There is now some doubt as to whether jambalaya actually grew from paella, the classic rice dish of Spain. But this version might lead you to believe that theory. Because paella brings out the purist in many cooks (especially those from Spain), I’d better say that I’m not presenting this as an authentic (whatever that means) Spanish paella. But it is very good, and closer to paella than it is to jambalaya. So why not?
Note: Even if you don’t like to cook chicken with bones, it’s best to leave them in for this dish, since the broth picks up a lot of its flavor from them.
- 1/2 lb. red beans (preferably fresh)
- 1 whole chicken, cut up
- 2 Tbs. Creole seasoning
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 bell pepper
- 1/2 white onion
- 1/2 tsp. oregano
- Generous pinch saffron
- 1 lb. rice
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. Tabasco
- 2 lbs. peeled, medium shrimp (20-30 count)
- 1 pint large oysters, drained
- 1 lb. claw crabmeat (or crab fingers)
- 12 sprigs parsley, leaves only, chopped
1. The night before, wash and check through dried red beans for misshapen beans. Soak the beans in water until you’re ready to start cooking. (If you can find fresh red beans, skip this step.)
2. Rinse the chicken pieces and pat dry. Dust with the Creole seasoning.
3. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces and brown outside evenly. Don’t cook through. Remove chicken when browned and set aside.
4. To the same pot, and add bell pepper, onion and oregano. Cook until onions just begin to brown at edges. Then add remaining Creole seasoning, saffron, rice, red beans, and a quart of water. (Substituting chicken stock for some or all of the water is highly desirable.) Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
5. Cook over low heat for about 25 minutes, until rice is fully cooked. Fluff the rice with a kitchen fork. Add the chicken pieces, along with salt and Tabasco. Cover the pot and put it into a preheated 325-degree oven for 45 minutes more.
6. Add the shrimp, oysters and crabmeat to the pot and give the pot a couple of gentle stirs to bury the seafood. If the contents seem dry, add a little more water or chicken stock or strained oyster liquor. Return to the oven for another ten minutes, uncovered.
Serves four generously.