I will never understand what drives a cookbook to become a bestseller when the recipes in it don’t do the one thing recipes should do: provide instructions for food that actually tastes good. I tried making the jambalaya in Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything, and I’m telling you, I would be embarrassed to put my name to a jambalaya that bland. I mean, it makes plenty of food, but gods, there’s no flavor in it! So I used that as a basic framework and came up with one that actually tastes like food. You’re welcome. (Also Dale won’t eat shrimp, so I changed the meats in it, too.) I also fixed some of the methods in it, because there’s a whole lot of “do it the hard way for no good reason” in the original.
Chicken and Andouille Jambalaya
salvaged from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced (I used a yellow onion, but it doesn’t really matter what kind–you want about 1 1/4-1 1/2 c. of slices)
1 1/2 cups diced bell pepper, a mix of green and whatever other color you have on hand–I used green and orange
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, 8-12 ounces
1/2 pound andouille sausage. cut in half lengthwise and sliced
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1 cup diced tomatoes (drain first if canned)
Roughly 1/2 teaspoon ghost pepper sauce or other hot sauce
1 1/2-2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (eyeball it)
1 cup long grain white rice
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a medium-sized pot. Add the onions, peppers, chicken, sausage, and garlic. Cook until the onions and peppers are soft and everything is nicely browned up. In a separate pan, over medium heat, heat up the chicken broth with the thyme, salt, pepper, and hot sauce.
Add the tomatoes to the main mix and cook until the tomatoes start breaking down. Can’t really give an exact time, because that’s going to be affected by the exact temperature that medium-high is on your stove, whether or not you used fresh or canned, and how much moisture is in them. You’re just going to have to keep an eye on it–this isn’t a dish you can really just walk away from. Gotta babysit it a bit at this stage.
Add the broth mixture to the pot, then add the rice. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to about a medium heat. What makes this different from a lot of stovetop rice dishes is that you’re not going to cover the pot at this point. You’re actually going to cook it uncovered just until all the liquid is absorbed, stirring every so often to keep it from sticking too much (but let’s get real, it’s rice, some of it is going to stick a bit). Serve it up with your hot sauce of choice.
I’m pretty sure with the original, Bittman’s claim that it serves 8 must have been as a side, because there’s no way. I served this up as a one-dish meal, and my version, which is halved and then fixed, was perfect for the two of us. In case you’re wondering, here’s what I changed:
- Original called for shrimp, added late in the process. Nope. Too expensive, and Dale doesn’t like the stuff, so that’s not happening.
- I halved the recipe, because 8 servings (or 4 realistic servings) was more than we needed.
- The original called for less onion, less garlic, and “preferably red or yellow” peppers. It needs at least some green pepper in it, because the contrast of the sharpness of the green pepper and the sweetness of the red/yellow/orange/whatever you have (I had orange) gives a much more complex flavor. I used about double the amount of garlic that the original called for.
- The original called for cooking the tomatoes and garlic in the broth instead of in with the meat and vegetables. I used canned tomatoes, so the extra cook time wasn’t necessary. Also, it’s kind of doing things the hard way. In addition, putting the garlic in at the beginning means that the meat picks up the garlic flavor all along the way.
- Traditionally, this is made with cayenne pepper, but that always seems a little one-note to me. I used ghost pepper sauce, and used about twice as much as I would have if I were sticking close to the original, but you could also dice up about half a canned chipotle pepper and add that, or just the adobo sauce that the chipotles come in, if you wanted the smoky pepper flavor without as much heat.
Doing it my way, it’s definitely something I see myself making again. If you try it, I’d love to hear how it turns out for you!