I went to graduate school in New Orleans. New Orleans blew my mind, food wise. For one of our first food adventures, my mom and I ate at Paul Prudhomme’s K-Paul’s in the French Quarter. All of the food was so lovely! I looked at the menu and Chicken Big Mamou stood out as something I wanted to try, but I’m not a spicy food person. The menu warned that it was a very spicy dish. My mother scoffed and said that this is a restaurant, they’ll moderate it and make it so that everyone can eat it.
I fell for it and ordered it. For me, it was inedible. Beyond spicy. Torture level hot. I couldn’t tell you what it tasted like because it just felt like molten lava in my mouth. My mom traded with me (thanks mom!) and ate it because she loves food spicy. It was hot for her, but she loved it. We bought the cookbook and made it at home. Others had to appreciate how hot a dish can be!!
The men in the house ate it, but it looked like they were having a heart attack: red faced, pouring sweat and clearly uncomfortable.
So, why make it? Well, one it’s Mardi Gras season. I didn’t want to do a shrimp creole or crawfish etouffee. Two, my husband and son love spicy food. They make their own hot sauce! So, back to my enemy. I looked at the recipe. My goodness, what a fussy recipe! Lots and lots of ingredients, and butter. Lots of steps. Ugh. So, I googled it. Prudhomme had changed the recipe!! Wrap your head around that. The recipe on his website is 1/10th the fussiness of the one in his fantastic cookbook. But in reviewing it, I was about to make it a lot less fussier. This has now become an easy (and cheap!) weeknight meal that anyone can add into the rotation.
Don’t misunderstand what I’m going to say here, but while I love Prudhomme, his recipes are maddening. Extra steps that don’t seem to add much turn homey recipes into complicated, time consuming affairs. The spice lists alone are daunting. I never got the sense that people in the bayou would cook this way. Maybe they did and I’m totally off base. But, it just seemed like he was “fancying up” traditional recipes so that food critics would take Louisiana cooking seriously.
So, first he modified the recipe, then I “unfancied” it. And it is really, really good and very true to the original. Excellent entertaining dish as well!!
Chicken Big Mamou
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes (40 are low effort simmering)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
6-8 chicken thighs or legs
2 1/2 tablespoons Paul Prudhomme’s chicken magic, divided (see below for a substitute)
1 cup very finely chopped onions
1 cup very finely chopped celery
3/4 cup very finely chopped bell peppers
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (preferably cayenne, if you want it really hot!!)
2 cups tomato sauce
2 cups chicken stock or water
3/4 cup finely chopped green onions
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley leaves
Heat olive oil and butter over medium heat in a large saute pan. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the poultry magic over the chicken pieces. Brown the chicken in the saute pan, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and set aside. Saute the onions and peppers in the remaining oil, until the onions are translucent. Add oil or butter if needed to prevent the veggies from burning. Add the remaining chicken magic, bay leaf , minced garlic, and cayenne pepper (if you want it really hot!) and cook for about a minute. Add 2 cups of tomato sauce and 2 cups of stock. Return chicken to the pan and simmer for about 40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.
Serve over cauliflower “rice”, rice or pasta. Top with the green onions and parsley.
From “Top Secret Recipes“, Paul Prudhomme’s Chicken Magic:
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage