Rocco DiSpirito trims a Cajun dish for Fat Tuesday

Just in time for Mardi Gras, Rocco DiSpirito gives a the traditionally high-fat Cajun classic jambalaya a healthy makeover. Thanks to a zero-calorie rice-like product and various other nips and tucks, the result has lots of flavor, but not lots of calories. Enlarge photo

MATTHEW MEAD/Associated Press

Just in time for Mardi Gras, Rocco DiSpirito gives a the traditionally high-fat Cajun classic jambalaya a healthy makeover. Thanks to a zero-calorie rice-like product and various other nips and tucks, the result has lots of flavor, but not lots of calories.

Mardi Gras is the sort of celebration that can make every city in America want to be New Orleans. Between the parties and parades and all those rich foods, what’s not to love?

Well, perhaps the after effects of all those rich foods.

That’s why I came up with this downsized version of jambalaya, a classic Cajun dish. I wanted to take a little of the fat out of Fat Tuesday. Jambalaya is basically a one-pot meal in which rice is a main ingredient. The trouble with rice – especially white rice – is that it is loaded with carbs and calories.

To deal with that, I replace the rice in my jambalaya with a product called Miracle Rice. This is a variety of shirataki noodle, an increasingly popular variety of ultra-low calorie noodle products. Miracle Rice has no calories, no fat, no carbs and no sodium. It resembles a large couscous and has an extremely mild flavor.

This means it takes well to whatever other flavors you add, making it a perfect base for a high-flavor dish like jambalaya.

If you can’t find Miracle Rice at the grocer, it is available online. You also could substitute cooked brown rice, though this will increase the calories and carbs.

The rest of this dish is built around much of the basic trinity of Cajun cooking – bell peppers, onion and celery. Chili powder provides the kick. I’ve trimmed the fat and calories from the protein, which usually consists of ham, sausage or duck. I use leaner chicken and turkey sausage instead.

The result has just 233 calories and 8 grams of fat per serving. Traditional recipes have 16 grams of fat and 767 calories.

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