Bring the French Quarter to your kitchen this year

I’ve never been to New Orleans, but considering my unrequited love for all things spicy, I think it would take a valiant effort to pull me away from Bourbon Street on Fat Tuesday if I were ever to be there for Mardi Gras.  However, I am stuck in Storrs, where the only thing flowing is snow.  I’m lacking the king cake and Cajun shrimp, but I do have some frozen chicken in the freezer and some white rice in the cabinet, so tonight we’re going to play that familiar resourceful college student role and make my favorite Cajun meal: jambalaya! I know, it sounds depressing and you’re probably thinking you’re in for yet another chicken and rice meal.  But don’t worry, we’re going to spice it up for you, and give this meal that cajun kick you need to bring the French Quarter to your own kitchen.  Here’s the catch about jambalaya: you can make it as good or great as you want to.  Some things in the recipe I can guarantee you won’t have lying around the apartment, so you might have to go buy a few things.  But come on, it’s a holiday, live a little!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast: the amount depends on how many people you’re cooking for.  For my two roommates and me, I use three large chicken breasts.
  • One onion
  • One green pepper
  • White rice: I use about two-three cups
  • Two teaspoons of chopped garlic, or one teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/4 of a teaspoon of cayenne or chili pepper (if you have it)
  • One teaspoon of hot sauce
  • Two teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce(again, if you have it)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Four cups of chicken stock (you’ll probably have to buy this since most of us don’t regularly store chicken stock in your kitchen like us, or you can make it using this recipe)
  • 3 or 4 bay leaves (again, you’ll probably have to buy these)
  • If you want to (and can afford to), throw in some spicy sausage, kielbasa or shrimp.  I won’t be using these items tonight, regardless of the fact that the traditional jambalaya dish generally calls for more than simply chicken.  So by all means, embrace your Bayou side and throw in some extras if you please.  
  • Most people add chopped celery (about half a cup), but I prefer mine without.  As always, suit yourself.
  • Some people add diced tomatoes or beans as well, get as creative as you’d like with this dish.
  • Olive oil 

Directions:

  1. Make sure your chicken is thawed, then dice it up into bite size pieces.  
  2. Throw the chicken in a large pot with a couple teaspoons of olive oil and saute it until it’s golden brown.  If you’re adding sausage or shrimp, saute those pieces as well.
  3. While you’re waiting for the chicken, dice your onion and pepper and celery if you’re using it.
  4. When the chicken is ready, stir in the onion, pepper, celery, and the chopped garlic.
  5. Cook these all together for about five minutes, or until the onion is visibly cooked (translucent).
  6. Add the rice and then stir in the chicken stock and bay leaves and bring the pot to a boil.
  7. When it reaches a boil, reduce heat and cover the pot and let it simmer for about twenty minutes, or until the rice is tender.
  8. Finally stir in the Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce and add the cayenne pepper and regular salt and pepper to taste (I prefer to use mostly pepper and hardly any salt, since it already has a lot of flavor).

And there you have it, folks.  A classic Mardi Gras dish that sounds a touch intimidating proves to be fairly simple.  It’s a twist on the classic college chicken and rice meal (although you may have to pull out your wallet to perfect this one).  For all the fellow cajun-lovers, enjoy!

Here are some other jambalaya recipes you might want to check out:

The Food Network’s Emeril Lagasse’s jambalaya

Cooks.com lists a number of jambalaya recipes to try

Zatarains, a New Orleans food service, shares their jambalaya recipe

For other Mardi Gras meals, visit the Food Network’s extensive section featuring Fat Tuesday favorites

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Rick Hancock said,

    I love New Orleans and I love Jambalaya. I’m going to try your recipe!


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