In memory of Chef Paul Prudhomme, try a jambalaya party for New Year’s Eve.

Share story

As 2015 ends, I’m thinking of this year’s loss of chef Paul Prudhomme, one of this country’s most welcoming chefs and supreme master of highly seasoned food. More than three decades ago, Prudhomme taught us to embrace bold flavors and to cook with generosity. I had the privilege of cooking with him several times; his command of the spice cabinet affects nearly every dish I make today. Many of us will long remember the day he prepared fresh crabcakes for more than a hundred people in the Chicago Tribune newsroom.

Prudhomme’s first cookbook, “Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen,” has had a place in my kitchen since it debuted. I’ve made every gumbo, poultry, fish recipe and pecan goody in the book. In his memory, I suggest a jambalaya party for New Year’s Eve.

One-pot jambalaya allows the cook to serve well-seasoned food that pleases a crowd. The dish is not hard to make if you are comfortable with a knife for some chopping. Converted rice, the preference among many New Orleans cooks, proves nearly indestructible. The version here features chicken and andouille sausage with a bit of smoke from bacon and ham. The base of the jambalaya can be made up to several days in advance. Simply add the rice about 30 minutes before you want to serve.

Chilled cooked shrimp or fresh oysters on the half shell set a stylish tone. Order oysters in advance; plan on two or three per guest. Store them set over a bowl of ice covered with a damp towel in the refrigerator for up to a day. Never store them in a closed bag. Some fish markets will open the oysters for you, but it’s best to open them just before serving. For safety, secure the oyster on a work surface by placing it on a towel. Hold another towel over the oyster to protect your hand, then slip the tip of an oyster knife into the hinge of the shell. Twist the knife to pop it open. Place the opened oysters on a bed of ice. Serve the oysters with lemon wedges and hot sauce, or make a tangy topping out of minced shallots floating in Champagne vinegar.

For healthful eating in the new year, I am making another dish I enjoyed eating at K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen: red beans and rice. A cousin to hoppin’ john, which is eaten on New Year’s Day to bring luck throughout the year, my version of red beans and rice uses heirloom beans and brown rice. I’m crazy about the jumbo, gorgeous, mottled heirloom Christmas lima beans, such as those from Zursun Id., in Twin Falls, Id., or ordered from Rancho Gordo. Simmer the beans with vegetables, then puree some to make a creamy dish. Served with aromatic jasmine brown rice, this hearty dish will satisfy for lunch and dinner any time of the year.

With both dishes, I like to serve Louisiana-style hot sauce — not the Asian style sauces I use on eggs and fries. I bring bottles of Crystal hot sauce home from New Orleans; it goes with everything.

As we enter a new year, I wish you the same sentiment that Paul inscribed to me in his book, “good cooking, good eating and good loving.”


Makes 8 servings

For converted rice, look for Uncle Ben’s Original or Riceland Gold parboiled rice.

½ cup chopped smoky bacon, about 6 slices (6 ounces total)

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil

2 ribs celery, chopped

1 medium-large onion, chopped (about 6 ounces)

½ each, seeded, chopped: red bell pepper, green bell pepper

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon each: smoked paprika, thyme, salt

¼ teaspoon each: black pepper, cayenne

5 cups chicken broth

1 can (14.5 ounces) tomatoes, undrained

1/4 cup tomato paste

12 ounces diced smoky ham

12 ounces cooked chicken andouille sausage, thinly sliced

3 cups converted rice

Chopped fresh parsley

Louisiana-style hot sauce

1. Cook bacon in a large (7-quart) Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat until it starts to render its fat, about three minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add chicken. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken starts to brown, about four minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove bacon and chicken to a plate. (Refrigerate covered up to three days.)

2. Add oil to pan. Add celery, onion and bell peppers. Cook and stir until wilted, about three minutes. Stir in garlic, paprika, thyme, salt and peppers; cook one minute. Add broth, tomatoes and tomato paste. (Base can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated covered up to three days.)

3. Reheat base, if necessary, to a simmer. Stir in chicken mixture, ham and sausage. Heat to a simmer. Stir in rice and return to a simmer. Cover pan tightly and cook over low heat until rice is tender, 20 to 23 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand covered for 10 minutes.

4. To serve, fluff with a fork. Spoon into wide bowls. Sprinkle with parsley. Pass hot sauce.


Makes 8 servings

Trader Joe’s fully cooked pork carnitas tastes great here instead of roast pork or ham. For the beans, you may sub cranberry beans or red beans.

1 pound heirloom Christmas lima beans

10 cups unsalted vegetable or chicken broth (or water)

3 ribs celery, chopped

2 medium onions, chopped

2 carrots, trimmed, peeled, halved, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 small jalapeño or serrano

2 bay leaves

2 small fresh thyme sprigs (or ¼ teaspoon dried)

1 tablespoon salt plus 1 teaspoon

2 cups long grain brown jasmine rice

12 ounces (3 to 4 cups) shredded cooked roast pork or ham

¼ to 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Red hot sauce

1. Put beans into a large (4- or 5-quart) saucepan. Add cold water to cover. Heat to a full boil. Turn off heat and let stand one to two hours. Drain well.

2. Return soaked beans to pan. Add 8 cups of the broth and the celery, onions, carrots, garlic, jalapeño, bay leaves and thyme. Heat to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and partly cover the pan. Cook, stirring often and adding remaining 2 cups broth as needed, until beans are tender, about two hours. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt. Simmer 15 minutes more.

3. Meanwhile, cook rice in 22/3 cups water with the remaining 1 teaspoon salt in a rice cooker according to the manufacturer’s directions. (To cook rice on the stovetop, bring the rice, salt and 3½ cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook, covered, until water is absorbed, about 40 minutes.)

4. Ladle 2 cups of the beans and their cooking liquid into a blender; puree smooth. Drain off the liquid from remaining beans; return beans to pot. Stir in pureed beans and pork. Heat through on low heat. Taste and adjust salt. Serve bean mixture over a scoop of rice in warm bowls. Sprinkle generously with cilantro. Pass hot sauce.