Before delving into the process of making jambalaya, I felt it is necessary to take a moment to say a few words about the green bell pepper. There aren't many food items that I dislike. In fact, I actually enjoy some foods that might be "weird" or "funky" or have a "challenging" texture to them. However, one of the things I actually dislike eating is the green bell pepper. I enjoy all other bell peppers: red, yellow, orange. I'm a big fan of the poblano pepper, as well, in case you may think I'm unfairly targeting the green family of peppers. Even though I dislike green bell peppers, it's an ingredient that's integral to making jambalaya. Why? Because it's part of the trinity.
The trinity is the combination of onions, bell peppers and celery. It's the foundation to many classic Cajun and Creole dishes. Not unlike mirepoix or sofrito, the trinity consists of simple, humble ingredients. When you combine those ingredients and coax them into becoming more than the sum of their parts, they impart a distinct flavor that is essential to dishes from this region. I believe the green bell pepper, as much as I dislike to eat it, contributes much to this foundation.
For my jambalaya, I chose to concoct my own Cajun-style seasoning blend. I think the commercially available are pretty good too. But, I like making my own blend and I can control the amount of heat much better since I know my kids can't handle much spice at this point. My spice blend is made up of smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper and dried thyme. You can vary the quantities to your own taste. You will need 1 tablespoon of seasoning for this recipe. You can even say "bam!" when you add it to the pot.
For the meats, I chose chicken and sausage. I used a smoked sausage for my recipe, but I would have preferred to use andouille sausage. The smoked sausage was much milder, and thus, more kid-friendly. I strongly feel that dark meat chicken is the way to go for dishes like this because it will stand up to longer cooking without drying out. Also, it tastes better. If you have some shrimp you could throw it into the pot for the last few minutes of cooking. That would be a great addition.
I'm a big fan of Cajun and Creole cuisine. If you've never had it, I hope you will try it!
SAUSAGE AND CHICKEN JAMBALAYA
Ingredients: 1.5 lbs of chicken thighs, 1 lb sliced smoked sausage, 1 diced green bell pepper, 3 diced stalks of celery, 2 diced small onions, 4 minced cloves of garlic, 1-14 oz can of drained diced tomatoes, 1 TB Cajun seasoning, 2 bay leaves, 4 cups ofchicken stock, 2 cups of white rice, sliced green onions for garnish, olive oil, salt & pepper
- In a heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven, heat 1 TB of olive oil.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper and place in the hot pan, skin-side down.
- Brown the chicken on both sides and remove from pan and reserve.
- Add the sliced sausage and quickly brown for a couple of minutes and then remove and reserve with the chicken.
- Pour off some of the fat but reserve about 2 TBs to cook the vegetables.
- Add the bell peppers, celery and onion.
- Season with a little salt and pepper and saute until they soften, 7-10 minutes.
- Add the minced garlic and drained tomatoes.
- Cook for 5-10 minutes until most of the moisture is gone and they are very soft.
- Add the Cajun seasoning and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the chicken stock and bay leaves and bring to a simmer.
- Taste the broth at this point to see if it needs more salt. It should taste seasoned.
- Add the rice.
- Add the chicken and sausage.
- Combine and bring to a boil.
- Then lower the heat and put the lid on and cook until the rice is cooked and has absorbed all of the broth - about 25-30 minutes.
- Plate your jambalaya and garnish with some green onions and eat!