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December 11, 2007

Beef hot links (Recipe: jambalaya)

In my kitchen, it's Drop In & Decorate Cookies for Donation time, when friends and family stop by to decorate beautiful sugar cookies for distribution to shelters and food pantries around Rhode Island. While I'm putting the kitchen back together after delivering our cookies, please enjoy this updated post, and my all-time favorite spicy comfort food recipe, from The Perfect Pantry archives.

Beefhotlinks

Folks in Gonzales, Louisiana, take jambalaya seriously.

For nearly 40 years, their annual Jambalaya Festival has celebrated the local Cajun chicken-and-rice specialty, with cooking contests to crown the World Champion, Mini-Pot Champion, the champion team of firefighter jambalaya makers, and even the Champ of Champions. Hundreds of teams and individuals compete each year, and more than 50,000 people come to taste and test. The contest rules specify these ingredients:

Preliminary round: 30 lbs. chicken; 10 lbs rice
Semi-Finals: 45 lbs. chicken; 15 lbs rice
Finals: 60 lbs. chicken; 20 lbs. rice

Other ingredients and seasonings to be chosen from the following: Yellow Onions, Garlic (Fresh & Granulated), Green Onions, Red Pepper, Red Hot Sauce, Bell Peppers, Celery, Salt, Black Pepper, Cooking Oil

NO OTHER PERSONAL SEASONING ALLOWED IN THE COOKING AREA.

Wait a minute....no Beef Hot Links? Are they kidding????

The word jambalaya (pronounced jum-bo-LIE -ah) derives from jambon, from the French meaning ham, and aya, an African word for rice. Jambon. Ham. Sausage. So where's the meat???

Now, believe me when I tell you that I am a girl who takes my jambalaya seriously. Now. But until I visited Louisiana, I'd never even tasted jambalaya. I didn't keep more than one hot sauce in the pantry. I never ate spicy food.

And I don't eat pork.

In New Orleans, it was the age of Paul Prud'homme, and I fell in love with the food: fresh Gulf shrimp, etoufee, dirty rice, blackened everything. And me-oh-my-ah, jambalaya. I'd pick around the andouille sausage, but I couldn't stop eating the spicy rice. And I started collecting recipes, trying to figure out how to make jambalaya without the sausage.

Luckily, it also was the age of Amy's, a line of gourmet chicken sausages made by third-generation sausage maker Amy Kurzawski. Soon, many varieties of non-pork spicy smoked sausage appeared in local shops and online sources.

Easy to find at my local supermarket, Hillshire Farms Beef Hot Links are a pantry mainstay. They're not marketed as "Cajun style", but they contain chile peppers (an essential ingredient) and give a mild kick. Beef Hot Links do have pork casings, and I'm okay with that, but be sure to check labels if this is an issue for you. Chicken andouille (which occasionally comes in pork casings, too) adds a wonderful flavor, but gives up less fat into the dish; you may need to add a few teaspoons of butter and olive oil to compensate.

With many wonderful spicy smoked sausages on the market these days, you're sure to find a favorite. Stash some in your freezer. And by all means add it to your jambalaya, where it belongs — no matter what those folks in Gonzales say.

Jambalaya

This is a rustic dish, so proportions are not terribly important. The level of heat is entirely up to you. Serve with sauteed dark greens (kale is good), and pecan cookies for dessert. Serves 6.

Ingredients

3 Tbsp butter
1 lb hot smoked sausage , sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
2 onions, chopped (3/4-inch – fairly large)
1 large green bell pepper, chopped (same as onion)
3 stalks celery, chopped (same as onion)
1-1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
4-6 cloves garlic, minced, or a large dollop of crushed garlic in a jar
1 handful dried oregano (approx 1-1/2 Tbsp)
1/2 handful dried thyme leaf (approx 3/4 Tbsp)
4 large dried bay leaves
1 Tbsp black pepper
Hot sauce, to taste (from 4 drops to 4 ounces)
8 oz tomato sauce (1 small can)
1 lb chopped or diced canned tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock (homemade or low-sodium store-bought)
2 cups long grain white rice
1 lb peeled, deveined large shrimp, 26-30 size (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a 6-quart or 8-quart stock pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add sausage, and cook, stirring occasionally, until quite brown and sticking to the bottom of the pot, aprox. 10 minutes. Add onion, green pepper and celery, and cook, stirring, 5 minutes or until onion is translucent. Turn heat to high, and add chicken. Stir frequently, 2-3 minutes, until chicken is “seized” (no longer pink on the outside). Reduce heat to medium-low, stir in garlic, oregano, thyme, bay leaves and black pepper, and stir 1-2 minutes. Add hot sauce, and cook for 1 minute. Add tomato sauce and tomatoes. Stir to combine, and cover. Cook 8-10 minutes, stirring once. Uncover, add chicken stock, and bring to the boil. Turn off heat, and stir in the rice. Cover the pot, and place in the oven. Bake for 1 hour. (Add shrimp after the jambalaya has been baking for 50 minutes.) Turn off oven, and let pot sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Lydia's pie-ella
Paella a la Valenciana
Chicken paella with slow-roasted tomatoes
Farfalle with spinach and sausage

Comments

that sounds like something I´d love to make. it sounds like an anxiety free paella, and if it´s followed by pecan cookies, then my o my.

When I come home and smell the Jambalaya, it's the best sensation. It gives me a feeling of comfort and love even before it's served.
Thanks Lydia,
Ted

I have read and heard so much about jambalaya, Lydia!
I'm sure yours beats the competition. ;)

Oh, yes, Lydia, folks here in Louisiana are indeed particular about their jambalaya. The funny thing is, it seems there are as many variations on "authentic" jambalaya as there are native Louisianans, and the same is true for etouffee and gumbo. Maybe it's the nature of the rustic dishes --- so open to interpretation --- that makes it so, or the interesting blend of people groups that contributed their culinary heritage to the state. Either way, I think your version sounds delicious.

I love dishes like this where you can be more lenient with proportions - I do enough measuring in baking already. And ofcourse anythings with sausages are always yummy!

Lobstersquad, you would love this -- it's very like paella, without the saffron.

Ted, there's nobody I'd rather make this for than you.

Patricia, I must admit I'm proud of my jambalaya. In fact, there have been times when we've gone to someone's house for dinner and find that they are making my own jambalaya recipe for us! I love that.

Jennifer, I've heard that "real" jambalaya is not red, but mine definitely is more red than brown. I'm sure every family has their own way of making it. Before visiting Louisiana I'd never made jambalaya, but since then I've become truly, and happily, addicted. I always use real Tabasco sauce, too -- because I'm sure it tastes more authentic than anything else.

Veron, this is a very forgiving dish -- more or less of anything will not make a difference. If I ever measured the amount of hot sauce I use (a frightening amount!), I'd probably be afraid to eat it.

I love Jambalaya - I'll have to look for these beef hot links in the store. Looking forward to hearing how the Drop in and Decorate Party came off!

I made Jambalaya once. It tasted real good. You've inspired me to make it again.

Paz

There's a lack of good sausages and sausage links where I am now. They only have Taiwanese sausages here, that are on the sweet side.

TW, I discovered these hot links because I don't eat pork, but wanted some not-too-lean sausages that had a bit of spice for this dish. Andouille would be the traditional addition here. (And thanks -- I'll be posting about Drop In & Decorate this weekend... with lots of photos!)

Paz, this version is easy to make and so delicious. Please let me know if you try it.

Tigerfish, you can make this without the sausage, though I think the sausage is important to add spiciness and depth to the dish. I'd offer to send you some, but I don't think they'd travel very well!

I'm a new blogger - hi! I'm absolutely in love with your site - the premise of basing each post around a key ingredient is incredible! I'm so excited! Thank you for the tantalizing inspiration!

Astra Libris, welcome to The Perfect Pantry, and good luck with your new blog. I'm heading there now!

As much as I love andouille sausage, I often make my jambalaya with smoked beef sausage too. :)

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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