BY SARAH O’KELLEY | FEBRUARY 3, 2011 | ESQUIRE MAGAZINE
Jambalaya is a classic dish of southern Louisiana — no surprise given the amount of rice grown there. The cooking culture of that region is built upon making a little bit go a long way. Jambalaya is the epitome of this philosophy. Although you can make it with anything from rabbit to duck, we keep our jambalaya pretty basic with roasted chicken and spicy andouille sausage, another staple of Louisiana cooking. There’s a beautiful economy in cooking with andouille: As the sausage browns, it flavors the aromatic vegetables without any extra effort. And although we love our local heirloom grains, in jambalaya we use rice that has been parboiled, a process that makes rice easier to mill but also helps it keep its shape. Once you put the jambalaya together, the hot oven does the rest. It’s a complex dish made easy.
As we prepared to evacuate New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina, my business partner and I made a pot of jambalaya. When we got safely across to the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, we heated up that pot on a gas grill and sat around eating jambalaya and playing cards. It wasn’t until the next afternoon when we listened to the news on the car radio that we learned what we’d left behind.
Chef Sarah O’Kelley, Glass Onion, Charleston, South Carolina
• 1 stick plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter
• 2 lbs diced andouille or other smoked, ready-to-eat sausage (about 7 cups)
• 3 cups chopped yellow onion (about 1 ½ medium onions)
• 2 cups chopped celery (about 5 ribs)
• 2 cups chopped green bell pepper (about 2 medium peppers)
• 1 tbsp kosher salt
• 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
• 1 tbsp minced garlic (about 3 medium cloves)
• 4-lb roasted chicken, skin and fat discarded, meat pulled (about 5 cups)
• 1 qt chicken stock or low-sodium broth
• 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
• 8 sprigs fresh thyme, tied together with kitchen twine
• 2 bay leaves
• 3 tbsp hot sauce (or less if desired)
• 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
• 2 tsp ground coriander
• 4 cups Uncle Ben’s Original converted parboiled rice, or other parboiled rice (Note: Look for the orange box marked “Original” with the words converted and parboiled. It’s on every supermarket shelf.)
• 1 bunch scallions, chopped
Preheat oven to 450 degrees and start chopping.
In a large pot — at least 8 quarts with a tightly fitting lid — melt butter until foamy over medium-high heat. Add andouille and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes.
Add onions, celery, bell peppers, salt, and pepper and cook until onions are translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add pulled chicken, chicken stock, tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves, hot sauce, Worcestershire, and coriander. Stir to combine. When liquid comes to a simmer, add rice, cover, and transfer pot to preheated oven. Cook until rice has absorbed all of the liquid and is tender, 30 to 40 minutes. (The rice should be moist but not wet with excess liquid.) Do not remove lid before 30 minutes to check — quickly — for doneness, as you will interrupt the steaming process. (Note: Cooking any grain is about steam. The cooking time here depends on your pot’s ability to retain heat and the lid’s ability to trap steam.)
Remove from oven. Discard bundle of thyme and bay leaves. Add scallions and stir to thoroughly combine. Salt to taste.
Serve in bowls, passing extra hot sauce on the side. (Note: There is always carryover cooking with rice, so if you’re not serving immediately, transfer to a large platter or bowl.) Serves 10 to 12.