Thursday, November 23, 2006

Jambalaya for 24

This is a recipe I've made for my cohousing community several times. We have people in the community with shellfish allergies, so it's shrimp free, but you could certainly add shrimp at the end, and substitute some clam stock for the chicken stock. When I put this on the menu I was worried about getting all the rice cooked without burning it on the bottom, since most jambalaya recipes call for cooking everything together in one pot, and I just didn't see that working in bulk. To get around that, this recipe cooks the rice separately and combines it with the rest of the ingredients before serving. It makes for a really easy and nearly foolproof recipe, without sacrificing flavor or texture, IMO.

Cohousing Jambalaya (serves 24)
(recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated)
6 cups long grain white rice
9 cups chicken stock
4 onions (peeled, ends trimmed, and quartered)
4 ribs celery (cut crosswise into quarters)
2 red peppers (stemmed, seeded and quartered)
2 green peppers (stemmed, seeded and quartered)
1 head garlic (cloves separated and peeled)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 lbs andouille sausage (halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch pieces)
20 bone-in chicken thighs (skin removed [1])
2 lg (28 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 tsp salt
2 tsp fresh thyme
6 bay leaves
1/2 - 1 tsp cayenne (optional - see [2])
1/2 c chopped parsley

Combine rice and chicken stock in a rice cooker and start cooking.

Chop the vegetables (onion through garlic) in a food processor. It will take about 6 1-second pulses - do not overprocess - you want finely chopped, not puree. It's okay if there are a few larger bits in the mix. Work in batches, with some of each ingredient in each batch. The number of batches will depend on the size of your food processor. Set aside.

In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil over high heat, then add the andouille and cook until it's browned all over. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside, leaving the fat in the pot.

Add chopped vegetables and cook until soft. Add cooked sausage, tomatoes, salt, thyme, bay leaves and cayenne (if using) to pot and bring to a boil. Add chicken thighs and cook until chicken is done, about 20-25 minutes.

Remove chicken from liquid and set aside to cool slightly. Meanwhile, stir the now-cooked rice into the liquid. Turn heat to very low or off entirely - the pot will keep its heat for a long time. When chicken is cool enough to handle, pull it off the bone into bite size pieces and stir it back into the rice mixture.

By this time the rice should have sucked up all the yummy liquid and it should be nicely integrated and ready to serve.
[1] Quick tip for removing chicken skin - loosen it with your fingers, then use a paper towel to grip the skin and pull - it will pull right off. Don't worry about getting off every last bit of fat - you want the flavor.
[2] The amount of cayenne you need will depend on the level of heat in the andouille you're using, and how spicy the crowd you're cooking for likes it. If your sausage is particularly mild, you might need to increase the amount beyond the range I list here. I have a mixed crowd with kids and adults and the sausage I use is quite spicy, so I omit the cayenne when I make it and put hot sauce out on the side for those that want to punch up the heat.

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