30 minutes prep, 30 minutes to cook
serves an ambitious four people or a reasonable eight
Hi! Let’s make jambalaya! Jambalaya is a mixed rice dish, with chicken, ham, and sausage. (You could make it vegetarian by swapping in beans and using a store-bought vegetable stock, if you want.) It’s a step-by-step recipe for any skill level. Make it when it’s cold outside, and serve it with beers. Maybe you’re having people over, or you’re visiting your parents for the holidays, or you want to impress a very hungry date. Let’s wow them by making jambalaya! It’s a classic Cajun recipe, and this is the way it’s made in my family. It’s really easy! It just involves being able to manage a couple of things at once. You can do it. I love you, and I believe in you. Let’s get started.
● Chicken (2 lb boneless skinless thighs, or a whole broiler if you’re adventurous)
● 2 cups rice (Jasmine or Basmati would be good, since you don’t need to rinse it)
● 1 lb Polish or Andouille sausage
● 1 lb ham steak
● ½ stick (¼ cup) butter
● 1 decent-sized yellow onion
● 1 green bell pepper
● 1 6-ounce can of tomato paste
● ¼ teaspoon of thyme
● ½ teaspoon of Tabasco
● 2 teaspoons of salt
● ½ teaspoon of black pepper
- Boil the chicken. While that’s going, slice the sausage into thin coin-shaped pieces and dice the ham.
- Remove the chicken (debone if necessary, you overachiever, you). You’ve got a boiling pot of basic chicken stock. Scoop out maybe a cup of that stock and set it aside. Stir two cups of rice into the pot, turn the heat down as low as it will go, cover the pot, and set a timer for 25 minutes.
- At this point, you’ve got a lot of sliced sausage and diced ham. Put that in a big (big) pan, Dutch oven, or skillet over low heat. Dice an onion and a green bell pepper, turning around occasionally to stir the gently-sizzling pork. If you want to feel smart, you can grab a little bowl and put all your measured seasonings in it at this time. ¼ teaspoon of thyme, 2 teaspoons of salt, ½ teaspoon of pepper. Make sure the pork doesn’t burn! It’s on low heat, so it won’t, as long as you stir occasionally. Believe it or not, we’re nearly there!
- Shred, chop, dice, or otherwise dismantle the chicken from earlier. Once you’re done, or after the pork’s been going for 6–7 minutes, stir the diced vegetables into the pan. Add half a stick of butter and stir everything until the butter’s all melted. Won’t take long. Keep an eye on this pan and stir occasionally. You’re waiting for the onions to become translucent. Try not to grab a spoon and start digging in, no matter how good it smells. Grab the can opener, instead, and open the little can of tomato paste. Make sure the shredded chicken and Tabasco are nearby. While you’re waiting for the rice to finish and the onions to cook, go ahead and wash the cutting board and any dishes you might have in the sink. This way you’ll have minimal dishes getting in the way of your nap once you’re done.
- All right! The timer goes off for the rice. Check and see if it’s done- all the stock will have been absorbed into the rice. It might need a few more minutes. If it’s ready, turn the heat off. Your onions should be translucent-to-slightly-brown at this time, and the pan with the pork and fat and onions and peppers will smell good enough to bring neighbors to your door. Turn them away. Go back to the stove.
- We’re going to do a few things pretty quickly here. First, scoop all of the tomato paste into the pan. A butter knife will help a great deal. Stir this all together. If you’re having a hard time getting the tomato to coat everything, add tiny bits of the chicken stock you set aside. Next, stir your seasonings in. Hopefully, you put them all in a bowl, so there’s no measuring or fussing around. Add about a half a teaspoon of Tabasco. Now, mix in the chicken. There will be a lot, so it’ll be a lot of stirring.
- Once everything in the pan (pork, vegetables, tomato paste, seasonings, Tabasco, and chicken) is thoroughly mixed, take a step back. Quickly size up this pan compared to the pot with the rice. Put everything into whichever dish has more room (this might necessitate a third dish). Either add the rice to the mixture in the pan, or shovel the whole operation into the rice pot. Stir everything together until there’s no more white rice visible, even in the bottom of the dish.
- Serve immediately with cold beers.