Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Man Can Cook #17: Jump Out Da Gym Jambalaya.

Admittedly, March Madness isn't among my favorite sporting events. NCAA basketball has lost it's shine in my eyes since so many of the players leave early to the NBA and because there is just so much of it on TV during the regular season, I'm approaching saturation point by the time March rolls around and the coverage goes to 11. That said, I know most folks don't feel the same way and are totally wrapped up in it so I thought I'd toss out a good, quick recipe to help you out in the event you are having a bunch of folks over on a weeknight to watch a few games.

This Jambalaya recipe is pretty quick and easy. The prep only takes a few minutes and it's on the table in about 45min flat. I'll include a couple of options in case you'd like to spruce it up when you've got more time.

  • Large Dutch Oven
  • 3 medium mixing bowls
  • Slotted spoon

  • 4 Boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 1" cubes (not breasts)
  • 4 Links of andouille sausage
  • 3/4lb Large fresh shrimp (peeled and deveined) 
  • 2/3c Crushed tomatoes (fresh is best, but use canned San Marzanos in the winter)
  • 1 Large yellow onion (coarsely chopped)
  • 1 Large green bell pepper (coarsely chopped)
  • 2 Large ribs of celery (coarsely chopped) 
  • 2tbsp Fresh crushed garlic (if 2 is good, 3-4 won't hurt)
  • 2-3 Bay leaves
  • 3/4c Long Grain white rice
  • 3c Chicken stock (home made is best, use low-salt store bought in a pinch)
  • 1tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1tbsp Commercial "hot sauce" (I prefer "Louisiana" brand for cajun dishes)
And a mix of spices consisting of the following; Equal parts (~1tsp) of :
Onion Powder
Hot Smoked Paprika
...and ~2tsp each of:
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
Granulated Garlic
..and though it's a major departure from tradition, I add about 1tsp of File. I like the flavor. 
So ya know....this spice mix makes for a pretty zingy batch of Jambalaya. Perfect for me, but some might find it a bit too warm to eat a lot of. Taste it first before you throw any additional hot sauce on it. It really wakes up on day #2.

Take your chicken cubes and put them in one of your small bowls and coat liberally with the spice mix and do the same with your shrimp, but in a different bowl. Set these aside for a bit while you heat your Dutch Oven over a medium flame with the olive oil. Once hot, toss in the sausage and get it relatively well browned. Remove the sausage from the pot with the slotted spoon and set it aside in the third clean bowl. Next, take your chicken and toss it in and give it a good browning.

This is important - Put the bowl that once contained raw chicken into the dishwasher. We don't want any of the rest of the food in contact with it.

You want the chicken almost completely cooked so if we are getting some crispy bits on the meat and in the pot you are on the right track. Once that is done remove the chicken to the same bowl as the sausage. Finally, toss in the shrimp and give them a very brief sear, 1.5min tops, and remove that as well.

Now, reduce the heat and throw in the onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic. The idea here is to sweat them until they are about 1/2-cooked. Once you get there, crank up the heat until things start to sizzle. At that point, toss in the bay leaf, tomatoes, hot sauce and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and toss in the rice, and the meat except for the shrimp. Simmer in a covered pot until the rice is almost cooked, then stir in the shrimp. By the time the rice is done, the shrimp should be good to go as well.

The whole dish takes 45min tops to make with the cooking consuming about 1/2. This recipe yields a fairly "meaty" Jambalaya which is the way I prefer it. Traditionally, rice is the dominant component of the dish. In this preparation, meat and rice are nearly equal by volume.
  • Some folks like different ratios of veg to meat to rice. My suggestion is that if you wish to increase any of the three, that you decrease to an equal extent, the others to keep things balanced and not throw off the seasoning and if you increase the rice, remember to increase the stock accordingly or it'll turn out quite dry. 
  • You can enhance the presentation a bit as well by using equal thirds red, yellow and green bell pepper.
  • You can really enhance the flavor as well by substituting the boneless/skinless chicken thighs with whole, skin-on thighs. Just be aware that they will take longer to cook. Put them in along with the liquids and let them simmer for ~20min before adding the rice. Continue as described above after.
  • One my favorite tweaks is to add 1/2-again as much (re: andoullie by weight) Tasso Ham. If that's too much meat for you, omit a link or two of the sausage. 
Prepared quickly, or with one of the above tweaks, serve your Jambalaya with some hot crusty french bread, and some "cooling" sides such as corn on the cob and cole-slaw or green salad...and of course, beer. If you haven't tried it, hunt down some Abitta Amber or Turbo-Dog. Abitta is a great little brewery that resides just outside of New Orleans. Bev-Mo usually has more than a few of their beers on hand. Buy em!



  1. I've never thought to brown the shrimp before hand. I've always just thrown it in the last 5 minutes. Do you brown 'til cooked, or just sear the outsides real quick?

    1. Sorry for the delay in responding. It's taken me ages to figure out the correct settings to allow for threaded replies.

      I just give them a quick sear over medium-high heat. IMO it improves the flavor and texture.