ready to defy tradition with a Creole jambalaya. Why not? Juicy, locally grown tomatoes, along with a can of Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and green chiles, freshly cut aromatic vegetables, a bag of Supreme brand long-grain white rice, and a rich stock provide the backdrop for this meat and seafood combination of Smoked Deer Sausage and Shrimp Jambalaya.
I like the ease and consistent outcome of an oven-baked jambalaya where the essential rule is to leave the lid on during cooking and never, ever stir it. This method is a stark contrast to the way many locals make jambalaya, but I believe the final product is tastier and texturally superior.
So, pull out your heaviest cast-iron pot, and let’s cook a Creole version of a Cajun classic: Smoked Deer Sausage and Shrimp Jambalaya.
- 4 strips of smoked bacon, chopped
- 2 cups diced yellow onion
- 2 cups diced celery
- 1 cup diced yellow bell pepper
- 1 cup diced red bell pepper
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 cups chopped smoked deer sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup diced smoked ham
- 2 pounds medium (41/50 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 cup beer
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes
- 1 (10-ounce) can mild diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained, such as RoTel
- 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 cup diced green onion tops
- 1 teaspoon Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- Dash of hot sauce
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 4 cups uncooked long-grain white rice, such as Supreme
- 4 cups chicken stock
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
- In a large cast-iron pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat, fry the bacon until done. Remove the bacon, drain and chop into pieces. Reserve for later use.
- Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Add the onions, celery, and bell pepper to the bacon grease and cook until the onions turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic along with the sausage and ham and continue to sauté until the meats just begin to turn brown, about 5 minutes. Deglaze the pot by pouring in the beer and scraping the bits from the bottom of the pot while stirring. Add the bacon pieces back to the pot along with the shrimp and all of the chopped tomatoes, parsley, and green onions. Add the Cajun seasoning and a couple of shakes of hot sauce along with salt and black pepper.
- Add the rice to the pot and stir until evenly distributed. Add the stock and stir again. Cover the pot and place in the oven for 1 hour.
- Do not stir or even raise the lid on the pot for 1 hour. In that hour, all the flavors are coming together, and the rice is cooking. At the end of the hour, take a peek but do not stir. Make sure most of the stock has been absorbed and taste to see if the rice is cooked to at least al dente. If so, turn off the oven, cover the pot and leave it in the hot oven for another twenty minutes. Serve with crusty bread and ice-cold beer.