Saying I have a recipe for jambalaya is like saying I have a recipe for pizza. There’s SO many ways it can be done. Surely there’s no “one way”. But surely there’s a really good way.
This is a really good way.
Before I made this, I had to start with the basics. What is jambalaya? What makes a good jambalaya? What makes a bad jambalaya?
What is jambalaya?
Jambalaya is a New Orleans recipe with rice, a mixture of onions, celery, and green bell peppers (aka the holy trinity), tomatoes (depending on locale), and various additions such as chicken, andouille sausage, shrimp, and ham.
Of course, I had to start with that.
What makes a good jambalaya?
One of the most important things to consider with rice is that it will absorb whatever liquid you cook it in. In this case, the liquid is a mixture of chicken broth and the tomato juice mixed with all the spices and aromatics the final dish needs. All that flavor will be in the rice instead of just around it.
Also, instead of just using chicken broth, I made a shrimp stock using the heads and shells from whole shrimp. If you’re thinking yuck, gross, I’m totally with you. With some of the big ones, I had to avert my gaze so I wasn’t face to face with their beady little eyes. I had a permanent “egh ” face going on. But trust me, it’s worth getting out of your comfort zone.
Lastly, all meat deserves a good pan sear. It’s just a sign of respect. I seared the chicken on high heat to develop some golden caramelization before chopping it up. Similarly for the andouille sausage.
What makes a bad jambalaya?
Whenever you do a one pot recipe with uncooked rice, it’s important to cover it, set your timer, and walk away. Opening the stove and taking the lid off the pot will wreck havoc with the cooking process. Repeat with me. Cover it, set timer, walk away.
Overcooking the shrimp is another sure fire way to ruin the recipe. Shrimp are very easy to cook but tantalizingly easy to overcook. In this recipe, you mix them in after the rice is done cooking, cover the pot, and walk away. See a theme here?
Andouille is a Louisiana style smoked pork sausage, which means it’s not so easy to find in Los Angeles. (This futile search reminded me I really need to work on a good chorizo and egg recipe, because if there’s one sausage we DO have, it’s chorizo!)
We found some andouille at Trader Joes, but it was made with chicken instead of pork. Despite having good reviews on Chowhound, we wanted a fattier sausage, so we moved on.
We ultimately found two types at Ralphs in the cured meat section (i.e. hot dogs, etc). The Aidells Cajun Style Andouille had a smoker flavor (apparently it’s smoked twice!) and nice aftertaste. The Farmer John Hot Louisiana Smoked Sausage had a more simple flavor where the fat and spice were the predominant flavors, leaving some smoke flavor to be desired.
We ended up using a combination of both, but if we had to choose, we’d recommend using Aidells. For an added bonus, Aidells doesn’t have any added nitrates.
Spicy Shrimp Chicken and Andouille Creole Jambalaya
- 2 T Vegetable oil
- 2.4 oz Andouille
- ½ cup diced onion (~1 and ½ medium onions)
- ½ cup diced bell pepper (~½ medium pepper, try this quick chopping technique!)
- ½ cup diced celery
- 1 cup diced tomatoes with juice (fresh or canned, whichever tastes better based on the season)
- ¾ cup long grain white rice
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 and ¼ cup chicken stock (optional: 1 qt total if you want extra shrimp stock)
- 1 T Worcestershire sauce
- 2 T minced garlic
- 3 oz chicken thighs or leg meat, seared, diced
- 1 lb whole head on shrimp
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- ¼ tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- ¼ tsp dried thyme
- ½ tsp dried sage
- ¼ tsp dried basil
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
Inspired by New Orleans Cuisine
- De-head, peel, and devein all of the shrimp. (Check out Gordon Ramsay’s helpful video if you need a refresher.) If you can, try not to rip the end of the shrimp tail off when you’re taking off the shell.
- Add the shells to chicken stock and simmer for 10 minutes on low heat. The shells and heads from 1 pound of shrimp was enough to flavor 1 qt of stock, so make extra and save the leftovers!
- After the stock is done simmering, strain out the shrimp shells and set aside. (Feel free to save the shells for a second stock!)
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- In a large sauce pot or Dutch Oven, heat 2 T vegetable oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking
- Sear Andouille sausage on at least two “sides” to develop a good crust, then set aside.
- Sear chicken thighs or leg meat until golden brown on both sides. It’s ok if it’s not cooked through.
- Dice the chicken meat into roughly ¼” cubes. Set aside.
- Mix together the onion, bell pepper, and celery (also known as the Holy Trinity). Add half of the Holy Trinity mixture to the remaining oil and cook on medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes.
- While it’s cooking, slice the Andouille sausage in ¼” slices and add to the pot.
- Add the diced tomatoes to the pot and cook for 2 minutes
- Add the rice, stir, and cook for 2 minutes or until slightly golden, stirring occasionally.
- Add the shrimp stock, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, seasoning mix, remaining Holy Trinity mixture, and diced chicken
- Stir to mix then taste the stock to see how much more salt you need to add. It can very based on how salty your broth was to begin with. I used a low sodium broth and ended up adding ~½ tsp more Kosher salt.
- Bring the stock to a boil on the stovetop, cover, and put in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes. Don’t. Touch. The. Oven. In fact, walk away.
- After 25 minutes, take the pot out of the oven, add the shrimp, stir, cover, and let it rest on the stovetop (without heat) for 5 minutes. During this time, the shrimp will cook in the steam and from touching the hot rice and the rice will finish absorbing the stock.
- After 5 minutes, stir again to fluff the rice and now it’s ready to serve! At this point the shrimp will be perfectly cooked and tender, so don’t dilly dally!