This year, my Fat Tuesday recipe is Jambalaya. Jambalaya is the Cajun version of chicken and rice – a dish that exists all over the world, wherever rice is grown. Jambalaya, Paella, Arroz con Pollo – it’s all chicken and rice, the rest is just detail. As with all chicken and rice dishes, the goal is great rice. The other ingredients are just supporting players, there to add flavor to the rice.
Jambalaya goes together like a stew. Brown the meat, saute the aromatics, add the rice and liquid, and cook until the rice is tender, with a thin layer of browned rice on the bottom. The rice comes out carrying the flavors from the other ingredients – Cajun spices, meaty sausage and chicken, sweet aromatics, and of course, a big hit of garlic. When serving, make sure to scrape some of the browned rice from the bottom of the pot into every serving; the crunch of the browned rice adds a delicious counterpoint to the rest of ingredients.
I was almost able to slip this one past my kids. Almost. Their love of rice got them to try it. Natalie enjoyed it, and came back for seconds. Tim ate a bowlful of the rice by carefully fishing the rice out with his spoon, avoiding the “yucky stuff” like peppers, and onions. Ben had his mandatory taste, then asked if he could ask the question of the day.
*Oh, well, one and a half out of three is a pretty good batting average for me.
Forget about the kids, though. I couldn’t stop eating it. I love how the rice is packed with flavor. Want some spicy rice for Mardi Gras? Here’s the recipe for you.
Cook time: 65 minutes
- 6 quart or larger heavy dutch oven with a lid (I love my All Clad 8 quart stock pot for this, but any good, heavy bottomed dutch oven will work.)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken, cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks (Skin on if you can find it, and I prefer dark meat chicken for this recipe)
- 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning (store bought is fine)
- 1 pound smoked sausage, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices (andouille sausage is traditional)
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 3 cups medium-grain rice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 1/2 cups water
- 1 green onion, sliced thin
1. Brown the meat: Toss the chicken with 2 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning. In a large dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the sausage to the dutch oven and cook until browned on one side, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sausage to a bowl. Add the chicken to the dutch oven (skin side down if it has skin), and cook for 4 minutes or until golden brown. Flip the chicken pieces and cook until the second side is golden brown, about 4 more minutes, then remove the chicken to the bowl.
2. Saute the vegetables: Add the onions, bell pepper, celery, and sprinkle with the 1/2 tsp salt. Cook, stirring often and scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan until the onions are well browned, about 10 minutes. Make a hole in the onions and add the garlic and 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning. Let cook until you can just smell the garlic, about 1 minute, then stir the garlic and seasoning into the vegetable mix. Add 1/4 cup white wine and scrape all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
3. Cook the jambalaya: Add the rice, 1 teaspoon salt, Tabasco, and bay leaf to the dutch oven, then stir until the rice is evenly coated with all the other ingredients. Add the water, and stir again. Spread the chicken and sausage on top of the rice, pouring any juices from the bowl into the dutch oven. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat, and let the rice finish cooking in the residual heat for 10 minutes with the lid on.
4. Serve: Move the jambalaya to a serving platter, sprinkle with the green onion, and serve with Tabasco sauce on the side.
*I use a lot of finesse with this recipe, to add layers of flavor. If you’re in a hurry, skip the following:
- Browning the sausage (and, if you’re really in a hurry, browning the chicken)
- Deglazing the pan with white wine
- Stirring the rice, salt, Tabasco, and bay leaf before adding the water – dump ’em all in there together
- Letting the rice rest for 10 minutes – when it’s done, serve it up!
*Make your own Cajun seasoning – coming Thursday!
*This really is Cajun paella – I can’t wait to try this on the grill in my paella pan next summer.
What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
Emeril Lagasse, Andouille and Chicken Jambalaya
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