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Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Brown Chicken and Andouille Jambalaya
In the woods of the New York Renaissance Faire, we performers gather at night to camp, drink beer, abuse substances (and our bodies) and generally have a good time. I once declared that an upcoming Saturday eve was to be "L'il N'awlins Night" and to honor that, I cooked up a batch of what was to become a signature dish of mine, Brown Chicken and Andouille Jambalaya which was largely based on a recipe from Emeril.
I served it that Saturday eve as promised and was threatened with campfire cutlery if I didn't make more soon.
This is backwoods Cajun at its finest, mon cher. There's just enough cayenne in this to leave a nice, slow burn after eating but not enough to obscure the flavor of the Cajun naughtiness that is this dish. Only a couple of Yanks couldn't handle the spice.
I didn't really measure anything but the approximations below are good enough for me.
Brown Chicken and Andouille Jambalaya Makes about 4 Steve-size servings, 12 regular small bowls of yummy goodness.
1 cast iron Dutch oven - a MUST. Without the cast iron dutch oven, you ain't makin' jambalaya.
About 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
About three cups of onion, chopped (one large yellow onion might do)
About a cup of green bell peppers, chopped (should be one large bell)
(No celery in this one -- only two-thirds of the trinity present)
About three teaspoons of salt
About 1 1/4 teaspoons of cayenne pepper
About a pound of andouille sausage, 1/4" slices bias cut.
About a pound of white and dark meat chicken, cubed into 1" squares (maybe 1.5 lbs)
3 bay leaves
Enough medium-grain white rice (I ended up using long grain) to coat the goodness in the pot, about three cups
Water -- I poured in the water until it just about covered everything, about six cups. Key to this is the 2:1 ratio of water to rice
Season the chicken with 1 tsp salt and a pinch or two of the cayenne. Let sit in a covered container but makes sure that stuff got all around. Shake it up! I typically prep the chicken in advance and let it sit overnight.
Heat the oil over a medium-high flame in the Dutch oven, add the peppers, onions, remaining cayenne and remaining salt.
Keep stirring the vegetables until they've turned a nice dark brown and have thoroughly caramelized, about 20-25 minutes. Don't burn 'em, just caramelize 'em.
All the while, scrape up the sides and bottom of the oven and mix in those scrapings.
Add the andouille, keep stirring until they plump up and the smell changes from delicious to a subtle spicey incredibleness.
Add the chicken and bay leaves. Keep stirring, always scraping up the goodness on the bottom and sides. Try not to break the bay leaves at first - it'll just make them harder to remove later.
When the chicken is cooked and the edges are lookin' just a little brown, add the uncooked rice. Mix to coat everything, about 2-3 minutes. Git it in there!
Add water, stir, reduce flame to medium-low, cover, say "A'ight then", have a beer with your friends, and make fun of everyone's really shitty N'awlins accent, including your own. If you're lucky enough to be in an incredibly talented cast, have someone sing random blues like we did.
When the rice is plump and cooked (about 35-40 minutes for my long grain, probably less for medium grain), remove it from the flame, and let sit covered for about three minutes.
Remove bay leaves and serve.
Now, I fully admit going back every now and then and checking on it. Opening up the damned lid to smell and letting out all that steam that helps cook the rice. So I'm not saying that if you follow these directions that you'll wind up with something that those good folks on the Hill enjoyed that night. Play with it - no two batches will come out the same. (I think I lucked out that night, a positive combination of fresh ingredients, slow cooking, maniacal scraping, and excellent folks singing the blues.)
Seriously, the secret to this is in the uber-caramelized veggies, the scraping of the Dutch oven and the rice absorbing all those flavors during the final stage. And, of course, that we were jus' being silly up there on the Hill.