Carnival law is now in effect for New Orleans, as tourists and natives prepare for Mardi Gras.
The Cajun version of easy living includes masks, costumes and plenty of spicy food. Christopher Tanner’s version of easy living gives home chefs a fast way to celebrate the day, without all the carousing and purple and green party favors.
“It’s really easy to make,” Tanner said of his chicken jambalaya, a healthful and spicy version of a rice stew. “They call it the creole trinity; the three main vegetables are in there — celery, bell pepper and onions. They’re just sautéed with a little bit of olive oil, put the Cajun seasoning in with that along with one cup of the andouille sausage and you kind of brown that a little bit on the bottom.”
This browning puts a bit of crust in the dish, and some extra flavor.
“Then you put the rest of your ingredients in there, the tomatoes, the stock, the rest of the sausage and the chicken, add your rice, stir it up put a cover on it and let it go until it’s fully cooked.”
It’s as simple as throwing beads off a balcony. Using chicken as the main protein also makes this healthier than a shrimp-based jambalaya, as Tanner said the latter dish can be high in cholesterol. A chicken jambalaya, the chef said, means people with allergies to shellfish can fill up their bowls.
New Orleans cooking means spicy, and Tanner’s salute to Mardi Gras is a spicy one.
“What you do to make it less spicy is take some of the Cajun seasoning out,” he said. “There are 5 tablespoons in this recipe. If you want it less spicy, just put 2 tablespoons of that in there or take the Tabasco sauce out as well.”
But people should not remove too much of the seasoning and sauce — this is a Mardi Gras diversion, after all.
“You want to have some of that in there,” Tanner said. “That’s the flavor of the actual dish.”
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups Spanish onions, diced medium
3 cups green bell peppers, diced medium
1 cup celery, diced medium
5 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
3 cups chicken andouille sausage (found in supermarket poultry sections), sliced in quarter-inch rounds
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups peeled, chopped tomatoes
8 ounces chicken breast, sliced julienne
3 cups Uncle Ben’s rice
2 teaspoons Tabasco
Coat the bottom of a heavy, 5-quart pot with the olive oil, place over high heat and preheat. Add onion, peppers and the celery, 3 tablespoons of the Cajun seasoning, 1 cup of the andouille sausage and cook, stirring constantly until a crust begins to develop, about 12 minutes. Add 1 cup of stock to de-glaze, cook for an additional 10 minutes.
Add tomatoes and julienne chicken slices, cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the rest of the sausage and chicken broth. Stir in the rice and return to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the rice is tender.
Stir in Tabasco sauce and serve.