Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Sausage and Chicken Jambalaya
1/2 pound of boneless, skinless chicken
1/2 pound of kielbasa or other sausage
1 small onion, chopped
1 small bell pepper, roasted and chopped
1 cup brown rice
2 1/2 cups chicken broth (or however much your rice calls for)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp cayenne (more or less, to taste)
1 small bay leaf
salt and pepper
Chop up the chicken and kielbasa to large bite-sized pieces. Brown the sausage in a large pot, remove to a paper towel lined plate. Brown the chicken in the sausage fat, remove to a plate (not lined). Add onions to the pot, brown them for a bit then add the pepper and garlic. Saute for a minute or less then remove to the same plate as the chicken. Add the rice and saute till slightly clear. Pour in the chicken broth and scrap up all the fond you can. Add the sausage, chicken and vegetables back into the pot. Add the spices. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer till rice is cooked, an hour or an hour and fifteen minutes or so. Remove the bay leaf and serve.
Ok, first things first. No, jambalaya doesn't need to have shrimp in it. No, it doesn't. Jambalaya is a concept, not an absolute. It is a Louisiana dish, so it does often have shrimp since there are so many down there, but it is not a necessity. And I don't really like seafood so I'm not putting it in here. If you want to, go nuts, I'm not going to stop you. Sometimes I use pork instead of chicken, you can also use beef or whatever you like. There are as many recipes for this dish as there are people who make it. Vegetable broth works fine too or even just water, but if you use water make sure to make lots and lots of fond or else it will be bland. Well, as bland as anything with half a pound of sausage can be. Heh.
Now that that is settled, here we go. Have you ever roasted your own peppers? If not, you really should. It's wicked easy and much better than the jarred stuff, if you ask me. You can always use the jarred stuff, nothing wrong with it, but if you want to do it yourself here is how. For this method you need a gas stove. I'm sure there are ways to do it in an oven or over an electric burner, but I don't know them. Sorry. Now, some methods for this tell you to turn the grate over your burner upside down. I never have and have never had a problem with it, but if you want to, go nuts. Put the pepper right on the grate and turn the heat up to med, med-high. I'm using an orange one but you can use whatever kind you like, green is traditional. The goal here is to blacken the entire skin of the pepper. Once one side is blackened, turn it with some tongs until the whole thing is all gross looking like this. Now wrap it loosely in some paper towels and let it sit for a couple minutes. This will make it steam itself and make the skin come off nice and easy. After a couple minutes pick up the whole package and gently rub the pepper. The skin should could sliding right off. You want to get as much blackened skin off as you can, it doesn't add anything good to the flavor. Note: This is just my opinion. My brother says he always leaves a little blackened skin on. He likes the bitter, but rich, tones. So, decide for yourself.If you have some spots of unblackened skin just cut them off when you chop the pepper. I haven't seen another jambalaya recipe that calls for roasted pepper, but I hate the strips of skin that are leftover in the rice after the peppers dissolve. And they will pretty much just dissolve, unless you chop it big. Even if you do chop large pieces a lot of it will still break down. But that's good because it means the whole dish is infused with pepper, or in this case roasted pepper, flavor. And that's some good stuff.
Ok, set the pepper aside and proceed to chop everything up. You don't need to worry too much about keeping everything the same size since it's all going to simmer for some time, it will all be plenty cooked. Now the above recipe says half a pound of sausage, but that's really a guess. I just use half of a package, a package being a little less than a pound. I like kielbasa in this recipe, but you can use any kind of sausage you like. I just cut the whole thing in half once, then again the other way (not worrying about exact proportions here), then into cube-like things. Give the chicken a similar treatment, but not too small or else it will break up while simmering. Of course, a bunch of shredded chicken in this wouldn't be bad at all. But I like chunks. You can use thighs if you want, I use breast. Onions are next. I usually make the onion pretty small so it mostly dissolves. With the pepper what you want to do is cut it in half. Then take the seeds and ribs out and the top off all the way around the stem. Now just cut it into strips and those into chunks. Careful, it gets pretty slippery. Now heat a medium sized pot over med-high heat. I never oil it, the kielbasa is going in first and it promptly puts out plenty of it's own grease. Brown the kielbasa up pretty well then remove it to a paper towel lined plate. There should be enough fat left in the pot for browning the rest of the ingredients. If there isn't, just use a little olive oil or butter when needed. Next the chicken goes in. Brown it, but don't worry about cooking it. Pull it out and put it on a ceramic plate, you want to save those juices. Next the onion goes in. Brown it. Once it's brown add the peppers and garlic. The peppers won't really brown because they are so juicy, but starting the flavors mingling is a good time. Plus it smells great. Pull out the vegetables and put them on the same plate as the chicken, they are all going back in at the same time. Now put in the rice. You can use non-brown rice, just adjust the liquid and time to how much it needs. Stir it around till it's slightly clear and has absorbed some fat. Pour in the chicken brothand scrape up all the brown bits. Now dump everything back in, make sure to get all the juices that the chicken and veggies put out. That's a lot of flavor in there. Put in all the spices. This part is a little tricky because I have found you need to add salt now or else it won't incorporate into the dish. But it is really hard to know how much you need. It depends on the broth you use, the type of sausage and you kind of just have to play it by ear. I often wind up adding too little, but that's less tragic than adding to much. Now stir it up and bring it to a boil. Once it hits a boil reduce the heat to low and cover it. Simmer it till the rice is cooked. This will take a lot longer than normal, I assume because of all the stuff in there. It usually takes me about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes or so. When it's done take out the bay leaf (or your girlfriend gives you one of those looks... well, at least mine does. Heh.), toss it in a bowl and eat it.