Jambalaya

Gone are the long summer days with scorching three digit weather. The heat beating down on our barely-clothed bodies is now behind us. It is in the past. We say goodbye to artificial cold air better known to us as the AC. We bid adieu to shorts, skirts and tanks. Sunglasses we break them. Bathing suits we toss them. Flip flops we trash them. Maybe I exaggerate and we do not go to such extremes but we just put them in the closet far away from sight. We pull out such luxuries as coats, scarves, gloves and knitted socks. For us Southern Californian’s these are luxuries because we take them out for a day and then we are forced to retire them as quickly as we brought them out. But we are not complaining. We will take what we can get. We grab whatever is given to us when it is given to us. We welcome with open arms shorter days with cooler weather. Those overcast mornings and chilly nights. The sun is no longer our arch nemesis—trying to kill us—rather we are excited to see it. The sun is now our friend. We look up and even give it a smile from time to time when we spot it peeking through the clouds. Its rays warming and lighting the way, not heating and killing.

Autumn has finally arrived. It has presented itself at the perfect time. The most opportune moment. Just when we thought that summer was going to murder us with its excessive heat, the Fall came and relieved with its brilliant colors and decadent aroma. Yes, there is an aroma to Autumn. Walk outside at five in the evening—just when the sun is beginning its slow descent— take one giant whiff. Devour all that Autumn has to offer. Inhale that chilly breeze. The leaves changing colors, they begin to fall and swirl down to the ground. As you walk back home, admire the environment all around you. Remove your hat and tip your head to your neighbors passing by walking their dogs. The warmth from the houses down the street, to the left and right of you is contagious. Their doors are closed keeping the cold air out and the warm happiness in. The yellow light within, seeps through the curtained windows, casting a glow onto their garden. Onto their lawn. Onto their picket fence. It barely reaches you, but it’s enough to make you smile. You tighten your scarf closer around your neck and you continue your walk back home taking in all your surroundings.

As you walk home wearing your warm pants, heavy coat, scarf, gloves and beanie, you begin to be thankful that summer is over. No longer because of the heat and worrying about staying cool, but rather you are thankful because of something entirely different. Something entirely selfish. You stop in your tracks. Right there in the middle of the sidewalk, halfway home, you stall. You do a little jump kick out of sheer enthusiasm for you have just realized that you no longer have to eat super healthy and watch your figure because you have to dip into a bathing suit. Gone are the bikini days that summer brings with it. Happy are you for finally being able to eat buckets full of carbs and comfort food to your heart’s content. I cannot help but think that this is the cycle of life. You spend spring worrying and exercising for summer. And then you spend autumn and winter eating and not worrying. Then spring comes around and it starts up again. Perhaps I’m just projecting. Whatever the case might be, you begin to walk again, but this time you walk with a bounce in your step and a grand idea on your mind. The temperature has dropped and it could be perfect for a soup. But you do not want to make soup for dinner tonight. No, you want something special. You yearn for something heartier. Something more filling. You want to fill your house with wonderful smells from spices and fresh herbs. You shall make a Jambalaya. Because you want to bring that Southern cajun-creole excitement into your home.

Here’s what you will need.

Let’s start by cutting all the veggies.

It wouldn’t be a Jambalaya without these essential vegetables.

They are crucial to cajun cooking.

First up, is an onion. Peeled and diced.

  

In the words of one Frank Sinatra, “You can’t have one, you can’t have one, you can’t have one without the oooooooooooother.” Well much like in Love and Marriage, in cooking you cannot have onion without garlic, so chop up a couple cloves.

Next up are the bell peppers.

You’ll need one red and one green.

Remove the stem, seeds and ribs.

I go around cutting away from the center, until you end up with large pieces of the bell pepper. Toss the center stem and seeds.

Do that to both the red and the green bell pepper.

 

Then, give them a chop so that they are similar in size to the chopped onion.

The red and the green.

 

Did you see what I just did there, not once but twice? Eh eh eh? Magic.

And now for some celery.

Grab some of the hearts of celery pieces, the ones deep inside the center with the leafy greens attached.

I’ve seen some people remove the leafy greens and toss them away. STOP! Don’t do that! What’s a matter with you? There’s tons of flavor there.

Give the leafy greens a chop as well.

So now that the onion, garlic, bell peppers and celery are chopped, this is what is called the “Holy Trinity” in cajun, creole, Louisiana cooking. Most dishes are started with these veggies. They add tons of flavor to the dish.

There you go, you learned something new. And if you already knew this, well then, pretend like you’ve just learned it, for my sake.

Sometimes I like to get all the chopping done at the beginning. Just get it out of the way. It makes cooking a lot easier and faster.

So let’s do that now, might as well get it all out of the way.

We’re going to need tomatoes later on, so we’ll chop them now.

Give them a rough chop, and make sure they are relatively the same size as all the rest of the veggies. That way, everything cooks at the same time.

Run your knife through some scallions as well.

Chop chop chop.

Or I guess I should say…

Slice slice slice.

Keep the veggies off to the side, as we prep some of the other components of the dish.

For this recipe, it’s easier to have everything prepped and ready to go, that way when you start cooking all the ingredients are lined up and easier to access.

Let’s prep the shrimp shall we? I buy deveined shrimp with the shell on. It’s already cleaned for you, you just have to peel the shrimp.

  

Drop the peeled shrimp in a bowl and discard the shells.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge until ready to use.

And now for the chicken.

I’m using all white meat chicken. So, two chicken breasts, but you can use dark meat if you’d like, from the thigh.

I like to trick myself into eating “healthier” so I just use white meat.

Cut the chicken into large chunks placing the chunks in a mixing bowl.

**Tip: Use a plastic cutting board that is designated for raw poultry to cut the chicken, that way you don’t cross contaminate anything. Safety first.**

We’re going to season the chicken, because it’s crucial to season every step of this dish.

Season with:

Black Pepper

Salt

Garlic Powder

Onion Powder

Chili Powder

  

 

Give it all a mix.

Make sure the chicken is fully coated with all the spices and seasonings.

Okay now, wash up really good. Clean and sanitize the plastic cutting board, the knife and your hands, before you continue. It’s very important to always wash your hands thoroughly when handling raw poultry.

Forget about the seasoned chicken for a bit. Let it sit and marinate.

Cut the sausage.

This isn’t any ol’ regular sausage. No, this is a cajun andouille sausage. It’s delicious.

Slice it.

Okay now it’s time to start cooking. I know, I know, finally right? This is a cooking/baking blog not a chopping and prepping blog after all.

So heat a large, heavy duty, pot—I use a dutch oven—over medium high heat.

Drizzle in a bit of oil. Vegetable or canola oil will do just fine.

Add the sliced andouille sausage to the hot pot.

We’re cooking this dish in stages.

This is the first stage.

Browning the sausage. It develops flavor when we brown it first. Plus it gives the sausage a delicious crispy texture.

 

Cook the sausage, turning occasionally, until brown all around.

Once crispy and golden, transfer the sausage to a plate.

The second step is to brown the chicken.

Again, this develops flavor and texture.

Add a bit more oil to the pan, and place in enough chicken so as to not overcrowd the pan.

**Note: You might have to cook the chicken in batches. You do not want to add too much chicken at once because it could cause the moisture to release in the pan and then you’ll end up boiling the chicken instead of browning it, and that’s not our goal here. So cook it in batches. One single layer of chicken at a time.**

Grab that chicken we seasoned earlier, and place a few pieces, carefully, in the hot pan.

Brown on all sides. The chicken doesn’t have to be fully cooked at this stage. We are just browning it, it will finish cooking later on when we add it back to the pot. So for now just worry about creating that delicious crust. Transfer the browned chicken to a plate and continue these steps with the remaining chicken.

 

Okay, so the sausage is cooked.

The chicken has browned.

We have this pot full of flavor, what do we do now?

Well, the next stage is to cook the veggies. Yes, the veggies. Remember all those vegetables we cut earlier? Well now’s the time to cook them all. We’re going to sauté them.

Add a couple tablespoons of butter. And a couple is two okay? Don’t go crazy and add more than that. Two is good.

Now I know what you must be thinking right about now. “Jonathan you’re going to continue to use that pot? But it’s all burnt and brown and crudy at the bottom. Shouldn’t you get a new one?”

NO! Not at all! This, my friends, is what we in the foodie world call flavor and seasoning. The whole point of searing the sausage and chicken first is to develop that layer of flavor. The browned bits on the bottom of the pot will lift up as we continue to cook this dish, giving it all an incredible flavor. So do not worry. Just do as I say.

Once the butter has melted, add the onions and toss around.

 Add the garlic.

Toss around until fully incorporated.

Sauté the onions and garlic until translucent and caramelized, about 5 minutes.

Add the celery and cook for another minute or two.

Cook the celery for about two minutes.

And then add the peppers.

Toss everything together once more.

Add in a couple bay leaves and a few sprigs of thyme. Remember to fish those out at the  very end before serving.

Do you recall that tip I’ve taught you before? The one where you want to season every layer of each dish. It just ensures that there is a lot of flavor in the dish.

So throw in some dried oregano. Of all the herbs, oregano is the one herb I like using dried instead of the fresh.

**Tip: Fresh oregano is too strong and can over power a dish instantly so use dried instead. But if you happen to have fresh oregano on hand then just use less of it.**

Crush the dried oregano in the palm of your hands before you add it to the pot, to awaken the flavor.

Add black pepper.

I don’t like to add salt because I find celery to be salty so I don’t want to over salt and have people choke.

So just some black pepper.

Stir everything together. All the veggies and the seasonings you just added.

Add the tomatoes last as they’ll release their liquids and prevent the veggies from sautéing properly. So once all the vegetables are soft and translucent, add the tomatoes and stir.

Throw in the worchestire sauce.

And the tomato paste.

Use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pot and pick up all those wonderful pan drippings.

Return the cooked sausage and browned chicken back to the pot of veggies.

Stir everything together.

Add the chicken stock.

 

A watched pot never boils so place a lid on it and bring to a rolling boil.

 

Once the stock has come to a boil, add the rinsed long grain rice.

Stir the rice in, and replace the lid.

Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 20 minutes, until the rice is tender and all the liquid has evaporated.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, but not really, back in the kitchen let’s prep the remaining ingredients while we wait for the rice to completely cook and get soft and tender and deliciously flavorful and for the liquid to evaporate.

First up, parsley.

Italian flat leaf parsley. I don’t really care for curly parsley. Sorry. I just don’t think it has flavor. I could be wrong. I just don’t like it. I prejudice against the curly variety.

Run your knife through the parsley like a bloody massacre, but without all the blood just the massacre.

I realized that I didn’t take a picture of the chopped parsley. Yes, we all know what chopped parsley looks like and I’m sure it’s not vital to this post, but I have OCD (Not really) and I NEED my chopped parsley shot. How could I forget it?!?!

Oh well, I must move on.

Cut a fresh lemon in half.

Oh look there’s the chopped parsley in the background!! There it is!

I guess that will have to do.

Anyhow, the time has come to unveil our dish. The rice has cooked. 2o minutes have passed. Magic.

Lift up the lid, carefully lift up the lid, and allow the angels to sing down and shine light upon this glorious moment. Look at this beautiful sight.

Okay we’re reaching the finish line here. Almost done. We need to add the last couple of ingredients. Remember the peeled shrimp from earlier? Grab it from the fridge and add it to the pot.

Add the sliced scallions, reserved from earlier and the chopped parsley, that of which I failed to take a picture of. I don’t forget such things. It’s implanted in my brain forever and ever.

 

Squeeze in the fresh lemon juice.

These next steps are vital.

Turn off the flame.

Stir everything together.

Cover.

Walk away for 15 minutes.

Yes with the flame off.

“But the shrimp isn’t cooked and we just turned off the flame! We’re going to eat raw shrimp.” No, no, no. It’s all okay, young grasshoppers. The jambalaya is still extremely hot, the shrimp will steam and be perfectly cooked this way. They wont be overcooked like they would have been if you left the flame on. They’d be rubbery pieces of rubber. We don’t want that.

Just walk away with the stove off.

After 15 minutes, you’re on the verge of starvation and all you want to do is eat the Jambalaya straight from the pot. But don’t worry the time is upon us. Uncover it.

Boom I just blew your mind. But not really because it’s super simple.

Transfer the jambalaya to a serving bowl. Why? Because we’re not animals!

We have to make it look nice.

Oh speaking of nice, do not forget to remove the bay leaves and the thyme stems because someone could bite into them and it would be bad, for them. Funny for us, but bad for them.

 

Wasn’t this an easy dish to make? Make it everyday. All of autumn.

Maybe not everyday, because you’d get bored. But I highly doubt you would get bored. It’s pret-ty awesome.

If there were ever a dish where I said that you should make a giant pot even if it’s just for you so you could eat it all by yourself, it’s this dish. Jambalaya is the best thing ever. EVER.

 

I’ve run out of things to say. I think I’ve done a great job in convincing you to make it. Make it now.

Warm up your house with a giant pot of Jambalaya.

Spice up your week with a giant pot of Jambalaya.

Jazz up your life with a giant pot of Jambalaya.

Make your family go crazy with a giant pot of Jambalaya.

Enjoy.

 

Comments

  1. avatar says

    Have always looked at Jambalaya in cook books and thought it was too complicated, but you made it seem so simple!! I will definitely have to give this a try :)

  2. avatarLyndee says

    I made this last night & it was amazing! The seasonings are perfect. It does make a huge batch! Next time I’m going to try to half it, it’s just myself & my husband!

  3. avatarKay says

    So I made this today – it made a pretty big batch! I halved the amount of rice and of stock (my mom said 3 cups of rice would feed a dozen people and there are only 4 of us). Instead of parsley, I used cilantro. And I used some cheap low-fat turkey sausage. It came out delicious!

    Though, now, I wish I had put some shrimp…

  4. avatarBeth says

    This recipe was the first dinner I made in my new Dutch Oven and it turned out perfectly. A hug hit with my family! Thank you so much!
    Loved the simple breakdown, the photos, and the easy humor. I’ve subscribed… Can’t wait to try more of your recipes and my family is eager as well.

  5. avatar says

    Jonathan! Not only was this dish a huge hit with my family (my husband is still raving about it!) but I LOVE the step by step photography as well. Beautiful, clear pictures and easy to follow instructions made this recipe a breeze, and also very delicious! I may just make a giant pot every week and make my family go crazy! Thank you! ;)

    • avatar says

      Thank you very much! I am so happy to hear that it was such a success with your family. Thank you for trying it out. I’m so glad to hear that you love the step by step images. I’m also glad to hear that your didn’t get lost with my instructions. I hope you make it again soon, I’m sure your family will thank you!!

  6. avatarTheresa says

    Hi Jonathan,
    Wanted to say thank you for the recipe I have always wanted to try this but was unsure of my self you made it look so easy and it was so thank you again.
    Theresa

  7. avatarBarbara says

    Absolutely delicious! This was amazing….made it for dinner tonight and my family loved it and my brother who lived in Louisiana gave it 5 stars. Thank you so much for sharing this amazing dish!

  8. avatarLyndee says

    I’ve mad this several times, and always good! I’m thinking of trying it with brown rice. Have you tried it? Any luck?

    • avatar says

      Thank you for trying it out!! Hmm..I’ve never tried it with brown rice. I would recommend cooking the jambalaya like a stew and making the brown rice separately. Then just serving the brown rice on top. That would probably be a safe bet.

  9. avatarGeni says

    This was a long process but your writing made me laugh and made it fun to cook. This was amazing!! I never thought I would be able to make jambalaya! Thank you!!!

  10. avatar says

    I just had a mouth orgasm reading/looking at your blog! Definitely planning on trying out some (but most likely all) of your recipes. Thanks!

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