Jambalaya

To Know:

Louisiana is celebrated for its often decadent cuisine, a remarkable, multicultural smash-up of sumptuous flavors. And while the word “healthy” wouldn’t typically spring to mind during a rowdy Bourbon Street word association game, it is a worthy descriptor for this vegetable- and tomato-laden Cajun mainstay.

Jambalaya, like most Cajun cooking, starts with a foundation of the”holy trinity”, onion, celery and green pepper. The addition of tomatoes sets it apart from other regional dishes, which tend to incorporate a richer gravy/sauce to many recipes. It’s traditionally made with chicken and andouille sausage, and is often found with seafood too, but there is also no reason why it couldn’t be vegetarian or vegan. I do think a good andouille sausage is a key component for this hearty stew, as it contributes extra seasoning and heft to the dish. I usually look for chicken andouille sausage to keep the fat in check, but pork is most common.  Because the spicy heat and saltiness varies by sausage maker, I limit the amount of cayenne powder and salt used in this recipe, but you can adjust according to your tastes. I prefer to just serve this with hot sauce (Red Dot is my go to) on the side so that each person can adjust the amount of pain they want to bring.

The preparation itself is fairly traditional, but using brown rice instead of white does increase the cooking time. My trade-off is to finish cooking this in the oven, so that you won’t have to worry about an active cooktop for an hour and can use that time to do whatever else you need to do…such as drink Hurricanes on your porch while flashing your neighbors for beads. This makes a huge batch, so there will be plenty of leftovers, but it freezes great, and I figure if you’re going to the trouble now, might as well save some trouble later. That said, feel free to use half the amount of rice if you want a smaller batch, just reduce the amount of chicken stock to 2 cups, and the water to one cup to start, reserving extra liquid in case it gets too thick. Now that you’re up to speed, all you need to do is find a biscuit, maybe a Hurricane, and get to cooking!

To Get:

1  tablespoon unsalted butter

1  tablespoon oil

1  package andouille sausage, links sliced into rounds (packages usually 10-16 ounces)

1  pound chicken breast, cut into one-inch cubes

2  teaspoons Cajun seasoning

1 1/2  cups each, white onion, celery and green bell pepper, chopped (roughly one medium onion, 4-5 celery stalks and one regular-sized pepper)

1  tablespoon garlic, minced

1  teaspoon dried thyme

1/2  teaspoon cayenne pepper powder

1  teaspoon file powder, optional

1  tablespoon tomato paste (no salt added, if available)

1  tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2  14.5-ounce cans of fire-roasted diced tomatoes

2  cups uncooked brown rice, rinsed and drained

2  bay leaves

4  cups unsalted chicken stock or broth

3  cups water

1  teaspoon kosher salt

1  teaspoon pepper

2  cups frozen okra, chopped, optional 

1/2  cup parsley, chopped

Hot sauce and chopped scallions, optional

To Do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cut the chicken into approximately 1-inch cubes, toss with the Cajun seasoning and set aside.
  3. Chop your veggies. Separately, slice the andouille sausage into 1/2-inch rounds.
  4. Heat the butter and oil in a Dutch oven or oven-proof pan with a lid over medium heat.
  5. Add the sliced sausages and cook for a few minutes until they begin to brown on both side.
  6. Remove the sausage to a plate and set aside. Add the cubed chicken to the pan and brown on all sides, this should take about 5 minutes. Remove chicken to the plate with the sausage.
  7. Add the veggies and spices (thyme, cayenne and file) to the pan with a pinch of salt and cook 5-10 minutes until they begin to soften. Next, add in the garlic, Worcestershire and tomato paste. Cook a minute or two.
  8. Increase the heat to high, and add the chicken, sausage, rice, tomatoes, chicken stock, water. Bring to a boil, cover and put in the oven.
  9. Bake for about 60 minutes or until the rice is tender. Add additional water, if necessary, to ensure that the consistency is stew-like.
  10. Alternatively, you can finish cooking on the stove top. Once it comes to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 45-60 minutes until the rice is tender. Add more liquid if the jambalaya gets too thick.
  11. When the rice is cooked, stir in the okra and parsley, cover and let rest 10 minutes.
  12. Garnish with some chopped scallions or parsley, serve and nosh.

Serves 8

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