Jambalaya, traditional Mardi Gras fare, is a classic Creole (or Cajun) dish that combines rice with vegetables and a variety of meats, most often sausage, ham, chicken and seafood. It’s a hearty, flavorful dish that makes an entire meal in one bowl and is perfect for serving a crowd.
Creole-style jambalaya (in which tomatoes are used) originated in the French quarter of New Orleans, and is best cooked in a large, heavy, preferably cast iron pot. Cajun-style jambalaya, which is typically tomato-free, has its origins in the swampy regions of Louisiana, where shrimp, crawfish and game are readily available. Below is a recipe for classic Creole-style jambalaya; adjust the seasonings to suit your taste, add a few extra glugs of Tabasco if you like the heat, and double the recipe if you have more than 4-6 mouths to feed, or love leftovers. (Turn the leftovers into a quick gumbo by adding chicken stock and sliced okra.)
Chicken, Shrimp and Sausage Jambalaya
olive or canola oil, for cooking
4 chicken thighs, with skin and bones
1/2 lb. (250 g) kielbasa, andouille or hot Italian sausage, sliced or coarsely chopped
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
2-5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) long grain white rice
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. (5 mL) chili powder
1/2 tsp. (2.5 mL) salt
1/2 tsp. (2.5 mL) thyme
A few shakes of Tabasco sauce
2 1/2 cups (625 mL) chicken stock
1 – 14 oz. (398 mL) can diced or stewed tomatoes, undrained
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 lb. (250 g) large shrimp, peeled and deveined, with or without the tails on
Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken thighs for a few minutes, turning as necessary until they are browned on all sides. Remove them from the pot and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium; add the sausage to the pot and cook, stirring frequently, for a few minutes or until it’s browned. Remove from the pot and set aside.
Add the onion, pepper, celery and garlic to the pot and sauté for about 5 minutes, until tender. Add the rice and cook for a minute, stirring well. Add the cooked sausage, bay leaf, chili powder, salt, thyme and Tabasco.
Add the stock and diced tomatoes and stir everything together. Bring the mixture to a boil. Pull the skin off the chicken thighs and add them to the pot, meat-side down, on top of the rice. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Take off the lid and stir the jambalaya, keeping the chicken pieces more or less on top. Replace the lid and cook for another 15-20 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed, the rice is tender and the chicken is cooked through. Remove the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Scatter the shrimp over the jambalaya, cover and cook for 5-10 minutes, just until the shrimp are pink and opaque. Serve immediately. Serves 4-6.
Other things to do with it: Add 1-2 cups diced cooked ham instead of the sausage; add it at the point you would add the cooked sausage.
Photo credit: istockphoto.com/adlifemarketing