It’s the time of year that I love to make jambalaya. Not only is it delicious, but if you take your time and get it right, it’s also a great dish to serve a large crowd and affordable too. Basically, jambalaya is an all-in-one pot dish, always including rice, an assortment of vegetables, sausage, and lots of spicy seasonings. Perfect for a fall day and a cold beer.
Jambalaya is most likely a relative of Spanish paella, a dish most often made with seafood and, if you are lucky, saffron. What makes jambalaya different from other rice dishes, is that the rice and other ingredients are all cooked together, not separately. It is certainly not a novel idea, and many cultures have similar recipes. It is also a recipe that can be included in the category that the Italians call “cucina povera,” meaning poor food or cooking. How many wonderful dishes have come down to us from poor people who had to made do with what they had, like soul food or farmers’ food (biscuits and gravy, corn bread and peas or beans are great examples)? And at its core, that’s exactly what Jambalaya is — rice and any left overs you might have.
I always start with Conecuh sausage, sliced pretty thick (I like my jambalaya chunky) and browned in a large, heavy cast iron pot. When the sausage is brown and crispy, remove it and set aside. Don’t you dare discard the oil that is left in the pot! It is full of flavor that will go a long way towards making your jambalaya great. Now add diced onion, bell pepper and jalapeños, cook until tender. Separately, toast the rice in a ton of garlic butter, when it starts to brown, add it to the veggies, and then twice the volume of rice in chicken stock (home made is always best). You can roast a chicken or chicken thighs, but I almost always use a rotisserie chicken from Rouses. De-bone the chicken (you can use the bones to fortify the stock by simmering for 30 minutes or longer). About half way through the cooking process, about 10 or 15 minutes, add the sausage. A few minutes later, add the chicken. Cook lid on until the rice is done. Remember to season as you go, using Tony’s and lots of red pepper flakes.