Monday, August 29, 2011

Jambalaya, farkashert

Kosher jambalaya?   Not impossible, but since pork is pervasive in Cajun food, and in just about all cooking from the  American South, you have to be a little flexible.  I worked out this variation with chicken and some kosher sausages that I like (OK, I am addicted to them). Over the next couple of months I also hope to post some other farkasherte Southern dishes like a pulled barbeque made with chicken thighs.  

This method combines Cajun seasoning with Spanish technique, so that the rice is not mushy and you are left with soccarat, the wonderful crust that you sometimes get at the bottom of a pan of cooked paella.  Most recipes for jambalaya that I have seen use long grain rice and cook it covered in liquid for 45 minutes.  This adapts a paella-method, which cooks the rice stove-top or unconvererd in the oven (or on an open fire), or, as I do here, a bit of both.  I thought the results were quite good.  I hope that you do too, and don't miss the pork. 


  • 1-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 12 ounces spicy sausage, cut into half inch pieces (see below)
  • 3 tablespoons spice mix
  • 1 chicken cut into 8-12 pieces or 8-12 thighs
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, white and some green, trimmed and sliced
  • 4 stalks of celery, trimmed, strined and chopped
  • 4 green frying peppers or 2 large green bell peppers, seeded, deribbed and chopped
  • 1 jalapeno chili, chopped (optional)
  • 8 - 12 cloves sliced garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika
  • 2 1/2 cups medium grain Spanish rice (I use Montisia, from near Tarragona, since it is the cheapest of the Spanish rices at the local market)
  • 15 ounce can chopped our diced tomatoes (I like Muir Glen fire roasted with green chili here)
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken broth (I used Manishewitz out of a box, you could use homemade)
  • salt to taste
  1. You will need a dish that you can cook on the stove and that will withstand very high oven temperatures. It shouldn't be too deep, since evaporation is key to this method of cooking rice.  A classic paella pan works well, but is difficult to negotiate on the stove.  I used a large, oval enameled cast iron casserole, about 2 inches deep. The pan should be large and deep enough so that it won't boil over, which may set off your  A large  5-6 quart flameproof casserole would probably work as well, but you run a greater risk of mushy rice.
  2. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Remove the racks or adjust them so that they are on the highest shelves, since the pan will rest on the bottom of the oven. (If you have an electric over, put one rack on the lowest shelf.
  3. Put a little oil in the cooking dish, and brown the sausage pieces well on all sideson medium-high heat for about 10 minutes.  Watch the fat so that it doesn't smoke, and adjust the flame accordingly. Remove to a bowl when done.
  4. Meanwhile, dredge the chicken pieces in the spice mix. If you are calorie counting, take off the skin first, but after making this both ways we agreed that the skin adds more than just grease and it is worth accounting for the extra calories.  (See below)
  5. Add as many pieces of chicken as will fit comfortably to the pan, and brown well on all sides. Remove pieces to dish as they brown, and add the remaining pieces.
  6. Add all of the vegetables except the chili and garlic to the fat in the pan, and cook on high heat until they begin to caramelize.   
  7. Add the chili and garlic and cook for a minute or two.  Add the bay leaf, thyme, and paprika and mix well.
  8. Add the rice and mix in until it is well coated with the fat, and then saute another minute or two.
  9. Add the tomatoes and cook on high for a few minutes until most of it is absorbed.
  10. Add the broth, along with the accumulated chicken juices (euphemism for fat). Stir the sausage into the rice, arrange the chicken pieces on top, bring to a boil, and cook uncovered over high heat for 5 minutes.
  11. Transfer the pan to the bottom of the oven, and cook for 25 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.  If you would like, you can move it to a higher shelf at the end broil for a few minutes to crisp the chicken skin.
  12. Cover the pan very loosely with foil, and leave in the oven at least 5 minutes.
  13. Serves eight.

Sausage:  This and the tasso ham are the challenges, since there are no real kosher equivalents.  I just leave out the tasso.  One could try pastrami, but the flavors of coriander and mustard seed would be outof place.  I use Lower East Side  brand Spicy Beef and Red Pepper Sausage, made of course in Newark.  It is like a spicy frank, but with coarser meat, and I find it quite tasty.  You could substitute any of the spicy kosher sausages, precooked or otherwise, though I would avoid ones with North African flavors.  Neshama makes a kosher andouille which would probably be very nice, though I am hooked on the LES spicy beef. A semi-dry turkey cubano would also work.

To skin or not to skin? This is really acceptable if you skin the chicken, particularly if you use thighs which are more difficult to overcook.  However, leaving the skin on adds a lot.  Many flavors are fat-soluble, and the extra dose of chicken fat carries the spice very nicely.  The skin, especially if crisped at the end is delectable.  And, finally, much of what we mistake for moisture in food is actually salivation, our own physiological reaction to fat.  Every week I have eaten this dish, I have lost weight, even making it with the skin on.  Your call. 
Spice mix:  Using a clean coffee grinder reserved for spices, grind fine 3 dried red chili peppers, 1 tablespoon dried thyme,  2 teaspoons each black peppercorns, dried oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon each of sea salt and smoked Spanish paprika.  You will use 2-3 tablespoons for this recipe, and save the rest for other uses.  You could also use a prepared cajun spice mix.

Timing, pans ovens and racks:  The precise timing and method that I have given has worked for a very large skillet a bit deeper than a paella pan, and  rectangular enameled cast iron dish.  It is impossible to be precise here.  Sometimes you just have to go with your good sense and wing it.  The pan should uncovered and be relatively wide relative to its depth. If you like your rice crusty, the bottom of a gas oven works best.  If you don't, or have an electric oven, put it down close near the heat source.

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