Sunday, December 26, 2004


Had friends come for Christmas and made a big pot of jambalaya and a ton of cookies. Jambalaya isn't exactly a Christmas staple, at least not in Ohio, but one of the results of chemo is that beef and pork don't right anymore. I had planned to have smoked turkey, but because of the bad weather, my grocery didn't get its orders.

I learned the jambalaya recipe when I was just starting to cook seriously. I was living in New York. When I was in college, I made bread and soup and some simple dinner recipes, but the jambalaya, which was in an old paperback cookbook owned by my roommate, was full of mysteries like, 3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped and raw shrimp. It was one of the first recipes I ever made that required significant prep work, Chopping opinions, boiling a chicken, chopping peppers. It seemed to me that it took forever to get to the point where I could 'start cooking.'

It took me years to realize that I was, in fact, cooking when I was doing the prep.

Since then I've actually modified it to add even more prep by adding roasted poblano peppers, because I like the hot, smoky taste of the chili. The traditional Louisianna pepper is the cayenne.


1 chicken (fryer)
6 cups chicken broth
1 lb andouille sausage
olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 poblano peppers, roasted and chopped (optional--can be replaced by a couple of serrano peppers, chopped)
3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups uncooked rice
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined

cut up the chicken into parts and boil in the broth, skimming the froth. Reserve broth and let chicken cool. Take the meat off the bone, discarding bones and skin. Cook the andouille sausage in olive oil in the bottom of a dutch oven or large pot. Cut the sausage into half inch slices and reserve.

In the pot where you cooked the sausage, saute the onion and green pepper and garlic until the onion is translucent. Add the rice, the cayenne and the chopped hot pepper and toast the rice in the oil for a minute, then add the reserved six cup of chicken stock and the tomato paste and the chicken and sausage. Bring to a boil, cover and let simmer for about twenty minutes, or until the rice is cooked. Your house will smell fabulous by now. Add shrimp and stir it into the rice and put the lid back on for five minutes.

Serve six or eight, easily. For those who like things really hot, tabasco sauce is from Louisianna and is traditional. This dish holds well on a buffet table. And like many dishes involving simmering and lots of ingredients, tastes better on day two.

To roast a pepper on a gas stove, drop it on a lit burner and when one side blackens, turn it with tongs until the whole pepper is blackened on the outside. Put the blackened pepper in a paper bag and fold the bag closed and let the pepper sit and steam for ten or fifteen minutes. The charred skin will rub right off. If you don't have a gas burner, you can accomplish the same thing by charring it in the broiler, but it lacks the atavistic thrill of playing with the flame.


Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

Yum. Do you think it could be managed without the shrimp? I know that's a heresy, but I'm allergic.

December 26, 2004 2:39 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Oh yeah, my original recipe didn't call for shrimp at all, Mad.

And you can substitute a ham steak for sausage, cut it in large dice, and brown it when you've sautes the onions and peppers.

Jambalaya is a country party dish. It's meant to be made with whatever is at hand. Like stew. Or paella. Or the origins of cassoulet. You know, any of those dishes with starch and a couple of kinds of meat and some really strong flavor. I love them.

December 27, 2004 2:17 PM  

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