Thursday, May 3, 2007

Jambalaya

Out of the blue this afternoon came a major faunch for jambalaya, a dish which, though I have considerable experience eating it, I've never made before. Improvising and half-remembering recipes I've read, it went like this:

I seasoned a pound and a half of chicken legs with salt, black pepper, and cayenne and browned them in a half-inch of peanut oil in my new and very impressive Lodge cast-iron dutch oven. While they were browning, I chopped two celery ribs, half an enormous green bell pepper, and a big onion (the Cajun mirepoix, oui?), cubed three links of andouille sausage, and minced four cloves of garlic.

When the chicken was golden brown, I pulled it out and drained it on paper towels and spooned most of the oil out of the pot. In went the mirepoix, to sizzle and slowly brown and smell like heaven on earth. The sausage went in as the veggies were getting limp, followed by the garlic just for the last couple of minutes.

I returned the chicken to the pot and added 4 cups of water, 2 tsp. salt, about a tablespoon and a half of Texas Pete, and several enthusiastic grinds of black pepper. I covered the pot and let it simmer till the chicken was cooked through, about 20 minutes, after which time I brought the broth back up to a rolling boil and added two cups of long-grain rice. I realized I probably had more water in the pot than the rice could handle, so I let it boil uncovered for about five minutes before covering the pot, lowering the heat, and letting it cook for 15 minutes.

It's mighty tasty, though not the nicest color. (No pix, alas--my digital camera needs a new battery. Which is probably just as well.) I was going for a "brown" jambalaya rather than the red New Orleans style. I might try using a dark chicken stock next time, or get more serious about caramelizing those onions. But what the hell, I was hungry, and it was delicious, and I'll surely be making it again.

12 comments:

T said...

I don't know much about these things, but how would it be to darken it by making a roux?

An Briosca Mor said...

Every time I hear the word jambalaya, I think of the Seinfeld episode (I think it was the Soup Nazi one) where Newman is scurrying down the street, rubbing his hands together and drooling, saying "Jam-ba-LIE-uh!"

I think that using a roux is what turns a jambalaya into a gumbo (in addition to cooking the rice separately). I was curious about what the difference is between jambalaya, gumbo and etoufee, so I looked them up on Wikipedia. It seems as if jambalaya is pretty much as Rob described it, gumbo is thickened with roux and okra and served separately with the rice, and etoufee is like gumbo only spicier and often made with crawfish. Or something like that. Tomatoes are verboten in all three if you want to remain authentically Cajun.

Rob, maybe you'd have gotten a darker end product if you'd browned the sausage at the same time as the chicken. That's how Wikipedia says it's done. Any reason you left it out until later?

Rob said...

Yeah, if it were a chunks-in-gravy dish (like gumbo or etouffee) instead of a rice-with goodies dish, then a dark roux would be exactly the tactic to take, but the texture would be wrong for jambalaya.

Wikipedia also mentions that the color in this kind of jambalaya comes from the fond, i.e. the brown bits on the bottom of the pan that comes from the inital frying of the meat. I think that's what my problem was: I kind of half-deep-fried the chicken. If I'd used less oil, I'd have had more stuff to deglaze. It would have made more sense to throw the sausage in the pot then too; that surely would have helped the fond. I see another jambalaya in my near future.

And damn it, I still haven't seen the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld.

T said...

Ok, I done been schooled! Anyway, it sounds fabulous. Maybe someday someone will make a vegetarian andoille sausage...or at least, one that's all poultry with a casing other than pork....

Rob said...

Oh, but it's still perfectly authentic if you skip the sausage altogether! Just use more chicken.

But then I'd be tempted to throw in a pinch of saffron and a couple of tomatoes and call it arroz con pollo.

An Briosca Mor said...

I think I've seen chicken andouille sausage at one of the places I normally shop, which would be Whole Foods and Costco. But maybe I'm just imagining seeing it among the vast array of other chicken sausages on offer. Are chicken sausages typically made with pork casings? I have to admit I've never considered that angle myself.

T said...

Yes, I think I've seen it at Whole Foods, too, but with pork casings, which is a common enough phenomenon--I guess they're going for low-fat rather than kosher, and so few people have beef/pork allergies that that point doesn't register. Trader Joe's has a range of sausages that aren't stuffed into pork casings, but I don't think they have an andoille--at least, not last time I checked.

Rob said...

Smoked sausage and kielbasa made from turkey are pretty common; either of those would make a better substitute than the fresh sausage Whole Foods sells. I think it's important to find a brand that's actually smoked rather than injected with smoke-flavored chemicals; the latter get to tasting odd after long cooking.

Rob said...

As if by divine providence, the Soup Nazi ep finally ran tonight. I feel better about the state of my pop culture cluefulness now.

An Briosca Mor said...

So no longer will it be No soup for you!
Jam-ba-LIE-uh!

Ed Bruske said...

This is a mighty tasty post.

And if you have time, make your own Kielbasa. Even fresh Kielbasa would kick jambalaya up a notch...

Rob said...

Ed, you honor my humble blog with your presence. By god, I will try making my own sausage someday soon.