Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dinner and Drinks: Jambalaya

I've been kicking around the idea of doing a semi-regular post on cooking on this blog for a while. I'm not really interested in being a food blogger, both because I have way too many things rattling around in my head to specialize, and because there are so many others out there who can do a better job of it than me. Besides, much like I tell people that I'm not a photographer, I'm a guy that likes to take pictures, so am I a guy who likes to cook rather than a chef.

But I also suffer from ego just enough that I post a lot of what-I'm-eating-now statuses on Facebook. This leads to infrequent requests for recipes. While I'm more than happy to share, I don't see why I shouldn't use the opportunity to generate a little blog action on the side.

So, I'm going to do a little experiment I'll call Dinner and Drinks, in which I post a recipe along with whatever I happen to be drinking at the time. No, I'm not constantly drunk. But I do tend to open a bottle of something while I'm experimenting or just when I'm making something that takes a long time. Usually it's wine, but tonight's inaugural entry is beer (and not a fancy one at that).

This isn't the first time I posted a recipe for jambalaya, but with this iteration I think I've got down to a science. I made a couple of on-the-fly adjustments and it turned out so good I think I could serve it in a restaurant. Okay, maybe that's a little pretentious. How about this: it turned out so good that if I ate in a restaurant I, personally, would be pleased. So without further ado...

(Click to enlarge)


2 tbsp olive oil
2 skinless chicken breasts
1 lb andouille sausage (sliced)
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 large onion (chopped)
1 green pepper (diced)
1 red pepper (diced)
1/4 cup fresh parsley (chopped)
4 cloves of garlic (minced)
2 tsp chili powder (plus more for dusting the chicken)
1 tsp thyme (dried, double if fresh)
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper (this makes it a bit hot, but that's my excuse to drink an extra beer)
1 tsp salt (plus more for the chicken)
1 tsp black pepper (plus more for the chicken)
1 tsp white pepper
2 cups white rice
2 cups chicken broth
white wine

First you want to season the chicken breasts with salt, black pepper and chili powder. Brown them well on each side in some olive oil over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and cut into bite-sized chunks.

In a large pot heat tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer add the onions, green and red pepper, parsley and garlic. Stir and cook until the onions start to soften, about three minutes. Add all the remaining seasonings and the sausage and stir well. Continue to cook until the seasonings are fragrant and the aromas blend, about 5 minutes.

If you're using a stainless steel pot or some other non-non-stick pot like me, you've probably got some nice crud on the bottom of your mix now. Don't worry, that's a good thing. Put a big spash of white wine in there and scrape those bits off the bottom. Think of them as flavor crystals. This is called de-glazing. It is your friend.

At this point, it's important to know if you're using regular rice or something like Minute Rice. If you're using plain old white rice, add it to the pot now and stir to coat. Otherwise, set the rice aside until you add the shrimp later.

Add the chicken broth, then the chicken, pressing it down so that it is submerged in the liquid. Bring everything to a boil. Cover and simmer (reducing the heat to low) for about 30 minutes. This should be enough time to finish cooking your chicken as well as letting all the ingredients get to know each other, like a hollywood hottub party.

Look around your counter. Do you have a big pile of rice still sitting there? If so, bring the mixture back to a boil. Add the rice and the shrimp and stir thoroughly. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes.

If you added the rice way back before the chicken joined the party, add the shrimp now and simmer for another five minutes over low heat.

That's it. For my beverage pairing I had a nice bottle (okay 2) of Dos Equis lager. That's not a particularly daring brand and beer snobs are clicking their shortcuts to something more palatable. That's okay. I cracked open a Dos Equis because I like a clean, easy beer for meals that have a ton of bold flavors and a touch of heat. Jambalaya is crammed full of flavor, and I make it hot enough that something straight up like a traditional lager works for me. Plus Dos Equis is good.

I hope you enjoy it. If not, remember...

C'est une recette libre, se plaindre d'arrĂȘt.

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