“Well I’m going to New Orleans, I’m going to see the Mardi Gras” – Professor Longhair
This is the float in my parade, and while it doesn’t go down Orleans, or St. Charles, or Canal Street, it definitely takes me back there. I’m throwing beads at it instead of the other way around!
After graduating from college, I have only been back to New Orleans once in 2008 for an unofficial reunion with some of my friends. Eduardo went with me on that trip, and he came back a big NOLA fan, especially in the food department. To him, what wasn’t there to love? He adores spicy foods, to the point that I think he has busted his taste buds from all the heat he can take. After coming back, I decided to continue working on my Cajun-Creole repertoire to bring back some memories of that trip until we make it there again. Even though the celebration is hundreds of miles away, I try to bring a little Mardi Gras to my surroundings through the food, the music, and the haphazardly hung beads at my cubicle at work.
One of our favorite dishes is jambalaya, the savory ham and sausage dish reminiscent of a Spanish paella, or more accurately at times, a Caribbean arroz con pollo. I have been working hard to come up with my own recipe, and I think I finally got it. I have cooked jambalaya in the stovetop and oven with my cast iron pot to good results, but preparing it as a risotto is my absolute favorite.
Normally I don’t take pictures of every step of the process, but since this is a dish that I hold this dearly, I want to document it as I feel it deserves. This preparation yields 4-6 main course servings.
GF 360 Jambalaya Risotto
The Trinity and Friends
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 2 celery ribs, diced (including leaves)
- 1 large white onion
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 14oz can diced tomatoes, drained, but reserved liquid.
- 1 bay leaf
Prep the aromatics and set aside.
The Cooking Liquid
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
- Liquid from a 14oz can of diced tomatoes
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Louisiana hot sauce
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 1 bay leaf
Combine all the ingredients. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low.
- Five boneless chicken thighs, cubed and seasoned to your liking with a Cajun seasoning (add salt if your blend doesn’t include)
- 1 12oz package Andouille sausage or any smoked, spicy sausage you can get your hands on
Cook chicken with in 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high, until . Slice sausages into coins. Once chicken is browned, remove from pan and add sausages and cook for three minutes to render their fat and give them a little color. The bottom of your pan should look a little cruddy from all the seasonings and fat sticking to the bottom.
Add the green peppers, celery, and onion and cook until soft and fragrant, at least five minutes, over medium heat. The water content in the vegetables should help deglace the brown bits sticking to the pan. Add the garlic and bay leaf and cook for two more minutes, and then the tomatoes.
- 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
Add the rice to the pan and cook with the vegetables for two minutes, until glossy. From there, start adding the cooking liquid by with a ladle, and stirring to activate the starch in the rice. As it becomes absorbed continue adding liquid and stirring. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
When the risotto looks al dente (it has puffed up with no ‘clear’ spots – right before adding that last ladle of cooking stock), add back the chicken and sausage and stir together. Once the rice is fully cooked, add 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter, and stir again. Garnish with sliced green onions, thyme, and parsley. Beads are optional. Dancing and prancing to and from the kitchen for seconds is not.
Laissez le bon temps rouler!