Sunday, October 2, 2011

Feeling Louisiana Today

The cultural influences on our state have been so diverse.  And no place more obvious than in the kitchen.  While keeping and reveling in the ethnicity of each recipe, the food we love to cook has been adapted and retouched by great cooks and chefs for centuries.  Louisiana has rich history, commitment to tradition and the celebration spirit each time a wooden spoon stirs a black iron pot.  

This beautiful state has seen several flags waving in our gulf breeze, each one leaving its culinary impression.  We are enriched by each passing affect and inspired by their contribution.  To satisfy my Louisiana soul today, what's better than one of our signature dishes, Jambalaya.  The Spanish dish Paella is not so terribly dissimilar from our Jambalaya. And that's what I want.

Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

Note: I usually use pork butt, chicken and Andouille for my pot of Jambalaya, but today I omitted the pork.  It's great no matter how you define it.  And if you don't have a crowd over for dinner, downsize to accommodate your need.  It also doubles easily for a really big gathering. This kind of recipe is completely subjective to the number of hungry folks you're feeding and so easily tweaked.
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 whole chicken
1 pound Andouille sausage
1 very large onion (or 2 medium)
1 medium green bell pepper
1 medium red bell pepper
2-3 stalks celery with leaves
3-4 cloves garlic
Marsala Wine
4-5 cups chicken stock
2 cups raw rice
Black Pepper
2 or 3 green onions
Shrimp (totally optional)
Louisiana Gold Pepper Sauce

Cut the sausage into slices and set aside.  Section the chicken into pieces and very lightly salt each piece.  Into a large dutch oven add a splash of olive oil and the butter.  Toss in the sausage slices and cook until lightly browned, not long at all.  Remove sausage to a platter.  

Chicken browning up nicely in a steamy pot
Add the meaty chicken pieces to the pot for browning.  This is where the flavor develops.

I use the other chicken pieces for stock.  You can simmer them right there and then or put in the freezer and cook later on. 

Cook all sides of the chicken until nicely browned and crusty bits form on the bottom of the pot.  Remove to the platter with the sausage, cool and de-bone the chicken pieces.  Sprinkle in the chopped Louisiana trinity of onions, celery and bell pepper.

Louisiana's favorite trio
Saute the veggies until tender and add the chopped garlic, chicken and sausage to the party. Stir well and de-glaze the bottom with a healthy splash of Marsala wine.  Be sure to scrape the bits from the bottom of the pot.  Rinse the rice well and drain.  Add 4 cups of the chicken stock and when the stock has reached a heavy simmer or low boil, add the rice and stir well.  Cook covered until the rice becomes al dente.  At this point add a bit more of the reserved stock, if necessary, to produce a slightly soupy consistency.  Adjust the salt and add a generous amount of black pepper.  Scatter chopped green onions, both green and white part, over the top.  If you choose you may do as I did and drop in a few small raw shrimp. Stir gently to incorporate the onions and shrimp and bring back up to heat.  Lastly, remove from the heat and cover for another few minutes, 5 to 10, to imbue each ingredient with flavor and finish the rice.  Serve with a generous dousing of Louisiana Gold Pepper Sauce with crusty French bread alongside.

Every bite, good as the first!

One last word:  This recipe is so much one's own interpretation of how it should taste and what should be included.  There is a ton of Jambalaya recipes that include tomatoes.  And I'm not opposed to that as long as it's just a little and absolutely no tomato sauce.  That's a "whole 'nother deal" as some might say.  Plus, the addition of shrimp or other seafood is not a pivotal ingredient.  If you like it, by all means.  If you don't, that's good too.  As for the moisture content, I do not like really dry Jambalaya.  I think allowing the pot to "steep" so to speak, while the rice is still slightly undercooked makes for a much more pleasing texture. There is one cardinal rule, however.  Stir only when absolutely necessary.  Don't fuss over it with spoon in hand stirring the pot.  It's a great recipe you can make your very own by defining it as you wish.

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