Jambalaya!

Mmmmm… so tasty!

I’m trying to recall if I’ve ever eaten jambalaya before — either at a friend’s house or at a restaurant or wherever, and as far as I can remember I’m pretty sure that I’ve never had it. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never had it… or if I have it was a poor representation of the dish and I’ve subsequently erased the whole episode from my mind, which is a possibility.

Last Saturday we were invited to an old coworker’s of The Hubbs’ for dindin and unfortunately, as wonderful a cook as his wife is, she had a bit of a disaster happen with her attempt at jambalaya and as a result I’ve been rather craving something that is a little bit better. I have to laugh because the way she was telling it, the whole dish just became a comedy of errors from the get-go: when she decided to make the jambalaya, it turned out she didn’t have a lot of the ingredients. Then she accidentally burnt the rice. In an attempt to salvage what rice there was unscathed by the burning, she decided that the addition of tomato sauce & cayenne pepper might work. It basically ended up being a mildly spicy tomato rice dish. It was okay, but it wasn’t jambalaya and it was a little too sweet for me.

So after that whole fiasco, my tastebuds were in great need of a more recognizeable interpretation of jambalaya — I have to laugh at myself, because once again, my tastebuds have decided to crave something in which I’ve never eaten before and so I didn’t know quite what to expect when we finally got to eating supper tonight.

Sunday night I had taken out some chicken thighs to defrost with the intention of making jambalaya later in the week. I knew that at some point I would have to do some grocery shopping for the remaining ingredients which I didn’t have and all I vaguely knew was that I would need some sausages and maybe some shrimp. Beyond that I figured I probably had everything else on hand — well, I was mostly correct. The only thing I was missing was the bell pepper and lucky enough for me, Mom had some red ones and gave me one this afternoon.

I am pretty sure that the jambalaya I made isn’t authentic — what is an authentic recipe, anyhow? Is there such a thing anymore? Mom does weird stuff like cutting ingredients out or adding stuff that totally clashes with the dish on the grounds that it’s supposed to make a recipe “healthier” and then it doesn’t even resemble the original anymore, that just irks me to death. I dunno, maybe I’m just being nit-picky, fussy and closed-minded. *RAWR!*

Anyhow, back to my jambalaya…

Jambalaya

I’m pretty sure I don’t actually own a cookbook with a recipe for jambalaya, but I do own Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything for my iPad! As much as I love downloading cooking apps, I have a hard time cooking with my iPad — it’s just too dangerous! I get stuff everywhere when I cook & bake! I am pretty sure that iPads don’t like getting sticky, messy and spilled upon, so I tend to only read(?) the apps from start to finish, playing all the videos and making sure to bookmark/star all the recipes that interest me for future reference when I’m feeling more brave about taking my iPad into the kitchen. I admit, lately I’ve been using it more often in the kitchen, but I’m terrified of getting stuff all over it still. It does make cooking so much easier when you have the recipe right in front of you, but sticky/dirty fingers do not mix with touchpads and that is something I’m going to have to rectify soon. I’ve read that you can put your iPad into a big ziplock freezer bag and you can still use the touchscreen without any problems, so that is probably something I ought to try before I really get junk all over the screen or spill something on it.

According to Mark Bittman’s recipe, making a version of jambalaya using only chicken & sausage and omitting the tomatoes, changes the name slightly and is referred to as a “brown jambalaya”. I happen to like the taste of rice & tomatoes, so I decided to keep the tomato component in my version by using a can of tomato sauce, which reduced the amount liquid, in this case chicken broth, required to cook the rice.

I have to say, for my first attempt at jambalaya, I’m really, really impressed. It was so incredibly tasty and pretty easy to make, too! I didn’t think that jambalaya would be complicated to make, but I didn’t think it would be as easy as just continuously adding more ingredients to the pot as the last one finished cooking and then finishing it off by just letting everything come together as you stirred it all around so stuff wouldn’t stick to the bottom of the pot and burn. Me likies jambalaya! The Hubbs really enjoyed it too, which pretty much made the recipe a winner and absolutely worth keeping as it was written.

As a side note: The Hubbs did mention that jambalaya tends to be quite hot & spicy, so I guess I did make it a lot less spicier than it could have been, but the recipe only called for a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. It was just pleasantly piquante, for my tastebuds and I was perfectly content with that but if you like your food spicier, by all means have at it and add as much as you need to please your tastebuds! Oh and I didn’t have andouille sausages. I have no idea where to buy those actually, so I just used a plain pork sausage instead. I enjoyed the resulting flavours from having such a mild sausage in the dish, a lot of people might actually be highly offended that I omittied a pretty crucial ingredient from the recipe, but sometimes you have to make do with what you’ve got.

Jambalaya
olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 bell pepper, diced
4 cups chicken stock
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 tsp dried thyme
1 can (398ml) tomato sauce
2 cups long-grain rice
4 chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
2 pork sausages, cut into bite sized pieces
2 handfuls shrimp, shelled, deveined & defrosted (optional)
minced fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish
salt & pepper, to taste

Heat enough olive oil over medium high heat to coat the bottom of a large cast iron dutch oven.
Add the onions, garlic and bell pepper, season with salt and pepper and cook until the onion softens and just begins to brown.
Push the veggies aside, add the sausage pieces and cook until the fat renders out and pieces start to brown nicely.
Add the chicken, cooking until the pieces are no longer raw looking on the outside, then season with cayenne and thyme, stirring well to combine.
Stir in rice, making sure stuff isn’t sticking to the bottom, and let everything cook for a few minutes just to absorb all the yummy meaty juices.
Pour in tomato sauce and chicken stock, bring everything to the boil, stirring constantly.
Turn heat down to medium and cook uncovered, stirring occassionally so bottom doesn’t stick, until rice is tender and liquid’s absorbed — about 20-30 minutes.
When rice is cooked, if using shrimp, stir them into the rice, let cook 2-3 minutes until then turn off the heat, cover and let rest for 10-20 minutes.
Top with your choice of garnish and serve.

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