Jambalaya is a personal favorite food item. It’s all there; a few vegetables, meat, and rice. And it has the true flavor of this place we call home. This is on our table just about every time we entertain, except at Thanksgiving. To be clear. we are solidly in the brown jambalaya camp.
After many failed attempts to do it the “real” way, I now use the boxed version. I do this because all the proper proportions for the critical spices have been done for me. I can do the rest. After much trial and error, I have discovered that different versions use different rice blends, which cook at different temps. The winner for us is Tony Chachere's. We also like Oak Grove because it is more of a brown jambalaya (therefore “Cajun”) but it is trickier.
A Perfectly Credible Scratch-Hybrid Jambalaya
I pkg Savoie’s andouille sausage (we use this exclusively after exhaustive research.) It has the perfect spice level and texture, though you should use whatever you prefer.
½ smoked chicken. You can get this at any barbecue joint or the local Whole Foods, which has an excellent smokehouse, or Rouse’s will do in a pinch.
I each of the trinity: red or green bell pepper, yellow onion, 2 stalks celery. Chopped coarsely.
4-6 pkgs Tony Chachere's Jambalaya Dinner Mix (the smaller one)
¼ lb smoked pulled pork, with fat.
1 aluminum foil baking dish 18x12x4
Place chicken in a pot of water to boil. When it comes to a rolling boil, reduce to simmer.
Slice andouille into ¼ inch disks and then quarter each disk. Throw into a saucepan on high heat with the trinity, searing sausage and caramelizing vegetables.
Deglaze pan with water from the chicken pot. When vegetables are soft, empty contents of boxes into the saucepan and stir, making sure all possible spices are in the pan. Transfer rice mixture into an aluminum foil baking dish measuring 18x12x4 or thereabouts.
Measure liquid from the chicken pot according to package directions, except I don’t use the extra half cup called for. I use only two cups of liquid. Pour all liquid into the baking pan and stir around, mixing all ingredients.
Chop pork into tiny pieces, using fat as a flavoring. This also adds richness.
Chop chicken and add into the baking dish, stirring it in to mix it all.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees, checking occasionally to mix as the rice absorbs water. Eventually uncover the pan if the rice needs to dry out. It’s done when the rice is the proper level of doneness.
The following recipe is listed here as a curiosity. It was mentioned once on the show and several people are so enthusiastic about it they wrote to verify its goodness. We remain unconvinced.
1 can Tomato Sauce
1 can Fire-Roasted Tomato
1 can Campbell’s Beef Consume
1 can Campbell’s French Onion Soup
1 small can sliced mushrooms
1 small bag Par Boiled Rice (Zatarain’s)
1 lb boneless chicken thighs cut into one-inch pieces
1 lb frozen shrimp
1 lb hot or smoked sausage cut into discs
1 bunch green onions
3 sticks of margarine
Set oven to 350 degrees.
Using a large heavy Dutch oven, combine all ingredients except the last four. Add 2 Tablespoons Tony’s and 1 tablespoon garlic powder. Stir to mix.
Next, slice the margarine, NOT BUTTER, into teaspoons and layer to cover the top of the mixture. Cover the pot and bake for 1.5 hours.
Remove from the oven and add in the chopped green onions. Add some dashes of Tabasco and stir the mixture. Taste and adjust seasonings.
And the last jambalaya is the very best I have ever tasted. It is from John Besh’s beautiful book, "My New Orleans." We first tried it at Pigeon & Prince and it was made by Erick Loos, now the chef at Luke. He has tweaked it a few times, and has promised to send it for the next game. For this one, just order it from Luke. Trust us.
Miss Verba’s Pimiento Cheese Dip
1 ½ lbs sharp yellow cheddar, grated and softened
8 oz softened cream cheese
½ cup mayonnaise
3 red bell peppers, roasted and chopped. No need to remove the black blistered parts.
1 tsp white pepper
1 T Tabasco
1 T Worcestershire Sauce
All the above ingredients but the Worcestershire Sauce comes from Frank Stitt’s “Southern Table “ cookbook, another beauty on our shelf. And he got it from a longtime employee at the Highland’s Bar & Grill in Birmingham. Her name is Miss Verba. But I use this recipe only as a starter. Mix all the ingredients together. My pimento cheese could be a cheese ball, so loaded is it with extra “stuff.” I add a cup of chopped green and kalamata olives, and a half cup of chopped parsley. I also add walnuts to this mixture, but it would be a separate batch from the olives.
Miss Verba serves this with Saltine Crackers, and so does Frank Stitt. But it could also be Ritz crackers, or my personal favorite, Stacy’s Fire-Roasted Jalapeno Chips. Or vegetables. Or anything you like.
And last, a treat we learned about from some good friends whose family has farmed sugar cane for generations, with a gas station restaurant in the Boonies west of New Orleans. (Not far from Manresa) It’s called Hymel’s and it is straight out of Mayberry.
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 liter Barq’s Red Creme Soda
Mix both ingredients in a gallon plastic bag and freeze or freeze in an ice cream maker. Serve when it is slushy. It doesn’t freeze into hardness, though you could keep freezing it there. It’s more of a slushy. But it’s great for these still 100 degree temps, even in October.