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Enhance My Jambalaya

Below is my recipe for jambalaya. It is quite good, but does not quite measure up to the best that I've eaten in restos. Somehow it lacks the zing and snap (for lack of better descriptors) of a really first-class jambalaya. Please chime in with suggestions.

4 T. veg. oil
3/4 lb. chicken breast, diced
1/2 lb. ham, diced
1/2 lb. smoked sausage, sliced
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup onion, minced
1 cup bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
14 oz. can tomatoes with juice, minced
3 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup tom. paste
1 T. Tabasco
1 bay leaf
1/2 t. salt
1 t. oregano
1 t. thyme
1/2 t. allspice
1 1/2 cups long grain rice

1. Heat 2 T. oil over medium-high heat in stock pot.

2. Add chicken and brown on all sides for 10 minutes.

3. Remove chicken from pot.

4. Add remaining 2 T. oil to pot and heat.

5. Add ham, sausage, celery, onion, green pepper and garlic; cook for 9 minutes stirring frequently.

6. Stir in tomatoes, broth, tomato paste, Tabasco, bay leaf, salt, oregano, thyme and allspice.

7. Return chicken to pot. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

8. Stir in rice. Cover. Simmer 40 minutes, stirring frequently and adding additional broth if rice begins to stick to bottom of pot.

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  1. skip the veg oil and use duck fat, schmaltz or lard or even better a combo of all. (and just one clove of garlic? I'd use closer to an entire head and toss it in at the start)

    4 Replies
    1. re: hill food

      Can duck fat be purchased in regular grocery stores? I don't recall seeing the stuff.

      Point about the garlic duly noted.

      1. re: Perilagu Khan

        I dunno, probably not, although maybe at a large Asian grocer. I like to roast duck and reserve every drop of the rendered fat so it's never been an issue for me.

        but there's a thread topic for you. I tried finding beef tallow or suet once and just got a bunch of puzzled looks.

        1. re: hill food

          Anyplace that sells "D'Artagnan products should have duck fat. If there's a Wegman's in your area I know they have it.

        2. re: Perilagu Khan

          Williams Sonoma is now selling jars of duck fat. Saw it in the last catalog they sent me.

      2. Duck fat would be insane, but are you using a touch of acid to finish this off? To my mind the only thing missing is a squeezed lemon and then taste for salt before serving. You could also replace the plain diced tomatoes w/ roasted garlic tomatoes for a little extra kick and add a few drops of hot pepper sauce for depth of flavor, not zing.

        5 Replies
        1. re: mamachef

          mama - re duck fat: insanely delicious!

          I once had a sauce (different intent) of roasted tomatoes, red bell pepper and garlic, but that WAS amazing. so good tip I imagine the char would add a nice smoky element.

          OP PK: as for the ham, can you get Tasso or as a sub smoked ham hock in the area? you say smoked sausage, but can you find Andouille or even just Chorizo? these would add complexity and you don't need much.

          1. re: hill food

            Andouille is no problem. Tasso? Dunno. I'll check on that.

            1. re: Perilagu Khan

              Tasso is what you need. I always try to keep a couple of pounds of it squirreled away in the freezer, on general principle.

              Here's the butchers shop I usually buy it from, and they'll ship it...
              http://www.landandseamarket.com/store...

          2. re: mamachef

            A squeeze of lemon sounds like just the thing.

            1. re: Perilagu Khan

              Um, no they don't use any acid but tomatoes. If you want to go authentic, but by all means, go by what tastes good to you.

          3. a teaspoon or two of fish sauce or anchovy paste, and/or sub out 1/2 cup of coffee for the chicken stock

            5 Replies
            1. re: weezycom

              Coffee, eh? Interesting. Have you actually done this?

              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                I've made a variety of Louisiana dishes that have tomatoes & ham/sausgae in them, and putting in a little coffee can give a nice depth of flavor. Sort of like adding cocoa powder to chile -- you may not specifically taste the ingredient, it just gives a little extra richness of flavor to the whole pot.

                1. re: weezycom

                  I could see that, doesn't red-eye gravy incorporate coffee?

                  1. re: hill food

                    That's where I got the original idea to do it. And if you make chicory coffee, even better!

                    1. re: weezycom

                      chicory coffee would be a nice twist (and kick) this is OT, but using finely ground coffee on steak (think steak au poivre, I guess au cafe in this case) is another good use.

            2. IMO you'll get the zing you need from cayenne and/or crushed red pepper (I know you have Tabasco) and Worcestershire sauce. My favorite new seasoning blend of the moment is Mrs. Dash's line...the Onion & Herb blend would enhance the dish alot. I added some (well, I've been adding it to everything lately) to my okra gumbo and it was perfect. Also, I know you have ham and sausage in the dish but 1/2 teaspoon of salt doesn't seem like enough to season all the food you have cooking together.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Cherylptw

                I imagine you're right about the salt. This is one of the rare recipes in my index that err on the side of caution when it comes to salt.

                Worcestershire sounds good, and I'll check into Mrs. Dash.

              2. A few ideas:

                -swap out some of that oil for butter, which will definitely amp up the flavor
                -swap in bone-in, skin-on dark meat chicken for the boneless, skinless breast. You can remove the skin and bones just before serving. The bones and skin will enrich the flavor.
                -add some wine or beer in place of the chicken broth. If you're not morally opposed, you could also add a little chicken bullion (or Better Than Bullion) to dial up the umami
                -a light splash of soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce also kicks up the flavor
                -add another bay leaf
                -use fresh herbs over dried, and use more of them
                -what about parsley? is that heresy?
                -in addition to the fresh, use some dried garlic and onion, which add another layer of flavor
                -probably not traditional for jambalaya, but you could lightly toast the rice by adding it in step 5.
                -no shrimp?
                -Emeril seasons his with "creole" seasoning, which includes paprika. Try it?

                Most importantly:
                If you slightly change your method, you can get much more flavor out of that tomato paste than you do with just adding it in with the wet ingredients. Try adding the tomato paste separately at the end of step 5 (scrape the rest of the ingredients in the pot to one side). Sauté the tomato paste until it turns a nice, deep, dark reddish-brown color. Then perhaps deglaze with a little white wine or beer before adding the tomatoes.

                3 Replies
                1. re: ChristinaMason

                  I've got a thing about shellfish; hence no shrimp. And I'm not crazy about the texture of dark meat chicken. I like your other suggestions, though.

                  1. re: ChristinaMason

                    Oh yes, she's right about the bone in chicken, don't use breasts, too lean. You need thighs or legs, I only use thighs. Don't worry that you don't "like" dark meat, this is no sissy dish!! You take the chicken out after it's done, and shred the meat and add back to the dish. Breast meat is way too bland for this.

                    But, fresh herbs get drowned out in this dish, since the rice makes it rather bland, you need the OOMPH of dried spices. No parsley, this ain't no frou-frou dish!!

                    But other than that, good call, CM!!

                    1. re: Phurstluv

                      Seems to me given the strong flavors of the other ingredients that the savor of the meat itself is not uppermost.