Jambalaya – “Gonna Have Big Fun” In the Midwest

I love New Orleans. In years past I had the privilege of visiting several times. I was always impressed by the food, and the drink, for that matter. My visits, which were to catch up with my best friend who lived there for 7 years, usually consisted of going to the local (read little known hole in the wall) blues clubs and restaurants for awesome red beans and rice, muffaletas and fresh oysters( the best of these were where  the”shuckers” were right below the stage in the same kind of focused groove the musicians above them were). In my visits there I never had jambalaya. I never even thought about until we went to   Heaven on 7 in Chicago. I didn’t eat it there either, but it put Cajun and Creole food on my radar. It is my opinion that this cuisine is very labor intensive, but the results are more than worth the effort.

I recently discovered a fantastic recipe for jambalaya in a magazine. It was wonderful even though it was very labor intensive (cooking a whole chicken to create the stock and chicken for the dish – btw totally worth it) and I wasn’t able to get every ingerdient…who knew that Tasso is not a Midwestern commodity. For the record, I created what I think was an acceptable substitute: A thick slab of the smokiest ham the deli carried, rubbed with creole seasoning, white and black pepper and cayenne. But I digress…

Having made the traditional Jambalya I had the thought that the basic ingredients would make a good soup. That’s where this recipe came from. I was in possession of some fabulous andouille sausage from the Wurst Kitchen in Aurora Illinois. I also had chicken thigh trimmings in the freezer. Another digression: When I’m prepping boneless skinless chicken thighs for the grill, I trim the  ends that are barely connected as well as doing some trimming to create a more even thickness on each piece. I save these in the freezer to use in things, well, like soup….

Jambalaya Soup

1 T. vegetable oil

1 ½ pound andouille Sausage, chopped                                  Creole Seasoning, cayenne, white

1 pound chicken thighs cut in bite size pieces                       &  black pepper to taste

2 cups chopped onion                                                                       1 quart chicken stock

1 cup green bell pepper, chopped                                              1 cup  vegetable stock

1 C. celery, chopped                                                                             ½ C.  rice

5 – 6 garlic cloves, chopped                                                       Crushed Ritz Crackers (yup)

  1. Heat oil in large soup pot. Add the chopped andouille and cook until lightly browned and some fat has been rendered. Remove from pan.
  2. Add chicken to pot and cook, stirring occasionally until lightly browned. Remove from the pan.
  3. Add the onion, green pepper, and celery (a.k.a. The Trinity) to the pan and cook over medium heat until softened and beginning to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 3 – 4 minutes longer.
  4. Add approximately ½ cup of stock to the pan to de-glaze and loosen everything
  5. Add the rice and saute for 2 – 3 minutes. Add the rest of the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 15 – 20 minutes.
  6. Ladle into bowls and top with crushed Ritz Crackers.

This recipe makes 4 – 6 servings

NOTE: Okay, I know there is no ham in this recipe, and ham is key in any jambalaya recipe (I think “jam” means ham) but you can definitely add it to your version and who knows, I may add it to mine the next time I make it.

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