I thought who better than to start this blog off on the eve of Mardi Gras, as I am cooking up Jambalaya, Shrimp & Grits, and all the fixings this week, than with my girl Michelle Jacques! Michelle hails from the Big Easy, and has been blessing the Bay Area with her seriously fun and very talented ensembles, sharing the music of New Orleans with her group's CHELLE! & Friends and Chelles' Juke Joint!
I am curious about what musicians love to cook, and how they see the relationship between the music they love and the food they love!
ME: So Chelle, what is the connection between the food you love and the music you perform?
CHELLE: New Orleans music is food for the soul since it is the melting pot of Caribbean, African and L
ME: What is your favorite dish?
CHELLE: Hard question. Gumbo, jambalaya, po boys, hot water cornbread, granny’s tea cakes. I can go on and on.
To learn more about Michelle, where she is performing, and where to get her music, please visit: https://chellenfriends.com/home
CHELLE! & Friends has an upcoming show on Saturday, March 12 at Rhythmix Cultural Works in Oakland. You can get your tickets here
Mardi Gras Magic with CHELLE! & Friends
Outdoor “Mask-erade” and Dance Party
Laissez les bon temps rouler! “Let the good times roll” at Mardi Gras Magic Outdoor Mask-erade Dance Party with CHELLE! and Friends.
Experience a mix of jazz, funk, soul, R&B, gospel, swamp-pop, rock, and Mardi Gras Indian music in a stewpot of musical gumbo that is sweet, spicy, aromatic, and definitely intoxicating. So, dust off those feathers, bust out your beads, and succumb to your sequins, for this one-of-a-kind outdoor “mask-erade” and costume dance party as we celebrate the magic of Mardi Gras.
CHELLE! and Friends is made up of some of the most distinguished and accomplished musicians in the San Francisco Bay Area, including New Orleans native, and Oakland’s own “Queen of New Orleans Music”, Michelle Jacques. As artistic director and founder, Chelle brings together some very special friends to perform music that is vibrant and alive with the driving voices of Rhonda Crane, Jay Lamont, and Bryan Dyer, Donna Viscuso on woodwinds, Eric Swinderman on guitar, Kevin Scott on bass and Michaelle Goerlitz on drums. For ages 21 & up. Doors open at 2:30 pm. Please have your vaccination card and photo ID ready at check-in.
Here is my Jambalaya recipe to honor Chelle's love for New Orleans, Music, and
· 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
· 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
· 1 pound andouille sausage, thinly sliced into rounds
· 3 small bell peppers, cored and diced (I used a yellow, red and green bell pepper)
· 2 ribs celery, diced
· 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
· 1 white onion, diced
· 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
· 1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
· 3–4 cups chicken stock
· 1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
· 2 tablespoons Cajun Seasoning or Creole seasoning
· 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
· 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
· 1 bay leaf
· 1 pound raw large shrimp, peeled and deveined
· 1 cup thinly-sliced okra*
· Kosher salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
· optional garnishes: chopped fresh parsley, thinly-sliced green onions, hot sauce
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a stock pot (or a very large, deep sauté pan) over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and sausage and sauté for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and the sausage is lightly browned. Transfer to a clean plate and set aside.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the stock pot. Add bell peppers, celery, jalapeño, onion and garlic. Sauté for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened.
Add the crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, rice, Cajun seasoning, thyme, cayenne, bay leaf, and stir to combine. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches a simmer. Then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for about 25-30 minutes, or until the rice is nearly cooked through, stirring every 5 minutes or so along the way so that the rice does not burn.
Add the shrimp, okra, and stir to combine. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are cooked through and pink. Stir in the chicken and sausage, and remove and discard the bay leaf.
Taste season the jambalaya with salt, pepper, and additional Cajun seasoning if needed. (I typically add about 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.) Remove from heat.
Serve warm with your desired garnishes. Or refrigerate and store in a sealed container for up to 3 days.
*Feel free to use fresh or frozen okra. If using frozen, make sure to thaw it before adding to the jambalaya.
If you like spicy jambalaya, I would recommend adding in 2 jalapeños. If you would like it more mild, you can omit the jalapeño altogether.