Ah, Mardi Gras. I’ve always had a special affinity for Fat Tuesday. Maybe it’s because I was born in Louisiana (although Shreveport is hardly cajun country), maybe it’s because in the belly of winter I’m just looking for reason to celebrate, or maybe, most likely, I love a holiday so closely connected to food that it has Fat right in the name.
In preparation, I start listing off more cajun dishes I want to make thanBubba in Forrest Gump…shrimp gumbo, cajun shrimp pasta, shrimp etouffee, shrimp po’boy…
But somehow, my year round cajun go-to always ends up being jambalaya. This year, I persuaded my friend Jaime, owner of Mamalo’s Cajun Kitchen in Frederick, CO, into sharing her recipe.
“This is why cajun food is love. It all takes time. You can’t rush it.”
Born in Lafayette, Louisiana, Jaime has a food science degree, a catering background, and a whole lotta hospitality. One of my fondest memories is
the time she flew in 200 pounds of live crawfish from Louisiana to Colorado just to throw an authentic crawfish boil, an all day affair in the backyard with food and friends. And beignets. Yum.
Among her friends, Jaime is known as the Jambalaya Queen. So I spent a Saturday in the kitchen cooking up a classic version of jambalaya whilst drinking Cajun Bloody Mary’s with garlic olives.
She started off by seasoning chicken thighs (dark meat, my kinda girl!) with homemade cajun rub and tossing them in a heavy-bottomed pot heated with Healthy Harvest Greek Olive Oil just until browned, not cooked through, then removes them to a plate.
Then, she added onions, part of the cajun Holy Trinity – celery, onion, and bell peppers – to the pot. One of the first secrets she let me in on is to saute the onions nice and slow until they’re browned. It’s key to the traditional brown color and rich, deep flavor. “This is why cajun food is love. It all takes time. You can’t rush it,” she explains. You can add in a little stock to keep the onions from burning or sticking. While the onions are browning, she slices the chicken into fork-sized pieces.
After the onions are nice and browned, she adds in the bell peppers, celery and garlic, along with the chicken and sausage to cook. Once the meat is cooked through, she adds long grain white rice and tops with homemade stock.
She adds more seasoning to taste, covers the pot, and gives me this advice. “Once the lid is on, bring the pot to a boil, turn the heat to low, then DON’T TOUCH IT. If you have the heat too high, the rice will burn to the bottom, so turn it to low, and let it take all the time it needs, which is about 30-40 minutes. You don’t want to check on it, stir it, nothing, because the magic is in the steam. All the cooking power is gone if you open the lid.”
Once cooked, serve in heaping bowls, and toss with green onions. This recipe serves a crowd, so call up your friends and let the good times roll!
- 3 medium white onions, diced
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp Healthy Harvest Greek extra virgin olive oil
- 4 chicken thighs
- 1 lb andouille sausage or Louisiana links
- 1.5 cup long grain white rice
- 3 cups chicken or veggie broth
- salt and pepper
- Cajun seasoning
- 2 tbsp garlic powder
- 2 tbsp onion powder
- 3 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp oregano
- 1 tbsp cayenne
- 2 tbsp salt
- Heat olive oil in heavy bottomed pot.
- Season chicken and add to pot. Cook until browned. Remove to a plate.
- Add onions to pot and cook over medium-low until browned. Don't rush!
- Once onions are browned, add garlic, peppers, and celery. Stir. Add in chicken and sausage and heat until cooked through.
- Add rice, stock, and season to taste.
- Add lid and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn heat to low and cook for 30-40 minutes. Do not touch until you are ready to serve.
- Garnish with green onions.