Mardi Gras is a big a deal on the Gulf Coast, where we grew up. The week long celebration is not just an excuse to go crazy at parades and drink a little too much. It’s also an excuse for ‘adults’ to act like a pack wild animals over  a 5¢ string of beads or a Moonpie flung by a masked madman on a passing float. Any of those are reason enough for me; but Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, at it’s heart, is about food. Lot’s and lot’s of food. Lent begins tomorrow- so like a bear hibernating for Winter- today is the day to eat yourself sick on whatever it is you’ll be going without for the next 40 days.

When the Mardi Gras spirit suddenly hit me, it was a little late to dash out for shrimp and oysters and this time of year crawfish are totally out of the question in New York. So this is our improvised version of Jambalaya with lots of smoky, spicy Andouille (good Andouille is crucial) and chicken. It turned out to be an amazingly satisfying way to turn this classic into a quick weeknight meal.

Jamie’s (sort of) Jambalya

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 lb bone in chicken legs
1/2 lb andouille sausage
1/2 cup onion, small dice
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon tomato paste
3 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups rice

preheat the oven to 350˚
Heat the canola oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in the hot oil skin side down and scatter the sausage around the chicken. Cook until the chicken skin is golden brown. Turn the chicken over and brown well on the second side. Transfer the chicken to a baking pan and place in the oven.

Reduce the heat in the pan to medium, add the onions to the pan and continue cooking until tender, about 6 minutes. If the onions begin to brown add a few tablespoons of water to keep them from coloring further. When the onions are tender add the rice and saute until the rice begins to sizzle.
While the rice sizzles, whisk the tomato paste into the water. Pour the water in the pan, scraping all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan and stir well. Remove the chicken from the oven, bury it in rice and place  a tight fitting lid on the pan. Transfer the covered pan to the oven. After 15 minutes remove the pan from the oven, uncover and fluff the rice with a rubber spatula. Replace the lid and the leave the pan to steam on top of the stove for 5 minutes.

To serve, remove the chicken from the pan. Divide the rice and sausage between plates and place the chicken on top.