The smells of great New Orleans cooks making their traditional recipes seeps into the air along the parade route. Fat Tuesday starts early no matter how late you stayed up the previous night. My dad would already be cooking when our bleary-eyed selves made our way down to Jackson and St. Charles Avenues to see Zulu with Bloody Marys in hand. In my college days, I recall a time or two when some friends and I did the “all-nighter” (not the studying kind) ending up in Igor’s bar, known for their yummy Bloody Mary’s right on the Zulu route. That way we were there before the crowds and staked out the ultimate parade-viewing positions. More recently, that kind of dedication and lack of sleep is out of the question. Instead, I opt for sleep and an early walk with coffee in hand to catch the parade on Mardi Gras day, holding off on those Bloody Marys until around 10 or 11 am.
After the excitement of Zulu, we would head back to our home base to refresh and energize with some yummy food and a refill of coffee or a cocktail before watching the next parade of the day, Rex. By now, my dad would be pulling the jambalaya casserole dishes from the oven and asking me to taste test. Throughout the years of watching my dad making his version of this traditional New Orleans recipe, I have developed a version of my own. Since moving to Philadelphia in 2002, my husband and I go to Mardi Gras every other year as well as many other New Orleans trips at other times of the year. Even though we visit fairly often, I often cook my favorite New Orleans meals in my Philadelphia kitchen. This year is sadly our off year from Mardi Gras, which is most unfortunate being that my New Orleans Saints will be attending the Superbowl for the first time ever just one week before Mardi Gras weekend. Since I cannot be there, I will treat my Philadelphia friends to a taste of New Orleans cuisine during my Superbowl gathering. Bring some New Orleans flavor to your Superbowl or Mardi Gras parties with this Jambalaya recipe to impress your guests. I hope that you will love it as much as my family and friends do.
Lizzy M.’s Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya
2 Cups chopped yellow onion
2 Cups chopped green or red bell pepper
2 Cups chopped celery
1 Cup chopped parsley
1 Cup chopped green onion
1/2 Cup chopped celery tops
3-4 Minced or grated garlic cloves
1-1/2 Cups chicken stock
2 Cups beef stock
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 Large boneless skinless chicken breast
1 Package sliced Andouille, Kielbasa or smoked sausage (You could also do a combination of two sausages.)
2 Cups uncooked long grain white rice
2 Tbsp thyme
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp Paprika
1 Tbsp Cajun seasoning or Tony’s Chachere
1 Tsp crushed red pepper
1 Tsp allspice
1/2 Tsp cayenne pepper
4 Dried bay leaves
4-5 pads (slices) butter
Extra Virgin Olive Oil for sautéing
Tabasco to taste
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Start by prepping the holy trinity. Chop 2-3 yellow onions, 1-2 green or red bell peppers, and 3-4 celery stalks. How much you use will depend upon the size of your vegetables. The goal is to make about 2 cups of each vegetable. Chop one cup of parsley and one cup of green onions and set aside. Also, make sure to save the leafy tops of the celery stalks. Chop the celery tops and set aside as well.
In a small sauce or stockpot, heat 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock and 2 cups of beef stock. Use bouillon cubes, broth or stock-whatever you have. To prepare the chicken, season one large boneless chicken breast with salt, pepper, garlic, and Cajun seasoning or Tony’s Chachere. Heat 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. Place the seasoned side of the chicken down in the skillet. At this time, season the other side and cover skillet. Cook for about 4 minutes or until slightly browned. Flip the chicken and cook the other side another 4 minutes. Don't worry if it is not fully cooked because it will continue to cook in the oven. Turn the heat off and let the chicken sit in the covered pan until it has cooled.
While waiting for the chicken to cool down, heat a large skillet or pot and lightly coat the surface with extra virgin olive oil. Add a teaspoon of crushed red pepper into the oil as it heats. Once heated, add the celery. Stir to coat the celery with the oil. Add a pinch of salt and black pepper. In this dish, you should season as you go to make sure every layer has plenty of flavor. Next add the yellow onions and pepper. Keep the heat on high and mix well.
Now it is time to season for real! Add 2 tablespoons of thyme and chili powder, 1 of tablespoon paprika and Cajun seasoning, 1 teaspoon allspice and cayenne pepper (fresh or ground), 3-4 dried bay leaves, and a few dashes of Tabasco. Mix the spices well into the trinity mixture and cook down for about 5-7 minutes. Add 3-4 cloves of minced or grated garlic and lower heat. Cook for another minute and turn off heat. Pour the vegetable mixture into a large, deep casserole dish.
Next, slice one package of Andouille, Kielbasa or smoked sausage into disc or half moon sizes. Reheat the now empty skillet from the vegetables on medium-high heat and then add the sausage. Sprinkle a dash of Cajun seasoning and a few dashes of Tabasco into the cooking sausage. Let the sausage cook for about 5-7 minutes and then add into the casserole dish.
Remove the chicken breast from the covered skillet and dice. Add any remaining liquids from the chicken skillet into the casserole dish as well as the diced chicken. At this time, add 2 cans of diced tomatoes, and the heated chicken/beef stock. Carefully mix all the ingredients in the casserole dish.
Taste the mixture at this time to determine if more spices are needed. I always add a pinch more of every spice at this time but it depends on how spicy you like it. Add a half of the chopped portion of both the parsley and green onions and all of the celery tops. Finally, add 2 cups of uncooked long grain white rice and mix well, so the rice is evenly distributed throughout the dish. Add 5 pads of butter on top of the casserole. Tightly cover with aluminum foil and cook in preheated oven for 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours. Check the casserole half way through cooking time and stir well. The cooking time may vary depending upon your oven, so don’t be afraid to check on it. Once the rice is done, the Jambalaya is good and ready.
Serve your Jambalaya hot from the oven and garnish with chopped green onion. Make sure the hot sauce is on the table, so your guests can add some more heat if they like. Cajun cooking can be a bit spicy, but not so spicy that you can’t taste everything else. I find that restaurants in other cities trying to replicate that Cajun flavor, tend to go much too heavy on the cayenne. New Orleans cooking is about all of the flavors not just the heat. So, keep it light on the strong spices like cayenne, and pull out the hot sauce for those who want to add even more of a kick. Great additions to this main dish include garlic bread or cornbread.
Your guests will love this New Orleans meal while they cheer on the Saints (or the Colts). Whether you are rooting for the New Orleans Saints or for the Colts with their New Orleans born-and-raised quarterback, Peyton Manning, your Superbowl party spread has got to be New Orleans style.
Happy Superbowl Party, Happy Mardi Gras, and Happy Cajun Cooking!