When you come right down to it, jambalaya is a dish that is good any time of year. Let’s face it, if you were to go to New Orleans next week, you’d probably end up having a big bowl of jambalaya at least once. If you are going to a potluck and you’re looking for something to bring that will spice up the menu, this is just the dish that will satisfy a lot of happy diners.

Jambalaya is a casserole that contains a little of everything. It has chicken and sausage — usually of the hot variety such as chorizo or linguiça — shrimp, rice, vegetables and even fruit in the form of tomatoes.

Because this casserole comes from the South, it is known for its heat.

Because this casserole comes from the South, it is known for its heat and I’m talking a lot more heat than just the sausage will give it. There also is cayenne pepper and some jalapeño peppers. Of course, add the heat according to your own preferences and, as always, don’t add all at once or you just might need a gallon of milk to put out the fire in your mouth.

Oh, and don’t let the long list of ingredients and procedures scare you; this is not hard to make and it is delicious. Try it yourself the next time you are going to host a dinner, or going to a potluck or cookout and enjoy.

4 chicken thighs, skin on
8 oz. Andouille sausage, split lengthwise & cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 lb. shrimp, peeled & deveined
1½ C long-grain white rice
1 red onion, diced
1 celery stick, cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, seeded & cut into 1-inch pieces
1-2 jalapeños, sliced & seeded for less heat, if wanted
4-5 cloves garlic, fine diced
1 can tomatoes, diced with ¼ C juice reserved
1 C clam juice
1 t poultry seasoning
1½ C chicken stock or broth
½ t thyme
2 T parsley, chopped
2-3 bay leaves
½ t cumin
¼ t cayenne pepper or to taste
Salt & pepper to taste

Peel the skin back on the chicken thighs and season the chicken with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Heat a heavy-bottomed pot like a Dutch oven on medium high and brown the chicken skin side down. Flip the chicken to brown the other side; remove from the pan and set aside leaving the grease.

Turn the heat down to medium and brown the sausage. Remove the sausage from the pan to a paper towel still leaving the grease in the pan.

Reduce the heat to low and add the vegetables. Cook until they start to sweat, maybe 1 minute or so. Add the rice, cayenne, cumin and thyme. Sauté this mixture, stirring constantly for 1 minute or so until the rice starts to turn translucent.

Add tomatoes, tomato juice, clam juice, chicken broth, bay leaves and sausage to the rice mixture stirring everything in. Remove the chicken skin and put the thighs skin side down onto the rice. Bring all to a boil; then cover and simmer. I put it into a 300-degree oven once it simmers, but keep it on the stove if you’d rather.

After 10 minutes, give it a stir, keeping the chicken on top. Cover and cook until the chicken is done. The juice should be clear and not red when you poke the thigh to the bone with a fork or paring knife. This will probably take another 10 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside.

Add the shrimp, cover and let it simmer 5 minutes or until the rice is tender and the can be fluffed up and the shrimp are cooked through. The shrimp should turn from translucent to opaque when done.

While the shrimp are cooking in the rice, pull the chicken meat off the bones and shred it. Once the shrimp and rice are done, remove the bay leaves, stir in the chicken and shrimp, add the chopped parsley and season to taste. Serve and enjoy.