Mardi Gras is in less than a week. Gone are the days of me driving 10 hours over the river and through the woods to New Orleans, but I can still celebrate with jambalaya and a little King Cake.
My sister-in-law, Blair Harmon, makes my favorite jambalaya. Blair is from southern Mississippi (we call her Blaaayyeerr), and as my kids say, “Aunt Blaaayyyer is a really, really good cooker.” Besides her fabulous sweets and treats, her Cajun cooking is my favorite.
This recipe is a process, but none of it is difficult. So give yourself some time, put your Mardi Gras beads on, open up a bottle of Abita beer and start cooking.
Here’s Blair’s famous Jambalaya:
- 1/2 c bacon drippings OR margarine
- 1 lb smoked sausage - diced
- 1/2 lb andouille sausage- diced Polish sausage can be substituted
- 1/2 lb tasso ham if you can't find, substitute more sausage
- 1/2 lb bacon - crumbled
- 2 c chicken - julienned OR julienned turkey this is about 1 lb
- 2 large onions - coarsely chopped
- 1 medium bell pepper - chopped
- 6 ribs celery - coarsely chopped
- 4 clove garlic - finely minced
- 3 c rice - long grain
- 16 oz Rotel tomatoes with peppers
- 2 c beef stock I know it seems like you need more liquid; you don't!
- 2 ts Kitchen Bouquet it's like Worchester Sauce and found in the "gravy packet" section of your grocery store
- 1/2 ts thyme
- 2 ts chili powder
- -black pepper to taste
- -cayenne pepper to taste
- -salt to taste
- 2 lb shrimp - peeled
- 12 green onions - sliced
- 1/2 c parsley - minced
- To make a really good pot of jambalaya, you're going to need a well-seasoned black cast iron Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. And for this recipe, an 8-quart pot is perfect!
- So take the pot, put it on the burner over high heat, and pour in the bacon drippings (or margarine).
- Then toss in the smoked sausage, andouille, tasso, and crumbled bacon and stir-fry the meats until the smoked sausage turns light brown (it should take about 8 minutes or so).
- Now, drop in the julienned chicken and stir-fry it until every strip loses its translucency (turns white).
- Add the onions, bell pepper, celery and garlic, and reduce the heat to medium-high, and cook the vegetables until they soften.
- At this point, pour in the rice. And you want to stir it thoroughly into the seasoning vegetables and meats until every single grain is moistened, about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Next, add the tomatoes, beef stock, Kitchen Bouquet, thyme and chili powder, blend everything together well, and bring the mixture to a slow boil.
- When this happens, taste the liquid and season the dish to taste with salt, black and cayenne pepper. Just remember that you're going to have to season it a little on the “heavy side” because the rice will absorb much of the seasonings as it cooks, and you still have a couple pounds of shrimp to mix in. *So be sure to taste carefully!* [I'd definitely add Tabasco for flavor, too.]
- When everything is just right, reduce the heat as low as it will go, put the lid on the pot, and simmer the jambalaya for about an hour. This “slow cooking” process allows each grain of rice to cook evenly, puff properly, and pick up the combination of flavors. If the heat is too high, the rice will stick to the bottom of the pot and turn mushy.
- Then when the jambalaya is done, about 5 minutes before you're ready to eat, stir in the raw shrimp, green onions, and parsley, put the lid back on the pot, and continue to simmer the jambalaya over *low heat* until the shrimp turn pink.
- I suggest that before you serve the dish, you fluff the rice slightly. I also suggest that you serve the dish alongside crispy buttered French bread and ice-cold beer.
Under no circumstances should you remove the cover from the pot during the low-cooking process. If you do, you'll release the steam you need to cook the rice. Your rice will turn out hard in the center and your jambalaya will be dry instead of moist. Don't peek in the pot!
If you don't feel that your stove-top will cook the jambalaya slowly enough, put the cover on the pot (after you mix the liquids in), set your oven at 300 degrees, put the pot into the oven, and bake the dish for about 45 minutes. It will come out perfect!
Liza, from SB Nashville, cooked this recipe and these are her photos. The running commentary is from Blair, but the captions show any of Liza’s advice as she cooked it. Blair omits the shrimp, green onion, and the minced parsley from this recipe, saying “don’t waste your time. The shrimp get chewy and no one ever puts the “fringe” on the jambalaya.” Liza, on the other hand, added everything!
Pork fat rules in this dish, so you need to fry the bacon first. Then, reserve the bacon grease and chop the veggies.
After I get the veggies chopped and the bacon fried I KEEP THE BACON GREASE. The recipe calls for margarine or bacon drippings. Only use butter if you did not fry enough bacon!
So once the veggies are chopped, I start preparing the meat. If you cannot find something, use what you can find. I have left out the tasso and used deer sausage. It all works. I chop up the meats and get them ready. I do the sausage in coins, cube up the tasso and julienne the chicken.
Once the veggies and meats are chopped, I prepare the other ingredients–open the cans and put them in measuring cups for easy pouring- two cups beef stock, about two cans Rotel tomatoes and three cups of rice. Set these all aside.
Now, put your dutch oven over high heat and pour in that reserved bacon grease…YUM…
Once you get the bacon grease warming in your pot, add the sausage, andouille, tasso and bacon. Cook together for about 8 minutes, or until everything starts browning up nicely. Then add the chicken and cook until every piece turns white. You start to get a really good arm work out at this point.
Once the meats are all combined, add the onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic…cook until tender.
Once this is done, start looking at all those pre-measured ingredients you set aside. Add the rice and stir and stir until every piece is covered in liquid that has been released from the veggies; this takes about five minutes, so it’s not a fast process! After the rice is coated, add the tomatoes, beef stock and Kitchen Bouquet browning sauce.
Don’t forget the thyme! Cover the dutch oven and put in the oven at 300 for 45 minutes. Do not peek! Once 45 minutes is up, take it out of the oven and ENJOY. Feeds a crowd!
Enjoy with a cold beer or wine, crusty french bread and in my case one or two different types of hot sauce.
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