Jumbling through a jambalaya
Most American cities like to brag about some junky food or other, but the New Orleans food scene has a good claim on being the most interesting. The city is older then the United States itself, and its cultural and culinary influences come from all over the shop.
Over the centuries, settlers from France and Spain brought plenty of culinary nous, as did the enslaved people shipped in from various African nations.
Obviously, we tried just about everything on our recent jaunt through the American South, from gumbo to grits; po’boys to beignets. But the pick of culinary bunch for us was jambalaya.
A rice dish packed with spicy pork sausage, chicken, prawns, and any other animal that those early settlers could catch and kill.
We tried it twice in New Orleans – once at legendary soul food joint Mother’s, and once at excellent French Quarter hangout Napoleon House. Mother’s did it wet like a very think rice stew, whereas Napoleon House’s version was drier, like a pilau.
We’re undecided as to which we preferred, but it’s safe to say this recipe lands somewhere in between and is considerably drier than Mother’s.
That’s because we incorporated our own mother’s trusty trick for cooking rice – allow half a mug per person, wash it like heck in cold water, and cook it slowly in twice as many mugs of water as rice.
We served it with a chilli sauce we bought in New Orleans, and a green salad. We’ll say it serves six, because there were six of us at our flat, but bear in mind everyone had seconds (and Burnt had fourths).
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
300g uncooked chorizo sausage (the authentic sausage is called and andouille, but if you can find that in the UK please tell us where)
4 celery sticks
1 green pepper
6 vine ripened tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2.5 mugs full of long grain rice
5 mugs of chicken stock
6 spring onions, sliced (including the green bits)
Measure out your rice into a pan, and wash the rice by running cold water into it, swishing it around, tipping the water away, then doing it again until the water is considerably less cloudy. Drain the rice and keep ready for later.
Chop up the chicken thighs into morcels. Season the raw meat with salt and pepper.
Skin the sausage and chop the into slices or chunks.
Heat some oil in a large pan and fry the chicken and sausage for a a few minutes.
Once the chicken is browned and the chorizo has coloured the oil, remove the meat from the pan.
Fry the onion, celery and green peppers in the lovely chorizo-y oil, until the onion is soft – about 10 minutes.
While you’re frying, boil the kettle and put boiling water in a pan. In a separate bowl, prepare some iced water. Dunk your tomatoes in the boiling water for about 30 seconds, then remove them and put them in the ice water.
You should now be able to peel the tomatoes’ skin off. Once you’ve done that, roughly chop the tomatoes.
The fussy bit is now over.
Add the herbs and spices into the pan and stir in, cooking for 30 seconds or so.
Then add tomatoes to the pan and stir in. Cook for a few minutes.
Put the meat back into the pan, then add the rice. Stir to mix the rice with all the other goodies.
Now, pour the stock into the pan. Bring it to a simmer, then lower the heat so it doesn’t burn.
Cook for about as long as the rice packet says it’ll take, usually 12-15 minutes. Stir occasionally, but not too much and not too hard. You don’t want the rice breaking up and turning into a slop.
While it cooks, chop up your spring onions.
Once the rice is just tender and the water is mostly absorbed, sprinkle over the spring onion.
It’s ready to serve. Some people stir in chilli sauce at this point, or if you have some spice wimps in your midst, you could just leave it and let people administer the spicy sauce themselves.