Between the polar vortex that has had Toronto collectively shivering for the past couple weeks, and my regularly scheduled bout of the February blues, it's really no wonder that I've had a near-constant craving for comfort food.
And after getting two snowstorms in under a week, I'm going to have to call in the big guns, because this is a job for heavy-duty, extra-strength comfort.
I'm talking about the kind of meal that's packed full of feel-good carbs, and simple but satisfying flavours. If it's quick and requires minimal effort to throw together, even better.
The good news is that this flavourful Creole-inspired skillet checks all those boxes, and then some.
It's deceptively simple, but the combination of saucy tomato rice, bell peppers and sausage delivers plenty of flavour, along with some gentle belly-warming heat.
Cajun vs Creole: What's the Difference?
While both Cajun and Creole cuisines come from Louisiana and share some common elements, there are some important differences.
Creole food was introduced by the wealthy families who settled in New Orleans, and needed to adapt their French and Spanish cuisine for a new continent.
While it still has a strong European influence, it also borrows New World ingredients such as tomatoes and peppers from the local Indigeous cultures, and flavours and techniques from West African and Afro-Caribbean slaves.
A typical Creole seasoning blend consists of herbs like oregano, basil and thyme, along with paprika for colour, and black and white peppers for mild heat.
Cajun food came a little later, when Acadian families who were deported from Canada during le grand derangement settled in southern Louisiana.
Like their Creole counterparts, the newly arrived Acadians adapted to their new home by borrowing ingredients and techniques from the local cultures. It's hearty country food that's meant to make the most of available ingredients, like crawfish and boudin.
A typical Cajun seasoning blend also uses a base of paprika, but uses less herbs and introduces bolder flavours like garlic powder and cayenne.
If you like things spicy, feel free to use Cajun spice instead of Creole spice when making this recipe.
Variations on This Recipe
Creole Ham and Rice Skillet: Substitute 2 cups diced ham for the sausage.
Cajun Shrimp and Rice Skillet: Omit the sausage, and use Cajun seasoning instead of Creole. Sautee ½ lb shelled raw shrimp in a little olive oil until just barely opaque, and stir into the finished rice just before serving.
Mexican Chicken and Rice Skillet: Substitute 2 cups diced cooked chicken for the sausage, and chili powder for the Creole seasoning. Add 1 small can (127ml / 4 oz) of diced green chilies along with the tomatoes. Finish with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro.
Portuguese Chourico and Rice Skillet: Substitute chourico (or Spanish-style chorizo) for the andouille, and paprika (mild or hot) for the Creole spice.
More One-Pot Dishes to Satisfy Your Comfort Food Cravings
I'm glad to report that a big bowl of this saucy rice delivered just the right amount of comfort to put my cravings to rest.
However, if you've really got a serious craving that requires a double dose, here are a few more options to help you scratch that itch:
- Creamy White Chicken Chili
- Sausage and Bean Pasta Bake
- Ervilhas Guisadas (Portuguese Braised Peas with Eggs and Chourico)
- Red Pepper, Corn and Bacon Risotto
- Turkey Stuffed Pepper Soup
A hearty and satisfying combination of saucy tomato rice, bell peppers and smoked pork sausage makes this a one-pot meal the perfect comfort food fix. If you like it spicy, feel free to add a few dashes of Tabasco sauce.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ lb sliced smoked sausage (preferably andouille)
- 1 medium green pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 medium red pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 ½ cups long-grain rice
- 1 can (398ml / 16 oz) diced tomatoes
- 1 ¾ cups chicken broth
- 2 tsp Creole seasoning
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ tsp salt
- In a large deep skillet or wide heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium-high heat, saute the sausage in olive oil until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes. Add the peppers and onion, and continue cooking until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes longer. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Stir in the rice, tomatoes, chicken broth, seasoning, bay leaf, and salt. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 15 minutes or until rice has is cooked through and has absorbed most of the liquid. Serve immediately.
- Category: Mains
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Creole