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After putting it off too many times, I finally decided this past week to make a pot of my grandpa’s jambalaya. This has always been intimidating to me for several reasons. One reasons is that whenever my parents would make a pot, it would take a while to prepare. Mom and Dad have cooked larger batches for things like potlucks and high school graduations, freezing leftovers for a later treat. We didn’t have a large cast iron pot (that I remember), so certain parts of the cooking would need to be done in batches.

Intimidation aside, I decided this past Thursday to send out a last minute Facebook event invite for a jambalaya pot party. Even a small recipe makes ten servings, so I needed any and all help consuming what ends up being a relatively rich dish. I went to the grocery store on Friday after work, then bought every ingredient (aside from oil and salt) as I double, triple, and quadruple checked the ingredient list.

Ingredients about to become jambalaya!

On Saturday around 4PM, I started making the jambalaya. It calls for boiling chicken thighs in broth with cayenne pepper and vegetables. As I poured in the broth, it didn’t look like enough for all of the items I was about to put in the pot. But once I put it all in and rearranged things a bit, everything fit. There were a couple of pieces that weren’t fully submerged, but I stirred the pot often enough to get the chicken to cook evenly. One point I should note here: I put the chicken thighs in skin, bones, and all, then later trimmed everything up when the meat went back into the pot.

Because of the proportions of things in the pot, I double checked the recipe, then went to have a look at the LeBlanc Family Cookbook. My grandpa’s jambalaya recipe is the first entrée listed… or should I say one of my grandpa’s jambalaya recipes is the first entrée listed. The one in the cookbook had a slightly different broth to meat ratio and calls for butter beans. While fascinating, this didn’t really help me determine whether I was doing the right thing, so I just went back to the kitchen.

Meanwhile, I started pan frying the celery, green bell pepper (went with a green bell pepper that was going orange), and onion. The recipe calls for you to both boil onion with the chicken (to later be discarded), as well as pan fry diced onion. I think the proportions were off by a bit because the onion was clearly crowding the pan. Once the vegetables were going from translucent to caramelizing, I trimmed up the chicken and cleaned the other vegetables from the pot of broth.

The chicken went back in the pot with most of the vegetables so I could get to work on the andouille sausage. You’re supposed to cook the sausage along with the vegetables, but there was no way I was going to be able to fit all of that in the pan. So I left a few of the vegetables in the pan while I grabbed the sausage from the refrigerator.

I apparently wasn’t paying the closest attention when I bought the sausage, because when I unwrapped it and got it on the cutting board, I realized it was completely uncooked! The recipe calls for you to just heat through the sausage, but I knew this couldn’t be right for what I was seeing, so I prepared to spend a little while longer cooking the sausage in the pan.

Uh oh, raw andouille sausage! Much better, all cooked now.

After all of the time cooking veggies and sausage, my pan had begun its own transformation into “cast iron.”

I think I'd better clean this up

With the sausage sufficiently cooked, I proceeded with the rest of the recipe. The sausage went into the pot with everything else. While the sausage was cooking, I measured out three cups of converted rice and set it aside. After putting the sausage into the pot, I pulled out a ladle and started stirring the rice into the pot. I held the rice high above the pot and let it stream out as I stirred. Then I brought the pot to a hard boil and covered it.

Does it look like it's boiling hard enough?

You’re supposed to stir every once in a while, so I used the ladle to stir. Unfortunately, this ladle was a little old and the jambalaya was too strong for it!

The ladle couldn't handle this jambalaya.

Fortunately, I was able to find a cooking spoon strong enough to keep stirring. After about half an hour, I had something with a very familiar look and smell.

Bon appétit!

My dinner guests arrived soon after and we dished up. I had forgotten to bring Tabasco sauce, but we ended up not needing it. Since this was the first time I’d really had jambalaya with andouille sausage (that I can remember), I underestimated the Scoville scale contribution it made. It was certainly very tasty and wasn’t super spicy, but it did have more of a kick than I was anticipating.

Everything turned out a little different than I was anticipating, but in the end, I felt like I’d done the recipe justice. Will definitely make it again, although I’ll probably keep the heat a little lower.

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Joe LeBlanc



Joe in Austin

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