Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya

Jambalaya. The very word evokes hot nights on the bayou, fiddle music, and cold beer. Ever since I first visited New Orleans almost 20 years ago, I can’t get enough of this stuff. It’s the rice/andouille/tomatoes/cayenne thing. And the shrimp.

This recipe comes to me from Tiffany, who made this for a boudin party (that’s a separate post) we had at my house (new kitchen means I want to cook all the things, and those for which I have no recipes, I want other people to make in my kitchen).

Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya

1 medium onion, quartered
1 stalk celery, quartered
1 red bell pepper, seeded and quartered
5 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tsp. vegetable oil
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
12 oz. andouille sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices and halved
1-1/2 cups long-grain white rice
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained (reserve 1/4 cup juice )
1 cup bottled clam juice
1-1/2 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 lbs. shrimp (31-40 count), peeled and deveined
2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley

Combine the onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until chopped fine.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the pot, skin-side down, and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken and cook until golden brown on the opposite side, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Lower the heat to medium and add the andouille. Cook, stirring often, until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.

Lower the heat to medium-low and add the chopped vegetables to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, about 4 minutes. Add the rice, salt, thyme and cayenne; cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is coated with the fat, about 1 minute. Add the diced tomatoes, reserved tomato juice, clam juice, chicken broth, bay leaves and cooked sausage to the pot. Stir to combine.

Remove the skin from the chicken pieces and place the chicken on the rice so that the side the skin was just removed from is now facing down. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes. Stir once, keeping the chicken in the same general position, and continue to simmer until the chicken is no longer pink inside, about 10 minutes more.

Transfer the chicken to a clean plate or cutting board and set aside. Scatter the shrimp over the rice, cover, and continue to cook until the rice is fully tender and the shrimp are opaque and cooked through, about 5 minutes more.

While the shrimp are cooking, shred the chicken. Once the shrimp are finished cooking, discard the bay leaves, stir in the chicken and parsley, and serve immediately.



Sautéed Chicken Breasts

I love to cook, but there are days when I’m just too tired or busy to do much. Today was one of those days, so I turned to a long-time staple here at Magic Cove: sautéed chicken breasts. Nothing is faster or easier to do.

The chicken, start to finish, took about 20 minutes. In the meantime, I made pan-roasted potatoes at the same time, heated some peas (my family will only eat the canned baby ones, the heathens) and finished a partially pre-baked garlic knot loaf from Fresh Market (a total cheat). I was maybe in the kitchen 30 minutes, tops, and had a beautiful and (relatively) healthy meal on the table in no time.

Sautéed Chicken Breasts
For the chicken:
1 T. organic butter
1 T. good olive oil
Three to four organic chicken breasts
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

For the sauce:
2 minced garlic cloves
2 T. minced onion
1/3 cup white wine (I had a partial bottle of Pinot Grigio in the frig, so that’s what I used)
Juice of one lemon
2 T. organic butter
Fresh chopped parsley

For the chicken: Heat the butter and olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Lay down the chicken breasts, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then turn so they are coated with the fat. Sprinkle the other side with salt and pepper. Cook, turning once, until they are lightly browned on both sides.

You don’t want them too dark. See that pretty color?
When the chicken is browned, cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, turning occasionally, until just barely shy of done (done will be 180ºF on an instant-read thermometer, so shoot for about 170ºF). Remove the chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm.

Increase heat to medium. In the pan juices that remain, add the garlic and onion and sauté until soft. Add the white wine (if you are not accustomed to cooking alcohol over heat, especially gas, please remove the pan briefly from the heat to do this; I don’t want to hear it’s my fault you have no eyebrows). Bring the sauce to a boil and boil until slightly reduced. Add the lemon juice, then swirl in the butter. Cook until slightly thickened.

Add the chicken breasts back to the pan and cook in the sauce, turning occasionally, until cooked through and the chicken registers 180ºF on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the chicken to a platter, pour the sauce over and sprinkle with parsley (for me, a matter of stepping out my back door to the bodacious herb garden Grillmaster D planted for me). Serve hot.

* This is my favorite sauce for sautéed chicken breasts, but the possibilities are endless.
* A lot of people like to pound their chicken breasts thin before cooking, but we prefer them unpounded. Just remember that if you do, you will have to adjust your cooking time accordingly.
* I love lemon passionately, so this is a fairly tart sauce; however, if you are not quite the lemon lover, you can reduce the amount of lemon juice called for or substitute chicken broth for the wine.

~ Tiffany

Romancing the Chicken (Really!)

My family and I probably eat chicken more than any other type of animal protein. Given current conditions in the poultry industry, that chicken is now free-range and organic, but it is the preferred meat of choice on the Team Taylor family table.
While organic poultry arguably has a cleaner and fresher taste than conventionally raised poultry, chicken still tends to be a fairly bland meat all around, and is also one that can be overcooked quickly. To guard against overcooking and to help this mild protein taste more “seasoned,” many chefs resort to brining, a method that helps to introduce more moisture and flavor into meats.
The most popular method to brine chicken, called “wet brining,” is to soak the meat in water which contains salt and, sometimes, a variety of other herbs or seasonings. The meat becomes more moist by hydrating the cells of its muscle tissue via a very technical process called osmosis. The salt is introduced into the cells and helps them hold onto their moisture, resulting in more hydrated and moist meat at the end of the cooking process.
And that’s all well and good, but … although the taste is improved, I personally cannot stand the texture of any meat that has been wet-brined, which is similar to a wet sponge. Blech. I am really texture-sensitive to my food—hence, my loathing for all dried beans and legumes, no matter how good they taste—so the change in texture in wet-brined chicken is, to me, not worth the boost in flavor.
So, I resort to dry-brining my chicken, which is simply sprinkling salt directly on the surface of the poultry and letting it sit, uncovered, in a refrigerator until I’m ready to cook it. The same process of osmosis takes place, but the salt does its job on its own without using water as a carrier into the meat.

It’s quick, neat, and doesn’t rely on finding a container large enough to hold both the meat and its wet brine (let alone finding the room to store that sucker in the refrigerator). Plus, the texture is unaffected, so you get all the benefits of “seasoned” meat without feeling like you are sinking your teeth into a piece of wet Styrofoam.
Dry-brining is quite popular in the restaurant industry: Judy Rodgers, chef and owner of San Francisco’s famous Zuni Café, salts both her meats and her vegetables when they arrive and lets them sit for an average of three days before using them in food preparation (and if you’ve seen Judy’s reviews lately, you’ll know why).

It’s a simple step and easy for the home cook to do, taking what might merely be a good dish and sending it into the realm of stellar food porn. Even one hour of dry-brining can make a world of difference (although, in most cases, three hours minimum is best for chicken pieces and a full eight hours for a whole chicken).
It is the rare carnivore who does not enjoy a fabulous and well-done roast chicken … a simple dish, but one of the hardest to perfect. Put this on your dinner table with some pan-roasted potatoes and a green salad and demand that your friends and family call you the food porn genius you are.
Tiffany’s Perfect Roast Chicken

(1) 4-lb. whole chicken, preferably organic and free-range, cleaned and patted dry
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Freshly ground black pepper
Sprinkle kosher salt inside and outside of chicken; place chicken breast side down on a v-rack in a roasting pan and put into the refrigerator. Refrigerate for at least eight hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush the back of the chicken with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter. Roast, uncovered, for 40 minutes. Flip the chicken breast side up and brush with the remaining tablespoon of melted butter. Roast an additional 50-60 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 160°F.
Remove from the oven and let rest for 20 minutes. Carve and serve.