I know James Villas is all, “Don’t freeze rice!” But I freeze rice all the time, mainly in the form of jambalaya. Maybe it works because jambalaya also has tomatoes, and Villas continues that recipes with tomatoes and similarly acidic ingredients freeze particularly well? Whatever the reason, I’m perfectly comfortable recommending that you freeze jambalaya, although I do advise you to definitely freeze it in a double-bagged freezer with as much air as possible removed, and try to reheat it within several weeks to avoid freezer burn. While I’d freeze something like gumbo forever, rice does seem to have less freezer longevity.
I also like jambalaya because you can rely on pantry staples, like rice and canned tomatoes, and freezer staples, like sausage and chicken breasts and thighs. Alternately, you can use a rotisserie chicken or leftover chicken – as I noted in the comments on one of Hannah’s recent entries, last week I used leftover chicken from Grandmaw Peacock’s chicken and rice to make a quick jambalaya for a Sunday evening supper. And as I’ve noted previously, if you substitute chicken breasts and/or thighs or any pre-cooked or leftover chicken, make sure to substitute chicken stock for the water that the recipe calls for (I’m writing the recipe below as I make it, so in this case, you can ignore that advice).
My jambalaya recipe follows, as adapted from the Gumbo Shop cookbook. There’s a little bit of chopping, but if you want to really streamline things, buy a bag of frozen, chopped trinity, which is easy to find at supermarkets in the South, and sub that for the chopped onion, peppers, and celery.
1 to 1 ½ lb. chicken breasts and thighs
2 T cooking oil
1 lb. sausage, split down the middle and sliced at ¼-inch intervals
1 cups (about 1 large) chopped onion
½ cup ( about 1 average-size) chopped green bell pepper
½ cup (about 2-3 stalks) chopped celery
2 tsp minced garlic
1 16-ounce can crushed or diced tomatoes
1 tsp pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1 cup long grain white rice
1 ½ cups chicken stock (if using precooked chicken)
1 lb. peeled shrimp – optional
If it’s not already cooked, cover the chicken with water in a pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 30-45 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and reserve the stock. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove any bones and skin and cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Set the chicken aside.
In a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat, sauté the sausage in the oil until it’s lightly browned. Remove the sausage from the pot and set it aside with the chicken, leaving the oil and any rendered fat in the pot. Add the onion, celery, and bell pepper to the pot and sauté until tender. Add the garlic and cook for a minute, and then add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot. Stir in the rice and mix well, and then add 1 ½ cups of chicken stock. Bring the pot to a boil, and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Stir in the chicken and the sausage, cover the pot, make sure the heat is way down low, and let the jambalaya cook, undisturbed, for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes have passed, leave the pot covered, turn off the heat, and move the pot to a cooler part of the stove. Let it sit for about 10 minutes, and then it’s ready to eat!
If you have shrimp on handy, either fresh or frozen, you can sauté it in some butter and with some Tony Cachere seasoning for a few minutes until the shrimp are cooked through and serve that on top of the jambalaya.
This recipe will serve 6-8 and is easily doubled. It’s also great for sharing with neighbors who have new babies.