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~Cajun-Style Chicken, Sausage & Rice-a-Jamba-Roni~

IMG_1009In my kitchen, this one-skillet dish is affectionately referred to as Jamba-Roni.  Why?  This quick-to-make mixture of lightly-sautéed long-grain rice and vermicelli, plus tender chicken, spicy sausage, flavorful bell peppers, celery and onions simply reminds everyone who eats it of jambalaya (a rustic one-pot meal containing long-grain white rice with meat, poultry or shellfish, pork or sausage, and, the Cajun-Creole "holy trinity" -- onion, celery and green bell pepper).

IMG_0911Creole-style jambalaya, sometimes called red jambalaya, incorporates tomato.  The most popular Creole jambalaya contains shrimp (or crawfish).  Cajun-style jambalaya, sometimes called brown jambalaya, doesn't contain tomato.  The most popular Cajun jambalaya contains chicken (or alligator). Jambalaya comes from the French word jambalaia, meaning "to mix or mash" and "a rice pilaf".  The finished dish resembles Spanish paella, which is a rice pilaf cooked with broth.

My younger brother named mom's dish "jamba-roni".

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4fb60ad200dBack in the 1960's my mom was the queen of Rice-a-Roni recipes.  I was the princess who loved them.  If I was feeling under the weather, she knew I'd rather have a bowl of chicken-flavored Rice-a-Roni than a bowl of Campbell's chicken-noodle soup.  She served the prince (my brother) and I pan-seared hamburgers and gravy atop a bed of beef-flavored Rice-a-Roni, to prevent us from bugging her to buy overpriced Salisbury-steak TV dinners.  To two boxes of Spanish-style Rice-a-Roni she added two cans of stewed tomatoes and two pounds of peeled and sautéed shrimp.  In our kingdom, our family of four ate it as a sort-of Creole-style jambalaya dinner.  To two boxes of Chicken Rice-a-Roni, she'd add sautéed chicken thighs or tenders along with some sausage.  We four enjoyed it as a sort-of Cajun-style jambalaya dinner. It was my brother who named these meals, "jamba-roni".  Fond memories indeed. Try my super-easy recipes for all three: copycat chicken, beef & Spanish-style Rice-a-Roni.

Diced "holy trinity" & three easy steps:

IMG_09382  tablespoons olive oil

1  teaspoon onion powder

1  teaspoon garlic powder

2  pounds boneless, skinless chicken tenders or thighs, sliced into bite-sized pieces

IMG_093212  ounces Cajun-style andouille sausage, sliced into 1/4"-thick coins

8  ounces diced yellow or sweet onion (about 2 cups)

4  ounces diced celery (about 1 cup)

4  ounces each: diced green bell pepper, red bell pepper and yellow bell pepper (about 1 cup each)

6  tablespoons salted butter

2  6.8-ounce boxes chicken-flavored Rice-a-Roni + seasoning packets*, or, 2  times (double) my recipe for for copycat chicken-flavored Rice-a-Roni  

5  cups water

1-2  teaspoons red pepper flakes

cayenne pepper sauce (Louisianna Gold, Crystal, Frank's RedHot, etc., your favorite brand), for accompaniment 

IMG_0941 IMG_0941 IMG_0941 IMG_0941 IMG_0941 IMG_0941 IMG_0941 IMG_0959 IMG_0959 IMG_0965 IMG_0965~Step 1.  To sauté the chicken, sausage and the vegetables, in a 5 1/2-quart chef's pan, heat the olive oil over low heat.  Stir in the garlic and onion powder,  Add the chicken and sausage and increase heat to medium- medium-high.  Using a large slotted spoon, sauté, stirring constantly, until chicken is just of cooked through, about 7-8 minutes.  Do not over-cook chicken.  Using the slotted spoon, transfer chicken and sausage to a large bowl, leaving all the flavorful juices in the pan.  Add all of the diced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently, until nicely-softened but still crunch tender, about 5-6 minutes.  Do not overcook veggies.  Turn the heat off. Using the slotted spoon, transfer veggies to the bowl with the chicken and set aside.  Use a paper towel or three to mop up (absorb) and discard any excess juices that might remain in the bottom of the pan.

IMG_0973 IMG_0973 IMG_0973 IMG_0973 IMG_0973 IMG_0973 IMG_0973 IMG_0973 IMG_0991~Step 2.  In the same chef's pan, melt the butter over low heat.  Prepare the Rice-a-Roni according to package directions, or my copycat directions (brown the rice and vermicelli in the butter, add the water, seasonings and 1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes) and gently simmer, covered, 14-15 minutes.  Do NOT lift the lid during the simmering process.

IMG_0993 IMG_0993 IMG_1001 IMG_1001~Step 3.  Uncover the pan, and, using a fork, rake the Rice-a-Roni to separate the rice grains and pasta strands.  Stir the chicken, sausage and veggies into the rice. Turn heat off.  Cover and rest on hot stovetop 5 minutes.  Residual heat will reheat the chicken, sausage and vegetables.

Portion into bowls & serve ASAP w/your favorite hot sauce:

IMG_1023Cajun-Style Chicken, Sausage & Rice-a-Jamba-Roni:  Recipe yields 6-8 hearty main-dish servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 5 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; paper towels; 1-quart measuring container; large spoon or spatula

6a0120a8551282970b01a73d8e6ef5970dCook's Note: Red beans and rice, a signature dish of Louisiana, became known as "the washday dinner", because Monday was typically when women worked outdoors washing and drying their family's clothes for 4-6 hours.  The meal was prepared with Sunday supper's leftover ham bone.  It was convenient, because dinner cooked itself on the stovetop, or over an outdoor fire, while the women worked and commiserated about the week ahead and caught up on neighborhood gossip. Try my recipe for ~ Monday's Washday Dinner:  Red Beans and Rice ~.  

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)


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