Chicken Jambalaya

A midwest version of the Cajun dish

This is a cheater's one-pot version of chicken jambalaya; heavy on the meat, light on the rice. Slightly spicy and nicely filling. You could also do this sort of thing with a firm white fish, and shrimp, if that's what you're into, but if that's the case you'll want to cook the rice and vegetables separately, so your fish doesn't get rubbery.

Prep time: 30 min. Cook time: 30 min.

In a stock pot or very large, deep skillet, boil 2-3 chicken breasts in about an inch of water, with some chicken-flavor buillion. Cover and cook until meat is done. Better flavor if you use chicken with bones-in.

While that's going on, chop up 2 stalks celery, about a quarter of a sweet yellow onion, and half a green bell pepper. Add more, or hotter, peppers if you like.

When the chicken is done, remove to a plate to cool. Dump the vegetables in the hot chicken broth, along with a couple tablespoons of butter. Add enough water to make about 2 cups. Add one large can (I think the one I used was 25oz) diced canned tomatoes. Add lots of black and/or seasoned pepper, some thyme, garlic, basil, and a bay leaf. Turn down to simmer.

When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove any bones and cut meat into small bites. Return meat to pot.

Cut up a package of smoked dinner sausage or andouille (Cajun) sausage into small circles and throw them in. There should be enough liquid that it looks like chunky soup. Everything should be able to float around easily. Add a couple dashes of hot pepper sauce, or Cajun seasoning, or both, according to how hot you want it.

Add about 3/4 to 1 cup quality long-grain rice, or a combination of white and wild rice. DO NOT use instant rice for this. If you use the combination of wild rice, add the wild along with the tomatoes, about 10 minutes sooner than the white rice, because it will take longer to cook.

Once the rice is in there, reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Do not disturb for at least 20 minutes. At the end of 20 minutes, stir the hash and check to make sure you aren't running out of liquid. The rice will soak up the liquid and make the whole thing into a sort of meaty-savory hash you can eat with a fork. Add water in quarter-cup increments if needed (experienced cooks can gauge how much liquid is needed for how much rice; consult the instructions on the rice package for guidance).

At 30 or 35 minutes, stir again and test rice for doneness. Enjoy!

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