Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Classic Chicken Jambalaya

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In case you don't want to read this entire blog post, I will summarize.  The lessons to be learned here are that everyone needs a Jeff, and everyone needs this jambalaya.  I will explain...

Lesson 1:  Everyone needs a Jeff
There's something to be said about having a really great platonic friend of the opposite sex.  Some might scoff and say that it's impossible...that it's simplistic or unrealistic to think that two people of different genders can have a healthy, normal, nonphysical friendship.

Don't get me wrong, because for the most part I think that the scoffers are correct.  It is supremely difficult to find a person of the opposite gender who A) wants me to be good friends with someone of the opposite gender, B) wants to be just good friends with someone of the opposite gender, and C) after you get married, still fits into your life really well and even becomes (possibly probably better) friends with your spouse.

Well, I'm here to tell you that my (straight) friend Jeff and I have this type of friendship, and have since that first day in grade 8 when we watched the 1996 MTV Movie Award-winning slasher-film 'Scream,' and did not feel attracted to each other.  Jeff and I have never kissed,  hugging is even awkward, and he's one of my best friends.  It's the perfect male/female friendship.  I actually just got off the phone with him where a good part of the conversation was me tormenting him about how he is going to be the star of this blog post, so I'm tempted to tell a juicy story about him but will save it for another day.  Mwah ha ha, the power I hold!

The Hubby also has a similar female version of a Jeff named April whom I adore, and have also drank multiple fun glasses of wine with.  Everyone needs a Jeff or an April.

Jeff came over the other night for dinner and a hang-out with The Hubby and me, and I thought I would put my new Emeril cookbook to the test again.  This time I actually chose a Cajun-inspired dish that we ate a couple of times in New Orleans - jambalaya.  Jeff, The Hubby, and I were going to make this jambalaya together, but it ended up more like The Hubby and Jeff sat on our kitchen stools and watched me make them dinner (which was great too!).  This brings me to Lesson 2, which is...

Lesson 2:  Everyone needs this jambalaya
Jambalaya is traditionally made from meat, vegetables, stock and rice.  You see it on every single restaurant's menu in New Orleans, and it is delicious.  This particular jambalaya is made from chicken, ham, and sausage, combined with the famous holy trinity of celery, bell peppers, and onions.

I love New Orleans, and although I have thus far written about it very casually and nonchalantly on my blog, if I am being honest on the inside my love for the city actually quasi-borders on obsession.  The Hubby and I first visited there as part of our honeymoon in 2010, and we went back for a second trip this year as an add-on to my work conference.  We love everything about it...the food, the drinks, the atmosphere, the music, the swamps, the history, the Mississippi, the architecture, and the people.  When we are there we are always thinking about how soon we will be able to get back there, and have even checked out a few properties for some sort of delusional dream future where we have paid off the mortgage on our current suburban home and also can afford an apartment in the French Quarter of New Orleans in addition to a cabin on a lake in Barriere, British Columbia.  So, we will keep participating in our office lottery pools.

For now, we have this jambalaya.  This delicious, delicious jambalaya.

Expect more Cajun and creole food on this site eventually, as I will certainly fumble my way through gumbos, etoufee, and muffaletta soon.

But seriously, try this's awesome.  The Hubby, my buddy Jeff, and I all think so.  I will be making it again very soon.  Enjoy!

Classic Chicken Jambalaya

3 1/2 pounds chicken thighs

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Emeril's Original Essence (Note: Click the link...I made the 'Essence' recipe, keep it in my spice cabinet, and use it as an ingredient in meals that I make or as a rub for meat.)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped green bell peppers

1 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 pound andouille sausage (we couldn't find andouille, so used chorizo instead.  Another option could be kolbassa), cut into 1/4-inch slices

1/2 pound boneless smoked ham, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

2 cups rice

2 cups low-sodium chicken stock

1 cup canned whole tomatoes, drained and crushed

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

4 bay leaves

4 sprigs fresh thyme (use the thyme leaves pulled off of the stem, stems discarded)

2 tablespoons finely sliced green onions

Preheat oven to 375F.  Season the chicken with 2 tablespoons Essence and the salt.  Heat the oil in a small Dutch oven or heavy lidded pot over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook until browned on all sides, working in batches if necessary, 8 to 10 minutes per batch.  Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.  Add the celery, bell peppers, and onions, and cook until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add the sausage and ham and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add the rice, stir to blend, and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, tomato paste, Worcestershire, the remaining 1 teaspoon Essence, the Tobasco, bay leaves, and thyme.  Stir to combine and return the chicken to the pot, nestling the pieces in the rice mixture.  Note that the next step will be to put the pot into the oven and bake.  Since I didn't have an oven-proof pot I transferred the mixture to two covered baking dishes.

Cover the pot (or baking dishes) and bake until the chicken and rice are tender, about 40 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let stand, still covered, for 5 minutes.  Garnish with the green onions and serve with Tobasco.

Makes:  6 to 8 servings.

The Hubby and Jeff's Review:  Really really good!!!

Recipe Source:  Emeril's Potluck

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