Chicken Jambalaya

When I first heard about Mardi Gras — I was a little kid — I absolutely wanted to go down to New Orleans and go to what I thought of as this endless, huge street party where people dress in crazy costumes and eat a lot of good things. The pictures looked so tantalizing.

Well, I never did, and it was years before I understood the religious significance of the day. I was raised Jewish, not Catholic, so the traditions of the holiday were unknown to me. But once I learned about them I found them fascinating, particularly when it came to the food traditions. What I learned was that Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday food goes back to another era, when the rules regarding the Christian Lenten fast were stricter. At one time meat, eggs and all cooking fats were prohibited during the season preceding Easter.

That meant, the day before the fast (which begins on Ash Wednesday) became a day of indulgence. To get rid of all the prohibited foods. Like fat. Using up all the kitchen fat was what people did on Fat Tuesday. People cooked things like pancakes, doughnuts and bread pudding. (OH YUM!) And dishes with lots of meat.

In New Orleans, which I eventually visited, though never for Mardi Gras, Jambalaya is one of the premier choices for a Mardi Gras dinner. So, if you’re home and just dreaming about the possibility of going to Mardi Gras one day or even if you’re not, here’s a good recipe for Chicken Jambalaya. It’s good anytime, but maybe Fat Tuesday you’ll be in more of the mood for it.

Chicken Jambalaya

8 pieces of chicken (breasts, thighs, drumsticks)

2 tablespoons olive oil

Jack’s Gourmet Mexican Style Chorizo sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices

2 medium onions, chopped

2 stalks celey, chopped

1 red bell pepper, deseeded and chopped

4 large cloves garlic, chopped

4 tomatoes, chopped

1-1/2 cups white rice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1-1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (or 2 whole cloves)

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2-3/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 tablespoons tomato paste

Rinse and dry the chicken pieces. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Cook the chicken in batches for about 8-10 minutes, turning the pieces occasionally, or until lightly browned. Remove the chicken to a dish and set aside. Add the sausage to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until lightly crispy. Remove the sausage to a dish and set aside. Add the onions, celery and bell pepper to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes or until the onions are soft and lightly browned. Add the garlic and tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes. Add the rice, parsley, thyme, cayenne, cloves, salt and pepper, stock and tomato paste. Stir to distribute and combine the ingredients. Return the chicken and sausage to the pan. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook for about 25 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Makes 6 servings