One of my favorite dishes of all times is Jambalaya. However I have one small issue with this dish. I do not know how to make a small amount! When I get done making a pot there’s usually enough for 15 people. Good if you’re having company or enjoy freezing meals. The dish does handle the freezer pretty nicely. When we weren’t having company I used to freeze in butter containers for my lunch. There were also a couple of good friends who ‘loved’ it and I always made sure they had a large container. How about we go back and talk about this dish historically for just a bit.
The origin of Jambalaya is a little hard to pin down. One ideology is it was the Spanish attempt at paella. Personally I do not find much likeness in Jambalaya to Paella? I’m leaning towards another philosophy that says it actually started in the Caribbean. Folks from Louisiana called it a ‘mish mash’ dish or ‘mix up’ recipe. There’s also a million and one versions of the dish, particularly the Creole versus Cajun styles.
Explaining the difference between Cajun and Creole history and their foods is quite a handful. Here’s how I remember the styles of cooking. Cajun actually tends to be much hot and spicier. The French influence is evident in many of their dishes. The ‘trinity’ is always present with onions, peppers and celery. However Creoles also use a ‘trinity’ base in many of their dishes. The Cajun use ‘file’, which is ground sassafras root in many of their roux’s. Cajuns also use a great deal of smoked meats and sausages, their foods also have a more earthy hue. Tomatoes were scarce in the Bayou area so their recipes did not contain many. Cajuns came to Louisiana between 1725 and 1763 after they were expelled from their countries by the British Government. Cajuns or Acadians resided in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. During the French and Indian War they were afraid the Acadians would side/fight with the French. So they expelled them from their homelands, this was called ‘Le Grand Derangement’.
Most Creole dishes are tomato based, and again they frequently contain the ‘trinity’. Not as hot and spicy as the Cajun/Acadian styles. You can find all kinds of meats and seafood in their dishes. The Creole people liked being able to cook many of their dishes in a large pot, over an open fire. Oregano is also found in many of their recipes. Creoles are descendants of the original people who settled Louisiana especially in New Orleans. They usually contained nationalities from France, Spain and African nations. If you are a Creole with French and Spanish / European roots you are referred to as French Creole. The remaining Creoles are more mixed in nationalities and are referenced as Louisiana Creole.
Are you still confused? Well, I said it was a bit tricky. Probably one of my favorite trips was to New Orleans. It was what I will call a 3-day food & music fest in the French Quarter. You could eat around the clock, which we did, and the seafood was exquisite. The fine dinner at a local French restaurant was probably my favorite dining experience.
Basically you can put just about anything in your jambalaya. Creoles would reach for okra, which I often put in mine. The featured recipe would definitely be a Creole Jambalaya because of the tomato base. Keep plenty of tomatoes on hand because you just might need them. As you hunt for Creole seasonings you’re going to uncover quite a few salt-free, which I highly recommend.
The rice used is simple long grain rice. Doing a good job rinsing will keep some of the starch at bay. You could also go back and sauté the rice to enhance the flavor. For the meat you can use only one, but I prefer chicken, sausage and shrimp. Just remember to keep the shrimp to the very end, just before serving. This is because overcooking shrimp makes it rubbery.
For a gathering I would suggest a light salad and cornbread as accompaniments. However just about anything is acceptable. Those of you with an overabundance of garden tomatoes could use fresh instead of the canned. Once again I guess I’m going to have to go make a pot of this yummy staple.
Enjoy the summer bounty, and keep putting garden produce away for the winter.
Simply yours, The Covered Dish. www.thecovereddish.com
1/4 cup oil
4 cups onions, diced
2 cups celery, diced
2 cups green peppers, diced
1 tablespoon or more, chopped garlic
3 pounds cooked chicken, chopped
1 1/2 pounds sausage, can use Andouille
4 cups long grain rice (not instant)
5 cups chicken stock
Creole Seasonings, 1-2 tablespoons, (put some in and test)
1 tablespoon paprika
1-2 quarts canned tomatoes or 32-64 ounces of tomatoes stewed or chopped.
1 1/2pounds shrimp, cooked, medium-large
In a very large stockpot, (I use a 13 quart) sauté onions, celery, peppers and lastly the garlic in the 1/4 cup of oil. When complete add in the chicken and sausage, sautéing lightly. Add all the stock including the creole seasoning and paprika. Bring mix to a boil, add rice and return to a boil. Cook until rice is done, stirring once or twice in a 20-25 minute cooking period. My recipe always tends to get very thick so I use at least 1 quart of tomatoes and sometimes two. Just before serving add the shrimp.
Serves 10-12 persons
Options: Tomato juice could be used for part of the stock. Green onions or parsley are great as a garnish.
Rice Tips: Stir your rice with a wooden spoon handle, this keeps the rice from getting too sticky and compacting. On smaller batches I like to use a chopstick for stirring the rice. I only cover my stockpot, in the making of this dish, at the very end.