Having grown up in South Louisiana, I roll my eyes every time I see "jambalaya" on the menu anywhere else.
Whether it's a well meaning Yankee, a tourist stop restaurant in Florida or a novelty stand in New York, everybody claims to be making jambalaya.
And nobody makes the real Cajun jambalaya right, outside of Louisiana that is. They just don't.
My visit back home for Christmas has rekindled my tastebuds for some c'est ce bon Louisiana cooking. So tonight I'm making jambalaya. And in the spirit of our friendly Louisiana culture, I'm going to invite you into the kitchen with me. Laissez les bonne temps rouler!
Okay actually I'm lying about the culture thing. If my papa caught you in his kitchen while he was making his jambalaya he would stab you with his filet knife and take a hand off with his cleaver. I didn't learn his recipe for jambalaya until I was 23 years old and he had his first stroke. And even then it was hard to get out of him.
And this ain't it btw. His is more work but it comes out better and if I were to post it on the internet he would wheel himself down to the house and gut me with his one good arm.
This is my quick and easy family dinner recipe and it is still better than 98% of any "jambalaya" I've eaten outside of the pelican state. If you don't want to read a novel just the recipe, you can scroll down aaaall the way to the bottom of the post. But you'll miss out on the important stuff. And consequentially may end up as gator bait when you try to pass your fancy rice off as jambalaya.
Rule #1: Jambalaya MUST be started in a case iron pot or cast iron skillet. If you use Teflon, stainless steel, glass or any other non stick fake wanna be cooking utensil, alligators will climb out of the swamp and drag you kicking and screaming into the deepest recesses of the stagnate water they inhabit. They won't touch your jambalaya though. They will leave it to BURN! Most jambalaya chefs would say that the whole thing should be done in cast iron, but really as long as the base is done in cast iron you'll be ok.
Rule #2 NEVER NEVER NEVER EVER EVER NEVER USE MINUTE RICE!!! Minute rice makes CRAPPY JAMBALAYA!!!! Using minute rice in jambalaya is like putting a baby bonnet on a nutria rat. It looks cute until the first bite. Even some self professed Cajun jambalaya chefs take this shortcut every now and then when cooking a big batch. The cook time of regular rice allows it to soak up the seasoning from the base. Minute rice doesn't do that. So those self professed jambalaya chefs try to compensate by adding a buttload of "Cajun seasoning." So what you get is really salty spicy rice with no flavor on the inside.
Rule #3 ALWAYS MAKE THE BASE FIRST! A lot of people skip the base. That's just stupid. It's like trying to gator hunt without a boat, or duck hunt without hip waders, or make a gumbo without a roux. The base is the most important part of the jambalaya. You can screw everything else up and still have something that tastes awesome as long as you do a good base.
You will need:
A pot. A CAST IRON FRICKING POT. Aluminum will work in a pinch as long as you don't mind contracting Alzheimer's later. And the jambalaya won't taste the same. It just won't.
A big spoon.
A big pot with a lid.
2lbs of chicken
2lbs of SMOKED sausage (really smoked, from a smokehouse, not that fake cheap crap on the shelf at Walmart)
Onions in a large enough quantity to produce enough CS to stop a riot in Cairo.
A couple of pickup trucks full of bell pepper, parsley, garlic.
(By the end of it all seriously for a batch this tiny you need enough to fill a 12 inch skillet to the brim. Which is about 1lb
3 cups of Zatarains rice.
A tow-behind seed broadcast spreader full of "Cajun" seasoning
1) Toss half a stick of butter and your 1lb or so of seasoning mix in the cast iron and let it simmer on medium for 20 minutes.
2) Slice the chicken into the skillet.
3) Add a gargantuan amount of dry seasoning. I actually use McCormick's Montreal Chicken seasoning mix instead of the usual Tony's Chachare's. I also add a few other things at this point, but I'm not giving away ALL my secrets! Tony's and Montreal Seasoning will serve you just fine. Or you can use some seasoning salt if you're worried about it getting too spicy. 2 whole tablespoons MINIMUM here. I'm just warming up in this pic.
4) Mix it up and get it simmering again.
5) When the chicken is about half done add the sausage and continue to cook it down until the sausage starts to shrink a little.
Is this enough? NO. Smoked sausage is the most important part next to the base you just made out of chicken juice and deliciousness!
Dats mo betta
6) Using the lid, strain all of the juice from the meat and vegetables into a measuring cup. DONT SKIP THIS STEP OR YOU'LL HAVE RUNNY RICE. If you use the same meat and same portions every time you should only have to do this once. I don't have to do this anymore, I know I get about 6-8 oz of juice from this mix in this portion size. If I do a bigger jambalaya I will measure the juice to be safe. Pour the juice back into the pot.
7)Dump everything into a bigger pot if you're using a skillet, add the recommended amount of water taking into account the juice already in the pot for 3 cups of rice. For me it was 5 and 1/4 cups. Bring it to a boil. Add Worcestershire and kitchen bouquet while it's warming up.
8) Add the rice.
9) COVER THE POT AND LEAVE IT THE HECK ALONE. DONT STIR THE POT. Scrape the stuff off the bottom every 10 minutes to keep from burning the bottom. That's it. Other than that leave it alone. Check it after 20 minutes. Once the rice is done, then you can stir it. Let it sit with the kid on the pot for another 5 minutes or so.
10) Eat it.
A good jambalaya shouldn't have white looking rice. EVER.
This is a small batch of jambalaya.
That's after 4 people tore it up for supper. But yes. It's a small batch.
A normal sized batch is cooked in a 200 gallon cast iron pot over a propane burner. I'm not exaggerating, google it.