Jambalaya is such a fun dish for entertaining (I mean, come on, it’s even fun to say), and while it’s a little labor intensive, it’s fairly easy to get tasty results and happy guests. Last night, I made this for a Mardi Gras party, and I have to say, it turned out delicious. It was my first time putting together this particular recipe, and I definitely picked up some tips along the way. One thing I learned, is with a few extra special touches, you can take your jambalaya (how can you not smile?) from satisfying to sizzling.
One way to do this is to source the best possible Andouille sausage. The sausage truly flavors the entire dish so it is important to find the most authentic brand with the best possible quality. I found my source for Andouille in the resource section of Donald Link’s Real Cajun cookbook. I love combing through the resource section of a great chef’s cookbook, and with regional cuisine, it’s especially useful. Often, going out of your way to get that perfect, local type of X, Y or Z can transform your whole dish. For this recipe, I ordered my Andouille from Poche’s in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. So good!
If you know a little bit about Louisiana cooking, you probably already know that celery, onion, and green pepper form the aromatic “Holy Trinity” in Cajun and Creole cuisine. In this case, I replaced the green pepper with red because I think it has better flavor. For my canned tomatoes, I used a San Marzano variety. Whenever a recipe calls for canned tomatoes, I almost always reach for San Marzanos. They may cost a bit more than normal canned tomatoes, but in my opinion, the flavor more than makes up for the price. Trust me, paying attention to details like this will make your Jambalaya really stand out.
Cajun Chicken Jambalaya for a crowd
8 pieces of chicken (dark meat only – thighs and legs with bone and skin)
Salt and Pepper
2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil
2 pounds of Andouille sausage (sliced in coin size pieces)
2 cups of red peppers – small dice
2 cups of celery – small dice
2 yellow onions – small dice
3 cups long grain rice
7 cups of homemade chicken stock
2 tablespoons of minced garlic
2 28 ounce cans of whole plum tomatoes, I use San Marzano (drained of the liquid)
4 bay leaves (if using fresh bay, add 2 more)
5 fresh Thyme sprigs
4 green onion chopped for garnish
** I used The Spice Hunter’s Cajun Creole Seasoning, but use whatever seasoning you have on hand, just make sure it’s salt free. You can also make your own blend.
Dry the chicken pieces with paper towels and season both sides with salt, pepper, and Cajun Seasoning. Place a large, high sided, heavy bottomed pan or Dutch oven on medium high heat and add the oil. Brown chicken in oil in batches – about 5-7 minutes each side. Set aside on a clean platter and cover. When the chicken is cool to the touch, remove the skin and discard it.
In the same pan, lower heat to medium and cook the Andouille to render the fat for about 6 – 8 minutes, then remove it from pan onto a clean bowl or plate.
After you’ve set aside your chicken and your sausage, sauté “The Holy Trinity” (red pepper, celery, and onion) in the same pan until the onions are translucent and the veggies have released all of their moisture. Take this time to scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
Now, add the rice to the veggies and stir, coating each grain with the rendered fat (as you would for risotto) for about 5 minutes. Then, add the Andouille, tomatoes, chicken stock, bay leaves, and thyme. Place the chicken on top of the mixture and partially cover the pan with the lid slightly askew and cook for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, remove the chicken from the pot and stir the rice so the bottom layer doesn’t stick to the pan. After you remove the chicken turn the pan to low heat.
Now, using two forks, strip the chicken meat from the bone in pieces. Discard the bones (or save them to use for stock at a later date) and add the chicken to the rice mixture and stir to incorporate. Taste for seasoning and remove bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Garnish with green onion (maybe a little Tabasco if you’re feeling extra spicy) and serve.
Here is a photo of the King Cake from our Mardi Gras Party. I know, I know, the thing is ugly as sin, but boy was it good!