I’ve never been to New Orleans. I’ve never sucked the spiced juices from the head of a crawdad, nor have I felt them scuttle over my feet as they sunk into the cool mud of the bayou. I’ve never caroused Canal Street, stumbling to catch doubloons and beads and colorful trinkets thrown from mysterious masked men on elaborate floats. I’ve never settled myself into a plush chair at a club in the French Quarter, drinking martinis as I was soothed by the smooth sound of Jazz. I’ve never been to New Orleans; not yet.
I will go, some day. I’ve been fantasizing about a trip to NOLA for years now. The culture mash-up is so enticing, the food so inviting, and the atmosphere so exciting that I can’t think of another place in the United States that I would rather visit. My New Orleans envy has been at an all-time high lately, with this year’s double whammy of the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras in the most unique city in America. While I was stuck at home in the less-exciting state of New Jersey, I decided that not all was lost. I would bring a little bit of New Orleans to me. A bowl of New Orleans, to be exact.
So I set out on a mission– a very ambitious mission. I was determined to make the best Jamabalaya ever. Some fundamental issues with this idea included the fact that I am not Cajun, Creole, nor do I have any immediate connections with anyone who is, and, as I said before, I’ve never been to New Orleans to even know what to compare to. However, I’ve eaten a lot of Jambalaya… an abnormal amount, probably. I hoped that would make up for my shortcomings.
It may have. I don’t want to say this is by far the best Jambalaya that ever existed (Who am I to assert that?), but it’s definitely the best Jambalaya I’ve ever tasted. Give it a shot and let me know what you think. I’ll be making this again soon, as it seems my family and friends can’t get enough of it. I think yours will feel the same way!
By the way, I highly suggest that you enjoy an Abita beer with your meal. I’ve yet to try a variety I didn’t love.
Just because you’re not in Louisiana doesn’t mean you can’t eat like you are. This Jambalaya will make you feel like you’re in the heart of New Orleans! Best of all, you get a ton of flavor without having to let it simmer all day. Adapted from Bubba’s Jambalaya
- 8 slices bacon
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 lb leftover chicken breast, cooked and cubed*
- 1 lb andouille sausage, cooked, cut into ½ inch pieces
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper
- 1 lb medium shrimp, cooked*
- 1 tsp Old Bay
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 (14.5 oz) cans crushed tomatoes, with liquid
- 1 can beef broth
- 1 can french onion soup
- 1 can chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme**
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano**
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
- 3 cups uncooked Uncle Ben’s brown rice
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Add half of the bacon to a large pot over medium-high heat, and cook until crisp. Remove, set aside, and repeat with the second half. Set aside.
- Add the celery, bell pepper, and onion to the bacon grease. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and cook for a minute.
- Add the chicken, sausage, crushed red pepper, Old Bay, thyme, oregano, paprika, celery salt, bay leaf, Cajun seasoning, crushed tomatoes, beef broth, french onion soup, and chicken broth.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, and then add the rice. Then turn the heat all the way down to low, add in the bacon and shrimp, cover and simmer. Stir every 5 minutes. Once the rice is cooked through, remove the mixture from the heat, season with salt and pepper, and serve.
* If you are starting off with uncooked chicken, shrimp, or sausage, simply make it however you typically prepare your meat. I personally enjoy adding some of the spices that come into play in the recipe, but feel free to experiment here. ** Be sure to always rub dried spices in the palms of your hands before adding them to your dishes to better release the flavors and aromas.
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