Chicken Jambalaya: A Southern Souvenir

I’ve got a theory about souvenirs – they ought to strike a balance between unique-and practical. In recent years more of my souvenir purchases are finding their way into my kitchen – like the metal tortilla press from San Diego and the glass olive oil cruet from Paris – I bought them in a shop frequented by locals and I’ve continued to use them long after my trip.

But when Sam and I visited New Orleans in 2009 to help with post Katrina rebuilding I missed the kitchen souvenir opportunity. While we bought numerous CDs from the late night bands we heard in local bars, we passed over the Beignet mix from Cafe Dumonde (probably a good thing considering how many fresh ones we ate on the trip). However, we did return with a love for kosher Cajun cuisine, which has slowly made it’s way into our kitchen. I’ve tried to recreate some of the dishes we enjoyed by the bayou such as imitation shrimp scampi, okra gumbo and chicken and rice jambalaya.

Last Saturday night I found myself staring at our Shabbat leftovers – chicken and rice made in a crock pot – and had a Southern inspiration that I knew would save us from repetition. I would brown some fake sausage, crispen up that chicken and rice, mix in salsa and spices and we would be feasting on some version of jambalaya. Boy was it a success. The vinegary vegetables and spices in the store bought salsa played very well with the freshly browned and mellowed onions and peppers – and giving the main ingredients some crunch was just what that chicken and rice needed. Follow the first recipe below if you too have leftover chicken and rice or see the second one if you’re starting from scratch.

Aside from the fact that Sam got over 100 mosquito bites while rebuilding in New Orleans and swore we would never return to Louisiana in the spring, I do like to try my hand at Southern cooking at this time of year. My heart goes out to those in the south who are dealing with all of the flooding right now – I hope they too can enjoy some comfort food soon.

Chicken Jambalaya
I found a great pareve sausage at Trader Joes to add to this dish and keep it a little lower in fat.

1.5 cups of leftover rice and chicken that were cooked together in a crockpot (see below for recipe)
Onion, peeled and chopped
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tsp Olive Oil
Salt, dash
Pepper, dash
1 rosemary sprig
1 thyme sprig
4 Sausage links, sliced into 1 inch pieces
2 cups salsa
1.5 tsp garlic powder
1.5 tsp onion powder
½ tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika

Shred the chicken off the bone with a fork and set aside.

Saute chopped onion and slivered mini peppers in oil and season with salt and pepper over a medium flame until soft and brown on edges. Add in the sausage pieces and brown. Remove the sausage pieces.

Stir rice, rosemary and thyme into the warm pan and get the rice to a bit of a crisp. Add in 1.5 cups of salsa and stir for one minute. Add in chicken and garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder and paprika until the chicken is warmed through. Return the sausage to the pan and serve hot with additional salsa.

Whole Chicken and Rice in a Crockpot
Cooking rice and chicken this way leads to a stickier, softer rice and tender chicken that falls off the bone.

1 Whole Chicken
1 cup of rice
½ onion, peeled and chopped
3 mini bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 bay leaf
1 rosemary sprig
1 sage sprig
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp oregano
1.5 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper

Spread the rice over the bottom of the crock pot insert. Cover with the chopped onions and mini peppers as well as the herbs and garlic.

Place the whole chicken on top of these ingredients – season with salt and pepper and cover in water – the water level should be 1.5 inches above the rice.

Set on low heat for 8 or more hours. Serve with salt and pepper.

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