The other day I thought I might like to make a big old pot of that Classic New Orleans dish Jambalaya, so I began searching around for a recipe. When I thought of Louisiana chefs and Cajun and Creole style New Orleans cooking, the first to come to mind was Emeril Lagasse. No I lie. Truth be told, the first was actually the Cajun Cook Justin Wilson. What a hoot he was! But Emeril’s name followed quickly behind and I was able to find this great recipe of his for Chicken & Andouille Jambalaya. I did find quite a few others that included shrimp or some other seafood. But that is a big “no-no” in this house. Indeed you may have noticed I’ve never blogged any seafood recipe, which might seem a bit weird considering I hail from an Island in the Chesapeake Bay. My father is a 6th generation commercial fisherman (“waterman” as they are called on the island) and I grew up eating seafood for dinner at least a couple of times a week. More shellfish, crabs, clams and oysters, than fin fish, but I’ve eaten and watched my mom prepare a whole lot of seafood. So why the scarcity of it on my blog? My husband is allergic to seafood. Yup. All of it. Fish and shellfish. I remember when I told my parents of his “condition” they kind of looked at me blankly and said “Well what does he eat?” Somehow he has managed to get by and before you start feeling too sorry for him, he doesn’t really know what he is missing. Rather than acquiring the allergy later in life, he has had it from the get go. So he doesn’t feel deprived in the least and associates eating seafood with unpleasant things like projectile puking. So…..no seafood is happening around this place!
As I set out to making this dish, I started wondering what was the difference between a Jambalaya and a Gumbo. After a bit of research I found that although they both come from Louisiana there are several distinguishing characteristics of each one . Gumbo is a thick soup or stew, often made with a roux, and according to many can not be considered gumbo unless okra is one of the ingredients. It is served over or along side of rice. Now Jambalaya, on the other hand, is more of a casserole in which the rice is cooked in the same pot as the other ingredients. If the Jambalaya has tomatoes in it, as this one does, it is Creole Jambalaya. If there are no tomatoes, it is considered Cajun Jambalaya. Now, what about that name? It is certainly fun to say, but where in the world did it come from? Turns out they don’t really know, but there are a few myths and legends surrounding it. One is that it is a combination of the French word for ham “jambon”, “à la” (with) and “ya” which is an African word for rice. So, jambon à la ya, or ham with rice. Then there is the story that says it comes from a misunderstanding. Apparently, so it goes, there was a traveller who arrived at a New Orleans Inn long after dinner hours, but was hungry. So the Inn keeper shouted to his cook, whose name was Jean, “Jean, throw something together.” Except he said it in the local speak of the time, so it was a bit more like “Jean balayez” , which the late dinner guest interpreted as a request for a dish called Jambalaya. But perhaps it has a Native American origin. The Atakapa Indians have a saying which is their equivalent of the French Bon Appetit. It means “Be full, not skinny. Eat up!” and is said “Sham, pal ha. Ya!” Hmmm…which is your favourite?
Well you won’t have long to ponder it, because this delicious seafood free Jambalaya is easy to make, only dirties one pot and doesn’t take very long to cook at all. I only made a few alterations from Emeril’s original recipe. He calls for Green Pepper, which I do not care for. I like red peppers and yellow peppers, but something about those green ones just bugs me. So I used a red pepper instead. Another big difference is that the original recipe calls for leaving the chicken thighs whole in the finished dish. So when you serve, each guest would get their own piece of chicken. I decided I would rather have the chicken off the bone and shredded. I noted in the recipe below at which point you could do this if you would like. Whether you add this step in or omit it altogether, you will be thrilled with the finished dish, full of tender chicken, spicy sausage and vegetables. Real Creole comfort food. We like it really hot around here, so I served mine with lashings of Tabasco sauce and a side of cornbread. Whooeee…. I guarantee it will put a smile on your face!
Chicken & Andouille Jambalaya
recipe slightly adapted from: Emeril Lagasse
yield: 6-8 servings
- 3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, about 6, trimmed of excess fat
- 2½ teaspoons salt
- 1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 1½ pounds smoked andouille sausage, cut into ½ inch dice
- 2 large yellow onions, chopped
- 4 medium ribs celery, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 bunch scallions, finely chopped, green and white parts reserved separately
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chiles, with juices
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crumbled between your fingers
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- ½ teaspoon Tabasco or hot pepper sauce
- 1½ teaspoons Creole Seasoning
- 4 cups chicken stock or canned, low-sodium chicken broth
- One 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with juices
- 3 cups long grain white rice
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
Season the chicken on both sides with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the black pepper. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add the chicken to the Dutch oven and cook until browned on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side, working in batches as necessary. Transfer the browned chicken to a platter and set aside.
Add the sausage to the Dutch oven, reduce the heat to medium high, and cook, stirring until the sausage is browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the sausage to the same platter with the chicken. Add the onions, celery, bell pepper, scallion bottoms, garlic, and tomato paste to the Dutch oven and sauté over medium heat until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the green chiles, thyme, bay leaf, crushed red pepper, hot sauce, and Essence. Return the chicken and sausage to the pan, along with the chicken stock and diced tomatoes and bring to a brisk simmer. Cover and reduce the heat to low and cook for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is nearly tender and the broth has absorbed the flavor of the sausage and the seasonings.
Once the chicken is tender, remove it from pot and set aside to cool to the point that you can handle it. Remove meat from the bones and shred it. Add shredded meat back to Dutch oven. (This step can be skipped if you prefer to have whole chicken thighs in the jambalaya.)
Increase the heat to high and add the rice, the chopped scallion tops, and the remaining salt and pepper. Stir well and return to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the rice is cooked and has absorbed all the liquid, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, gently stir in the parsley, cover, and let stand 15 minutes before serving.