In honor of Fat Tuesday and the Mardi Gras celebrations going on in New Orleans, I decided to cook up a batch of Jambalaya. Growing up in Arkansas (located directly above Louisiana in case you’re geographically challenged) I made my first trip to Mardi Gras during my sophomore year of college when I decided to take a “break” from academics. Naturally, my parents were not keen on this idea, but I did return and get that BA 🙂 Whether for business or pleasure, a visit to the Big Easy is an experience of food, music, culture,and history like you’ve never experienced!
I’m elated to see N’Awlins rising like a phoenix from the ashes of Katrina and experiencing a “perfect storm” of sorts with celebrations for their Super Bowl win merging into the city’s infamous Mardi Gras. I’m sure I’m not the only person wishing they could be part of the amazing energy blessing this historical city. For a peek inside, visit Chef Ryan Boudreaux‘s website where you’ll find all kinds of interesting info about the food and music of Mardi Gras and other New Orleans history, traditions, and landmarks.
Louisiana is known for foods with intriguing names such as jambalaya, gumbo, and étoufée. The origin of word jambalaya is most commonly thought to come from the French word for ham, jambon, and the West African word for rice, ya, joined together with the French contraction “a la” (meaning in the style of).
There are two kinds of jambalaya: Creole Jambalaya and Cajun Jambalaya. Creole Jambalaya originated in the European sector of the French Quarter and includes tomatoes. It was an attempt by Spanish settlers to recreate their beloved paella using tomatoes as a substitute for the saffron which was not readily available in the New World. Cajun Jambalaya originates from the low, lying rural swamp areas of Louisiana and is known as “Brown Jambalaya” in New Orleans – tomatoes are not used in Cajun Jambalaya. You can read more about the origins of Jambalaya here.
Buy organic ingredients whenever you can and chicken that is labeled “raised without antibiotics and not fed animal by-products” such as this brand called “Smart Chicken”. This recipe includes the “trinity” of onions, green bell peppers, and celery.
Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya
3 lbs. chicken breast halves and thighs (with skin and bones)
2 T. canola oil
1 lb. andouille* or other spicy smoked sausage, cut crosswise into ¼” slices
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, cored and chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 c. organic chicken stock or broth, divided use
1 (14-16 ounces) can organic diced tomatoes
¼ t. cayenne pepper
1 ½ c. long grain rice, rinsed and drained well**
1 c. thinly sliced scallions, green part only
*Andouille sausage can be found in most markets. It has a unique smoky, spicy flavor. ** I prefer brown rice, but white long grain is traditionally used.
Pat chicken dry and season with salt. Trim excess fat if desired. Heat 2 T. oil in large cast iron skillet* or dutch oven over med-high heat. Brown chicken in batches, without crowding, turning once, approx. 6 to 8 minutes total. Transfer to a bowl as browned. Brown the sausage and set aside.
Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet. Cook onions, green pepper, and celery over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and golden, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add 1 cup stock, cook, stirring, 1 minute.
Add chicken and sausage, stir in remaining 3 cups stock, rice, tomatoes, and cayenne. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until chicken is tender, about 30 – 35 minutes.
*A skillet may not be large enough to add the remaining broth and cook the rice with the other ingredients. If so, cook the rice on the side – still yummy!
Serve with crusty bread to sop up all the delicious juices.