It's about to be Festival International here in Lafayette, LA. This once a year free festival is a celebration of the music and cultures of French-speaking areas around the world. The music is solely from French-speaking areas but the food is way more diverse. The choices range from chicken on a stick to a giant bread bowl full of a creamy crawfish and spinach concoction. The selection is so long and diverse there is no way to list them all here. A good friend of mine April Courville is the marketing director of the Festival so I get lucky to tag along on some research projects, like a festival in Montreal ( oh the torture). Now this talented woman who handles the daunting task of marketing and helps organize an event that gets over 300,000 visitors a year has a whole other side to her. Blessed with the sharp tongue and somewhat twisted sense of humor we Cajun ladies are known to have, she can make our travels highly entertaining. This educated successful business woman one time pointed and laughed at me in one of my most shameful moments ( to be honest I have them weekly). So here's the scene, imagine two women walking around the streets of Montreal looking for a quick bite to eat. I may or may not have partaken of some wine. We happen across a hamburger establishment that looks promising. As is my nature I am distracted and reading the menu while telling April how I don't understand the restaurant's definition of hamburger. I mean if it is not a burger isn't it a sandwich? Just because you put deli meat and cheese on a bun doesn't make it a burger... and BAM! I walk face first right into the plexiglass divider wall. No slowing down just full force. I slowly slide down the wall looking into the eyes of the crowd of people at the counter and fall flat on my ass landing in a puddle of shame on the floor. What does my sensitive friend from Welsh do? She points at me while laughing hysterically and proclaims "You ran right into that, I mean right into it". Thanks, April I wasn't sure what was going on but I glad you cleared it up for me and for the couple diners who missed my shining moment of glory. Needless to say, we went to the pizza place across the street her still laughing and reliving the moment over and over again. I got my revenge later that night when beside my numerous warnings, she thought a Mexican pizza in Montreal would be a good idea. Okay now that I've told my tale on too to the recipe.
The Caribbean has many connections to our Louisiana culture in food, music, heritage and more. So I decided to celebrate the festival by making some Caribbean dishes. This isn't traditional Jerk chicken but a family friendly one pot version where the chicken, rice, and beans cook harmoniously.
The ingredients are pretty straight forward. I use skin on thighs for the chicken. They are budget friendly and tend to not dry out with the longer cooking times. I leave the skin on. I know it's healthier to go skinless but I don't see the point of chicken without that glorious layer of browned skin. Now as a good Cajun girl I use medium grain rice but long grain is recommended here. There are two seasoning mixes here one for the rice and one for the chicken. The chicken gets a mix of jerk seasoning, chicken bouillon, and salt. I make my own jerk seasoning, there she goes gain making it more complicated. The rice gets a mix of cajun seasoning, smoked paprika, and chicken bouillon. Add to this mix a couple bay leaves and sprigs of thyme. The chicken broth I have homemade frozen, seriously I swear I'm not trying to show off I am just cooking obsessed. If you use store bought be careful of your salt levels. The coconut milk and beans are canned. I'm not that crazy I know how to enjoy the gift of canned goods. The veggies are simple minced onion, garlic and for a punch a habanero pepper. The pepper is completely optional, you can omit it or replace it with milder pepper. It's your world do what you want.
First, wash and pat dry the chicken. Place the chicken in a large bowl. Mix together the chicken seasoning in a small bowl and then pour on top of your chicken. Thoroughly mix the chicken together with seasoning till its well coated. Heat your oil over medium-high heat in a heavy skillet. Have I mentioned how much I love cast iron? Brown the chicken on both sides being careful not to let it burn. It takes about three minutes per side. I broke the one pot rule and used two pots, I had to double the batch for my extra company so I browned in a skillet and transferred to mac daddy Magnalite. You can do this whole recipe in a dutch oven just brown the chicken in batches.Set your browned chicken aside and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
The main thing to do to the rice is to rinse it. Rinse the rice while swooshing it around till the water runs clear. This takes 2-3 rinses. If you own a nifty stockpot like mine with a large strainer that fits inside this will make the task considerably easier. Many Cajun MawsMaws insist you must rinse your rice. When is a MawMaw ever wrong?
Wipe the pot you cooked the chicken in, clean up all the burnt bits. The burnt bits can make your rice have a bitter taste. Heat a couple tablespoons of oil till it's and add your onion,garlic, and pepper. Just cook long enough to make them soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add rice and beans and cook for a couple minutes. Once heated through, add your spices and herbs and stir. Add the chicken stock and coconut milk. Stir till everything is combined. Once combined bring this mixture to a slow boil. Gently place the chicken on top. You can be a basket case like me and use your hands but I strongly recommend you go with the tongs for this one. Cover and place in the oven for 30-35 minutes. If you want your chicken a little more browned take the cover off for the last 5-10 minutes,just be careful to not let your rice burn. When your chicken is tender and rice is cooked through remove from the oven. Let it sit for about 10 minutes to cool down If your rice is on the verge of being done leaving the lid on should allow the steam to finish it up. Now serve to the hungry masses and play some steel drums to get everyone in the mood.
5-6 chicken thighs
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1/2 teaspoon of chicken bouillon powder
2 tablespoons of jerk seasoning(link to this recipe is at the bottom of the page)
1/4 cup veggie oil
Rice and Beans
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
2 cups long grain rice
4 garlic cloves minced
1/2 medium onion minced
1 sprig of Fresh Thyme
2 Bay leaves
1 habanero minced( omit or replace with a milder pepper to suit your spice level)
1 13.5-14 oz can of coconut milk
1 15.5 oz can of kidney beans
21/2 cups chicken broth
2 teaspoons cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt(more or less to taste)
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Wash chicken and pat dry. Place chicken in a large bowl. Combine spice mix in a small bowl. Pour spice mix over chicken and mix till chicken is thoroughly coated.
Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Brown chicken on both sides, being careful not to burn it. About 3 minutes on both sides.
Set chicken aside and preheat oven to 350 degrees
Rinse rice till water runs clear when drained. Takes 2-3 rinses and set aside.
Wipe pot clean that you cooked the chicken in to get rid of all the burnt bits.
Once clean heat up the oil. Once ready add the onions, garlic, herbs and peppers. Cook till they are soft but not browned.
Add the rice and beans and cook for a couple minutes. Once heated through add the spice mix and herbs.
Add all remaining ingredients. Chicken stock and coconut milk. Stir till thoroughly combined.
Bring mixture to a slow boil. Once boiling gently lay chicken on top.
Cover pot and remove from heat and place in pre-heated oven.
Bake for 30-35 minutes till chicken is tender and cooked through. For a browner chicken take the lid off for the last 5-10 minutes, keep an eye that you don't burn the rice.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. If your rice is on the verge of being done leave the lid on to let the steam to finish it up.