My favorite Patriots season ever was in 2001 – the first year that Tom Brady came out of nowhere to play quarterback and the first year that the Patriots won a Super Bowl, ever. There was so much drama – Bledose’s injury, Brady’s discovery, two insane playoff games (one played in almost white-out conditions). Not to mention that it was a true underdog sports success story, Boston’s very favorite kind of sports success story.

That year the Super Bowl was held in New Orleans, and from the day we knew we were going south for the championships, everyone in New England adopted a one-word battle cry: Jambalaya! Churches, Chain restaurants, and carwashes posted the word on their billboards. Drunk people screamed it from cars. Local newscasters signed off with it: Jambalaya!

Now Let’s fast-forward a few years to tonight, when the Patriots were playing what many called Super Bowl 41 and 1/2, against the Colts and the future Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning. It was the first time in NFL history when two teams met each other with such great season records, both undefeated (the Patriots 8-0, the Colts 7-0). The Colts beat them in their last meeting for a Super Bowl spot and in fact have beaten them the last three times they met.

To be sure, it was the first time I got to feel nervous about a football game all season – and I was very nervous. Weirdly, it was a good feeling. How would I do my part as a fervent and devoted fan, I wondered, in both good times and bad? The answer was simple. I would prepare Jambalaya! More than that, as the daughter of two Louisianan parents, I would make the tastiest, most authentic Jambalaya that anyone had ever eaten.

2 pounds chicken pieces (I use chicken breasts)
1 pound smoked sausage
3 Tablespoons oil or bacon drippings (I use olive oil)
1/2 cup each: onions, green pepper, green onions, celery
Minced garlic (to taste, I use a lot)
2 cups uncooked rice
4 cups boiling chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon black pepper and cayenne pepper (this is somewhat spicy)
1 can diced tomatoes or tomato sauce (I like doing a can of diced tomatoes and a can of tomato paste)

1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Brown on all sides along with the sausage in a Dutch oven along with a small amount of oil.
2. Add the veggies (onions, green pepper, green onions, celery), finely chopped, along with the rest of the oil. Cook until tender and translucent.
3. Stir in rice, broth, tomatoes, and seasoning.
4. Bring to a boil, cover, and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

(5. Sit down with a hot, steaming bowl, a huge moist wedge of cornbread, and the Patriots hat you have that you wear even though it makes your ears look funny. Watch the Patriots come from behind, as you love to watch them do, to win in the end, 24-20.)

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