Jambalaya has always been one of my favorite cajun meals. It truly is a one pot wonder unlike any other. I vary mine some every time I make it, but the base of chicken, some type of sausage, and shrimp with creole seasoning stays the same. This dish has quite a kick, but you can play with the flavors and adjust to your own taste.
No Jambalaya can be complete without a good creole mix, so let’s start there. Sure, you can buy creole mix in any store…but since it is super easy to make and customize, I prefer to make my own. In a trusty mason jar, I mix two tablespoons each of onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, basil, black pepper, and white pepper, one tablespoon each of cayenne pepper, thyme, and celery seed, and lastly five tablespoons of smoked paprika. Shake it up good to combine well. You will have plenty leftover for future batches of jambalaya or other recipes. It is really good to season steaks for cooking on the grill!
Now that the spice is made, we can start to build the dish. Start by cutting up approximately one pound of boneless skinless chicken thighs (feel free to use chicken breast, but I prefer the flavor of the thighs for this) into cubes. In a large mixing bowl, combine the chicken pieces with a generous sprinkle of the creole mix and work it in with your hands (our best kitchen tool!). You really want to coat the chicken well, because this will be the first layer of flavor the dish gets.
The chicken joins two tablespoons of vegetable oil which have been heating in a five quart dutch oven over medium heat. While the chicken is browning, I sliced up once pound of turkey keilbasa. Any kind of sausage works well here. Sometimes I use andouille, chorizo, smoked turkey sausage, or sweet italian even. Whatever you like, or have on hand, is fine. Once the chicken starts to brown, add in the sausage. When they are both browned nicely, pull them out onto a paper towel lined plate to drain.
While the meats were browning, I diced up two yellow onions, one green bell pepper, one yellow bell pepper, one poblano pepper, four stalks of celery, five green onions and five cloves of garlic. This is my take on the holy trinity…which in cajun cooking is onion, bell pepper and celery, roughly in the same proportion. All together, they go into the dutch oven to saute.
Once the vegetables have just started to soften, add in two generous tablespoons of tomato paste. Stir well to combine.
Add the chicken and sausage back in to the dutch oven. Also add once fourteen ounce can of diced tomatoes (I use no salt, but again whatever you have on hand works, crushed tomatoes would work too), one thirty-two ounce box of low sodium chicken broth, three tablespoons of low sodium worcestershire sauce, one tablespoon of tabasco, and three cups of basmati rice (or other long grain). Stir well to combine.
At this point, bring it up to a hearty simmer (not quite a boil), for about fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, toss one pound of shrimp (I use the 16-20 count) with a sprinkle of the creole mix and put to the side. Turn the heat down to low and simmer another forty-five minutes or so. Check the rice at this point. If it is starting to get tender, add in the shrimp. DO NOT ADD THE SHRIMP TOO EARLY!! It will get tough! Wait to add it until the rice is close to being done. Once you add the shrimp, simmer another fifteen minutes or so until liquid is dissolved and rice is tender. All that’s left is to enjoy!!