Jambalaya!

Having a small kitchen in the winter rocks! The long, cold, blustery nights are tailor-made for easy, comforting one-pot meals. Nothing beats sitting on the couch in your underwear (or pyjamas/loungewear; whatever, no judgement you prude), enveloped in the warmth and aroma  exuding from the kitchen.

Jambalaya is not only fun to say, it’s a great dish to make at this time of the year. Traditional jambalaya uses andouille sausage, and Tasso (a type of smoked pork hock). These can be difficult to find in most grocery stores above the 49th parallel, so I substitute dry-cured Spanish-style chorizo sausage, and a high quality, thick-cut smoked bacon. I also prefer to use bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, for the extra flavour they bring to the dish (boneless chicken breast usually costs quite a bit more as well).

(Prep time: 15 minutes. Cook time: 45 minutes. Serves 4)

  • 1 cup smoked bacon, cubed
  • 4 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large green pepper, diced
  • 2 ribs of celery, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup poultry herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley), finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups dry-cured Spanish chorizo sausage, chopped
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp herbes de provence
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 4 cups chicken broth

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Place the chicken thighs, skin side down in the pan, and brown the skin for 4-5 minutes. Turn the chicken over, and cook the other side for another 3-4 minutes. Remove from the pan onto a plate, and set aside.

Cook the bacon over medium heat until it begins to crisp slightly. Add the onion, celery, pepper, and garlic, and sweat the vegetables until the onion has softened, and become translucent.img_4202Add the tomatoes, fresh herbs, sausage, and spices. Continue to cook the mixture for another 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes soften, and release some of their liquid.

By now, the aromas permeating the air of your kitchen should be bringing tears of joy to your eyes, and a warm feeling to the cockles of your heart. Wipe the drool from your lips, and mix the rice into the pan. Stir constantly, and allow the spices to mingle with the rice, about 1 minute.

Remember the chicken thighs? Time to bring them to the party! Make 4 wells in the rice mixture, and add the chicken thighs, skin side up. Pour in any juices that have accumulated on the plate as well. Pour in the chicken broth, and bring everything to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium-low, cover the pan, and simmer for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes of patiently twiddling your thumbs, remove the lid, and give the mixture a stir. Most, if not all of the liquid should have been absorbed by the rice. Your jambalaya should be moist, but not saucy. Give it a taste. Adjust the seasoning if need be. if the rice is a bit undercooked, add a splash more ckicken broth, cover the pan, and cook for another 5 minutes. If everything is perfect, remove the pan from the heat, and let stand for 5 minutes.

Now you can make the choice. You can shred the chicken from the bones and mix it in, but I prefer to place a nice mound of the jambalaya on the plate, then place a whole thigh on top, skin side up. Garnish with more chopped parsley leaves, and maybe thinly sliced green onions.

Enjoy your meal, smug in the knowledge that this humble  little plate of southern soul food will fortify you against the dreary winter days to come! Now, if you could only get those damned polar bears to stop rummaging through your garbage!

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