When I think of Spicy Cajun Jambalaya, I have visions of Mardi Gras, strolling the streets of New Orleans with all it’s wonderful sounds and colors. Jambalaya is traditionally made with meat, vegetables, stock and completed with rice. This dish is very close to the Saffron infused Spanish Paella. For this version, I decided to prepare it Cajun style, with no tomatoes and with an added twist of my own, fresh jalapeños. Influenced by the Caribbean Islands and mixed with the Spanish culture there are many variations of Cajun Jambalaya. This is a great make ahead recipe. Taste much better the next day! And it’s freezer friendly too.
1 pound smoked sausage, sliced
6 ounces pork side meat or thick cut bacon, diced
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced into 1 inch pieces
Cajun spice blend
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 large sweet bell pepper, diced (I used half orange and half green)
1 to 2 jalapeños, minced (removing seeds is optional)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried thyme or
1 tablespoon dried sweet basil
2 teaspoons ground sage
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon Cajun spice blend
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups Jasmine rice or long grain rice
1 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Salt to taste
1/3 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
1 pound medium shrimp, cleaned and peeled ( seasoned lightly with salt,white pepper and Cajun seasoning)
1. Preheat heavy dutch oven style pot to medium/high heat for a few minutes. Add the sausage and pork, cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until you get some good browning.
2. While the sausage is browning, season the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt, white pepper, Cajun spice blend and smoked paprika. Drizzle with olive oil. Add the chicken to the pot and cook for another 10 minutes. If there is too much oil, drain off a little bit of oil.
3. Add the onions, bell peppers and jalapeños and cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, basil, sage, pepper flakes, Cajun seasoning, white pepper and black pepper, stir well to combine.
4. Pour in the broth, bring to a boil and taste for salt. Add the rice, bring back up to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Cook for 15 minutes, lay the seasoned shrimp (if using) and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Stir the jambalaya to combine before serving. Yields 8 to 10 servings.
*garnish with lemon or lime wedges, the citrus really brings out all of the flavors!
Tips~ If you want to prepare a milder version of this dish, just save the Cajun seasoning for the end and omit the chile peppers. I added the shrimp at the last minute, but you could omit it as well if seafood is not your thing. I used dried herbs because that is what I had on hand, but fresh would be tasty!!