This was a dish I developed many years ago while overseeing a Tavern at a large golf resort in the Southeast. Although back then I used linguine as the pasta, this version of Jambalaya Pasta takes inspiration from my wife as Penne is one of her favorite pastas.
I’ve had a love affair with Southern Louisiana cuisine that started when I was a teenager and was really starting to explore regional and ethnic cuisines. Much of this influence was from watching PBS cooking shows that featured early cooking celebrities the likes of Chef Paul Prudhomme and Frugal Gourmet, Jeff Smith. There was character with the food, a story, history. I’d sit mesmerized by the shows. I’d read their cook books like a novel, recipes like chapters. Southern Louisiana cooking was a new world for me to explore that had spice and heat. This love affair only reached deeper into my heart with my first trip to NOLA at the age of nineteen and my honeymoon spent in the very same city only four years later. The family and I recently took a trip to New Orleans and I was able to bring some goodies back home to cook with. Coincidentally this latest trip was 19 years later, to the day, of our honeymoon. I can only hope my girls were able to look past Bourbon Street and fall in love with the true soul of the city like I did all those years ago.
Considering that type of influence it’s no wonder dishes like Red Beans and Rice, Gumbo, Ravigot and Remoulade found their ways into my dishes and on my menu’s quite frequently and in many different variations and versions. OK, so enough with the romance and reminiscing, let’s get to cooking our Jambalaya Pasta.
Let’s get to it
First, lets get a large saute pan or wok heating up over medium to medium high heat. At the same time lets get a pot with about 3 quarts of water on the stove over medium to medium low heat getting ready for the pasta. Please remember to salt the water as pasta benefits from seasoning. Once the pans are on the stove and the wok is hot, spray it with non stick cooking spray and swirl in the olive oil. Now season the diced chicken with a teaspoon of the creole salt and add to the pan. Be careful to not overcrowd the pan with the chicken as this will prevent browning (flavor) and encourage the chicken to stick to the pan. Brown in batches is need be, I had to brown in two batches. Set the browned chicken aside.
In the same pan toss in the tasso ham and cook off (render) some of the fat. This will add additional flavor to the dish and improve the texture of the ham and should only take a few minutes.
This tasso ham was procured from Chris’ Specialty Meats just on the outskirts of NOLA. I’m pretty picky when it comes to tasso, boudin and andouille sausage and the people at Chris’ Specialty Meats do a terrific job. I’m glad I was able to find their shop and had the mind to grab a cooler while packing the car for the trip. Anyway the tasso was perfect. Great smoky flavor without being over spiced and nice and tender.
You will find that while browning off the chicken and tasso that some tasty bits start accumulating at the bottom of the pan. This is good and will only improve the quality of the dish, just be mindful to adjust the temp a bit lower if need be so as to not let the tasty bits to scorch. Once the tasso is rendered and set aside with the chicken, you can now add the vegetables and garlic. Start with a medium low to medium heat to sweat the vegetables. There is ample moisture in the vegetables that the pan with begin to “deglaze” and the tasty bits will begin to release. If the tasty bits have fully released from the bottom of the pan, you can increase the temp to brown the vegetables. If not, no worries.
Once you’ve reached the desired brownness to the onions toss in the coffee. No need to brew a special pot, just use what was left over from the morning brew. Let reduce by a bit and then add the tomatoes, water, chicken base, Worcestershire sauce, remaining creole salt, hot sauce chicken and tasso. Stir to incorporate and let simmer for about 20 minutes.
Just before the 20 minutes is up, turn your pasta pot up to high. At the end of the 20 minutes, add the cream, taste and adjust with salt and pepper if desired.
By this time the pasta water should be at a nice boil, if it is, add the penne pasta and stir. You’ll have to stir occasionally to prevent the noodles from sticking. Penne takes about 11 minutes to cool, so once the penne is off to the races, let the cream simmer in the sauce for about 5 minutes. After the initial 5 minutes are up, add the shrimp to the wok and stir.
Make sure the shrimp are submerged so they can cook and soak in some of the flavors of the sauce. Let the penne cook the last 6 minutes and drain. Shake off the excess water and place pasta in wok. Toss (if your’re brave and don’t mind cleaning) or stir the pasta in the sauce to incorporate. Once the Jambalaya Pasta is well stirred and mixed, serve in your favorite pasta bowl with some sliced scallions and with some hot sauce on the side if you want an extra kick. Enjoy!
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Lrg Green Pepper Julienned
- 1 Cup Celery Sliced
- 1 Cup Vidalia Onion Julienned
- 2 Cloves Fresh Garlic Minced
- 1 Lb Chicken Diced
- 8 oz Tasso Ham Small Diced
- 12 oz Shrimp Peeled and Deviened
- 1 Can Crushed Tomatoes
- 1/2 Can water Rinse out can to get more tomato
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
- ` Tbsp Chicken Base Soup Aisle
- 1/4 Cup Brewed Coffee Could be from the morning pot
- 1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
- 1 Tbsp Creole Salt
- 2 Tbsp Pepper Sauce Franks, Zydeco Gator, etc.
- 1 Lb Penne Pasta Barilla
- TT salt and pepper
- 1/4 Cup Scallions Thinly Sliced for Garnish
Preheat large saute pan or wok over medium to medium high heat. At same time set separate pasta cooking pan on stove with 3 quarts of water to medium low heat. Add salt to water for pasta.
In preheated wok spray with non stick spray and add olive oil.
Season diced chicken with 1 tsp creole salt and mix. Add to wok with oil, in batches if necessary.
Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
If desired, render fat from Tasso ham in wok over medium to medium low heat for a short time. Let Tasso get slightly crispy taking care that tasty bits on bottom of pan do not scorch. Then remove from pan and set aside.
Introduce green pepper, onion, celery (trinity) and garlic to wok and sweat over medium heat until onions begin to just brown. All the tasty bits from bottom of pan that develop from chicken and tasso should "deglaze" at this point and add to the color. You can turn heat up a bit if that does happen.
To the vegetables add the coffee and let reduce a bit.
Add tomato, water, chicken base, worcestershire, hot sauce, chicken, tasso and remaining creole salt and let simmer for approximately 20 minutes.
Turn pasta pot to high just before the end of the 20 minutes. Add cream to wok when the 20 minutes has finished. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper.
Once pasta pot comes to a boil, add pasta, stirring occasionally. Penne takes about 11 minutes.
Wait 5 minutes and then add shrimp. Stir occasionally insuring shrimp are submerged.
Another six minutes and shrimp should be just about done and pasta should be perfect. Drain pasta and add to wok incorporating into sauce.
Dish Jambalaya Pasta up and garnish with scallions.