New Orleans is one of our favorite places to visit — with its impressive architecture, hidden courtyards, quaint local shops and art galleries, abundance of live music and, of course, entertaining nightlife. But one of the main reasons we love New Orleans is the food. There are so many amazing restaurants, especially if you like shrimp and other seafood. Jambalaya is just one of the many traditional dishes from The Big Easy. Jambalaya is a Creole dish with Spanish and French influence. There are two basic variations of the dish — “red” with tomatoes, or “brown” without tomatoes. Other ingredients vary depending on the recipe, what you have on hand, and what kinds of proteins you like — anything from chicken, sausage, ham, shrimp or fish. For our first foray into homemade jambalaya, we decided to try this basic recipe for (red) Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya from Cook’s Illustrated’s website. It was delicious — rich and comforting with just the right amount of spice.
Jambalaya ingredients include onion, celery, red bell pepper, garlic, vegetable oil, chicken thighs, andouille sausage, shrimp, white rice, cayenne pepper, salt, diced tomatoes, clam juice, chicken broth, bay leaves, fresh thyme and fresh parsley.
The folks at Cook’s Illustrated advise that if you cannot find andouille, you could use tasso, chorizo or linguica instead. They also suggest that you may want to adjust the amount of cayenne pepper, depending on the spiciness of whatever sausage you are using, and how spicy you prefer your food.
Cut the onion, celery, red pepper and (peeled) garlic into big pieces and pulse them in the food processor until they are finely chopped.
Be careful not to over-process the vegetables. You can also chop the vegetables by hand if you don’t have a food processor or like chopping (a lot.)
Heat some vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering, then add the chicken, skin-side down.
Cook the chicken until it is golden brown on one side — about 5 minutes. Then use tongs to turn the chicken and cook it until it is golden brown on the other side — about 3 minutes.
Remove the chicken to a plate and set it aside.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the sausage to the Dutch oven. Cook the andouille until browned, stirring frequently — about 3 minutes.
Remove the sausage to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium-low and add the chopped vegetables to the Dutch oven. Cook the vegetables until they are softened — about 4 minutes. While the veggies cook, stir them frequently and scrape up the browned bits of sausage and chicken goodness from the bottom of the Dutch oven. Once the vegetables are soft, stir in the rice, salt, thyme and cayenne pepper until the ingredients are fully incorporated — about 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes (with juice), clam juice, chicken broth, bay leaves and browned sausage to the Dutch oven and stir everything together.
Remove and discard the skin from the chicken thighs, then place the chicken, skinned-side down, on the rice mixture. Bring the ingredients to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, stir the jambalaya, but be careful to keep the chicken on top with the skinned-side down. Continue to simmer the jambalaya, covered, until the chicken is no longer pink inside — about 10 more minutes. When the chicken is done, transfer it to a clean plate and set it aside.
Place the shrimp on the rice and cook until the shrimp looks opaque — about 5 minutes.
While the shrimp cooks, shred the chicken using 2 forks. When the shrimp is done, add the chicken and parsley to the Dutch oven and remove the bay leaves. Stir everything together, then serve.
We served our Jambalaya garnished with chopped green onion. One of the best things about cooking is when you prepare a dish that reminds you of good times and favorite places. We love how this Jambalaya transports us back to New Orleans until we can make the trip there in person (hopefully sometime soon!)