For those of us who did not grow up in Louisiana, jambalaya is something of a foreign dish that can be a savory and spicy part of white rice. In essence, it is a rice dish that has become popular all over America. Is it an American dish, or not remains to be seen, but like anything else that is considered all American, it has it’s roots in other countries. In this case, it came from the Caribean. Even the Native Americans still living there gave their influence to this rich and savory entree.
Honestly, I don’t know much of the history behind Jambalaya, but I found a source on Wikipedia that is a good help and lists the three main variations.
Jambalaya originated in the Caribbean Islands. The Spanish culture mixed with the native foods created what is known as Jambalaya. Jambalaya is traditionally made in three parts, with meats and vegetables, and is completed by adding stock and rice. It is also a close cousin to the saffron colored paella found in Spanish culture. There are two primary methods of making jambalaya.
The first and most common is Creole jambalaya (also called “red jambalaya”). First, meat is added to the trinity of celery, peppers, and onions; the meat is usually chicken and sausage such as andouille or smoked sausage. Next vegetables and tomatoes are added to cook, followed by seafood. Rice and stock are added in equal proportions at the very end. The mixture is brought to a boil and left to simmer for 20 to 60 minutes, depending on the recipe, with infrequent stirring. Towards the end of the cooking process, stirring usually ceases. Some versions call for the jambalaya to be baked after the cooking of all the ingredients.
The second style, more characteristic of southwestern and south-central Louisiana, is Cajun jambalaya, which contains no tomatoes (the idea being the farther away from New Orleans one gets, the less common tomatoes are in dishes). The meat is browned in a cast-iron pot. The bits of meat that stick to the bottom of the pot (fond) are what give a Cajun jambalaya its brown color. A little vegetable oil is added if there is not enough fat in the pot. The trinity (about 50% onions, 25% celery, and 25% green or red bell pepper, although proportions can be altered to suit one’s taste) is added and sautéed until soft. Stock and seasonings are added in the next step, and then the meats returned to the pot. This mixture is then simmered, covered, for at least one hour. Lastly, the mixture is brought to a boil and rice is added to the pot. It is then covered and left to simmer over very low heat for at least 1/2 hour without stirring. The dish is finished when the rice has cooked.
A third method is less common. In this version, meat and vegetables are cooked separately from the rice. At the same time, rice is cooked in a savory stock. It is added to the meat and vegetables before serving. This is called “white jambalaya.” This dish is rare in Louisiana as it is seen as a “quick” attempt to make jambalaya, popularized outside the state to shorten cooking time.
Many people in the south, and typically in Louisiana, enjoy a simpler Jambalaya style. This style is cooked the same as the Cajun style, but there are no vegetables. Many restaurants serve this style as opposed to the others, because it is more child-friendly, has a more consistent texture, and is easier to make. The famous Jambalaya Shoppe serves this simpler style, which is a local favorite.
Jambalaya is considered by most Louisianans to be a filling but simple-to-prepare rice dish; gumbos, étouffées, and creoles are considered more difficult to perfect. Most often a long grain white rice is used in making jambalaya.
Jambalaya is differentiated from gumbo and étouffée by the way in which the rice is included. In these dishes, the rice is cooked separately and is served as a bed on which the main dish is served. In the usual method of preparing jambalaya, a rich stock is created from vegetables, meat, and seafood; raw rice is then added to the broth and the flavor is absorbed by the grains as the rice cooks.
Really, I couldn’t have said it better myself.
On to the recipe!
12 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped
4 ounces chicken, diced
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning, recipe follows
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce
3/4 cup rice
3 cups chicken stock
5 ounces Andouille sausage, sliced
Salt and pepper
In a bowl combine shrimp, chicken and Creole seasoning, and work in seasoning well. In a large saucepan heat oil over high heat with onion, pepper and celery, 3 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes, bay leaves, Worcestershire and hot sauces. Stir in rice and slowly add broth. Reduce heat to medium and cook until rice absorbs liquid and becomes tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. When rice is just tender add shrimp and chicken mixture and sausage. Cook until meat is done, about 10 minutes more. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning.