We love to create traditions on the homestead. Some of our traditions come from our families, but we really enjoy starting new ones, especially when they involve food or drink. We have tried mint juleps for the Kentucky derby and the seven fishes for Christmas Eve, we even made a trout out of lights and drop it from a pole every New Years Eve. One of our favorite traditions is celebrating fat Tuesday (AKA: Mardi Gras) , by making jambalaya. We may or may not celebrate other Mardi Gras traditions, use your imagination! Like so many other dishes, jambalaya recipes vary greatly, but we have come up with one the whole family enjoys. We always use our cast iron pot, which has never produced a bad meal. Jambalaya is one of those dishes that when being cooked fills the whole house with a mouth-watering aroma. Our jambalaya is kicked up a notch by our own homemade hot Italian sausage. Traditional recipes use andouille but this is the homestead version that uses ingredients we have in the pantry and freezer. We also use green pepper, onion, garlic, oregano, crushed red pepper, and canned tomatoes from last years garden.
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 lb sausage links, we use hot Italian, but can substitute andouille, cut into 3 pieces each
1/2 lb raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp oregano
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 small onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, finely minced or crushed
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a cast iron dutch oven on med/high heat, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil. Brown the chicken in 2 batches. No need to cook through, just browning at this time. Remove each batch to a plate and set aside. In the same pot, brown the sausage pieces (if using andouille, skip this browning step) and set aside with the chicken.
Add the second tablespoon of olive oil to the pot. On med/high heat, saute the pepper, onion and garlic until slightly softened. Add the cayenne, red pepper flakes, paprika and oregano to the pot with the vegetables. Stir to combine and warm seasonings. (I find that doing this is a trick to “wake up” dried spices)
Add the chicken stock, tomatoes and rice. Stir to combine. Add the chicken and sausage back to the pot, and don’t forget to include all those yummy juices that have accumulated on the plate. Stir and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer and set a timer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, turn off heat, uncover, add shrimp and stir to combine. Re-cover and leave covered for 5 minutes with the heat off. (trust me, your shrimp will cook!) After those 5 long minutes have passed, give the jambalaya one more stir and serve!
There are so many wonderful traditions out there, and not all of them require beads. It is always exciting to try something new, so why not start a new tradition, we are always glad we did.