I had the opportunity to visit New Orleans earlier this month. A city with a fascinating history, culture, and steeped in rich food traditions. A friend had to attend a series of planning meetings for a conference and she invited me to tag along. The first thing I thought was here’s a chance to work on my Jambalaya.
Several years ago I was unable to attend a family member’s wedding in Louisiana. They brought back an ice cooler filled with Jambalaya. It was different from the Jambalaya I’d had in the past and I hadn’t had any that tasted that good. Every time I asked for the recipe, they’d say, “Oh we just had this old Cajun guy make it for us. He makes the best.”
Well, I’ve researched recipes, and watched many demonstrations and couldn’t come up with a dish that came anywhere close to that “Old Cajun’s” — until now. Before flying to New Orleans I signed up online for a cooking demonstration at the New Orleans School of Cooking. The chef, Chef Michael, demonstrated Gumbo, Jambalaya, and Pralines, a Creole sugar confection. His recipe and technique for Jambalaya produced the flavor, color, and texture reminiscent of the Jambalaya made by that “Old Cajun” guy!
My time at the New Orleans School of Cooking was informative and fun. I gained new ideas for tweaking my gumbo. His instructions on making a roux and using roux in your gumbo versus using file (ground sassafras) as a thickener. The benefits of adding the vegetables (referred to as the holy trinity in New Orleans), onion, green pepper, and celery at three different stages during the cooking.
But back to Jambalaya. I’ve learned there is “Creole” Jambalaya (red) and “Cajun” (brown) Jambalaya. The Creole contains tomatoes and paprika. The Cajun does not. The recipes I’d experimented with were of the Creole variety. They always seemed to come out too wet, mushy, and red in color. The Cajun Jambalaya gets its color from the browning of the chicken and sausage.
Following is the recipe for Chef Michael’s Cajun Jambalaya. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.
Jambalaya (serves 12)
- 1/4 C. oil
- 1 cooked chicken, cut up or boned (left-over chicken or store bought rotisserie)
- 1-1/2 lbs. smoked sausage (I prefer Andouille)
- Trinity: (Next three items)
- 4 C. chopped onions
- 2 C. chopped celery
- 2 C. chopped green pepper
- 1 Tbsp. garlic, chopped
- 4 C. long grain rice
- 5 C. Stock
- 3 Heaping TB. creole seasoning
- 2 C. chopped green onions (optional)
- Season and brown the chicken in oil of your choice over medium to high heat.
- Add sausage to pot and sauté with chicken.
- Remove the chicken and sausage from pot, leave the drippings in the pot
- Sauté onions, celery, green pepper and garlic in the drippings to the tenderness you desire.
- Return chicken and sausage to pot.
- Add stock and creole seasoning and bring to a boil.
- Add rice, stir together and return to rapid boil.
- Stir again and remove the pot from the heat and cover.
- Let this rest for 25 minutes.
- Remove the cover and quickly turn rice from top to bottom completely.
- Add green onions if desired.
- For seafood Jambalaya, add cooked seafood when rice is turned.
Roux is made by stirring together equal parts oil and flour in a skillet or pot over a medium/low flame to the desired color.
File is a fine green powder of your dried ground sassafras leaves, used in gumbo for flavor and thickening. It may be placed on the table for individuals to add to their gumbo if they wish.
Kitchen Bouquet can be used to add a little more brown color if desired. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons.