There is no one cookbook you can buy to learn how to cook heartfelt New Orleans food. To learn to cook food from the south, I think you first have to learn how to EAT food from the south. More specifically, learning to discern what to eat from whom. Everyone has their specialties – the dish that comes from their bones though their heart and hands and subsequently into my grateful belly. I want the good stuff, please and thank you. Today let’s play with one very fine jambalaya recipe.
I’m forever learning how to eat in New Orleans which means I’ll be forever learning how to cook the truly glorious food in this place I get to call home. Here are my notes after seven good years here. This isn’t science, but it’s what I know to be true.
• I love chicken and andouille gumbo from anyone’s mother over the age of 60 or so – someone patient enough to get to a dark dark roux.
• I want seafood gumbo from my handyman Brodery because his gumbo is filled the literal brim with local seafood.
• I want jambalaya from anyone’s dad (or really, any Southern man over the ago of 55). I don’t know how to explain it but dads – especially rotary club dads – make the best jambalaya. Probably because their wives let them.
• I need fried catfish and sides during Lent especially from the catholic church in Gentilly. I don’t know who is in charge there but let’s just say that a lot of things are going right.
• I want Melissa’s crab claws and oyster gumbo and ok actually anything she cooks at all.
But wait – back to the jambalaya recipe! Today’s recipe is an invitation from Julia Turshen’s latest book Simply, Julia.
Julia is the friend who comes over with treats and toys for your pet. If that’s not a sure sign of a good person, I don’t know what is.
Julia writes unfussy, deeply comforting recipes for home cooks like us and her latest book feels so specific to Julia yet universal to all of our kitchens. I’ve already made two recipes from the book with heart warming success.
She shares this recipe from her friend Roger, a musician who studies Creole music and volunteers with Julia in the Hudson Valley. Just proof that home is anywhere there’s a pot of jambalaya.
I’ve gushed on about Julia’s recipes before. She did, after all, give us permission to fry our pistachios: Julia’s Fried Pistachios.
In related news, I also have a cheeky recipe for Breakfast Jambalaya here and listen… it’s the kind of breakfast that can get you through the entire weekend, amen.
There is always intention behind a pot of jambalaya. Jambalaya is meant to stretch protein either to feed an army or to feed a few for several days. It uses rice, spice, tomato, and broth to stretch stretch streeeetch the delicious of chicken, andouille, and shrimp so every bowl get at least a few good bites.
It’s the kind of dish always on the stove during Mardi Gras, because you never know who the spirits will bring to your door.
My last bowl of unexpected jambalaya came on voting day last year. A bunch of Jambalaya Dads (as I’ll lovingly refer to them) stood behind a folding table stacked high with individual containers of jambalaya. After voting they waved me over to the table for free lunch and insisted I take not just one, but two containers. I greedily ate one container on the walk back home and it was just the most unexpected blessing.
Here’s what you’ll need to make this Julia and Roger’s Jambalaya recipe:
• the trinity (yes, it’s holy): chopped onions, chopped green bell pepper, chopped celery.
• garlic, too. Also sacred.
• chicken, andouille sausage, and peeled shrimp. You can make this jambalaya as spendy or as frugal as you need. Leave the shrimp out if you prefer.
• chili powder, salt and pepper to season the chicken and the entire pot.
• tomato paste and canned crushed tomatoes. Tomato can be pretty controversial in jambalaya. Creole’s love a tomato while the Cajuns think it has no place in a jambalaya. Me? I love the tomato thankyouverymuch. I’ve chosen my side.
• long grain white rice and chicken stock for the meal stretch. (Ok… don’t tell a soul but I’ve also made jambalaya with quinoa successfully and it wasn’t half bad so if, dietarily, you need to do that you have my blessing.)
Let’s make jambalaya.
Cut chicken pieces (boneless skinless breasts or thighs are really good here) into bite-size pieces.
Toss is chili powder, salt, and pepper and brown in a heavy bottom Dutch oven along with andouille sausage pieces. Remove the cooked meat and allow to rest in a bowl, leaving the fat and flavor in the pan to layer in more ingredients.
In goes the trinity to soften and absorb all the flavors from our chicken and andouille saute.
Cook the vegetables down until tender and just beginning to brown – 7 to 10 minutes.
Add the garlic and tomato pasta and stir round the pan for a minute or so.
Stir in the crushed tomatoes, the cooked chicken and sausage and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer.
Stir in the rice. Reduce the stovetop to low. Cover and allow to rice to absorb all those delicious flavors as it cooks through.
Once the rice is cooked through and most of the liquid has been absorbed, stir in the shrimp, cover and allow to residual heat to cook the shrimp though.
Sneak a few bites of from the pot with a spoon – you do, after all, have to make sure the rice is tender and the seasoning is on point.
Serve with chopped parsley and scallions. Hot sauce and, very untraditionally, a lemon wedge to compliment the shrimp.
It’ll fill your belly with the warmth of the south. Gah! It’s simply the best. Please please, let this happen (and please welcome Simply, Julia) into your kitchens too. xoPrint
A comforting one-pot rice dinner from New Orleans.
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 pound (227 grams) smoked andouille sausage, cut into thin coins
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 large celery stalks, finely chopped
- 2 green bell peppers, seemed seeded and finely chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- One 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes in their juice
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup long grain white rice
- 1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (optional)
- A large handful thinly sliced green onions and parsley, for serving
- Place the chicken in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt, black pepper, chili powder and cayenne. Mix everything together and let the chicken sit at room temperature while you cook the sausage.
- Place the olive oil in a large heavy pot (like a Dutch oven) over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat has rendered and the sausage is crisped in spots, about 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage to a bowl, leaving the fat in the pot.
- Add the chicken to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally until it’s browned in spots and just cooked through, about 8 minutes. Use the slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to the bowl with the sausage.
- Add the onion, celery, and bell peppers to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re fragrant and softened, about 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring until very fragrant, just a minute or so. Add the diced tomatoes and their juice along with the chicken stock. Turn the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil before turning to low. Taste the mixture and season with salt to your taste.
- Stir in the reserved sausage and chicken along with the rice. Cover and cook just until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
- Uncover the pot and stir in the shrimp if you’re using them. Cover the pot, turn off the heat, and let the jambalaya sit so the shrimp cooks through with the residual heat and the rice has time to really soak everything in.
- Serve the jambalaya hot with a good sprinkle of green onions and parsley.
Photos with my friend Jon Melendez!