“Jam-ba-lay-a!” -I always hear Newman from Seinfeld saying that with relish when I think of the word now. Did you know that Jambalaya is an American adaptation of Paella?
My first experience with Jambalaya was on a trip to New Orleans that sealed my love for Cajun and Creole cooking forever. I have always been drawn to New Orleans -I remember wanting to go there from the time I was eight years old. It just seemed so exotic and full of life and history at the same time.
The word “jambalaya” comes from the Provençal word “jambalaia” -meaning a mish-mash or mix up, and also meaning a pilau (pilaf) of rice. The first printed appearance of the word is evidently in a Provençal poem published in 1837. There is another popular theory that Jambalaya has a root word in Jambon – the French word for ham but then again ham is just a component in some Jambalayas- not all. This theory adds that African slaves who worked as cooks and created Creole cooking added the aya part- a mish-mash of sorts. I don’t think it matters too much-either way it’s a jumble and it’s delicious.
My recipe here is for a Creole or “Red” Jambalaya in that it contains tomatoes- Cajun Jambalayas are called “Brown” and flavour is built in them through the browning of the meats- no tomatoes are added. Basic components are rich meats, vegetables, stock and rice. It is a glorious one pot meal. Here’s my recipe adapted from numerous others and suited to my taste. I use crawfish or “mudbugs” instead of shrimp- chicken legs for flavour and add Canadian Bacon to the ham and Andouille -just because I like it that way. It has a bit of heat but is not scorching- if you want more or less hot just adjust the Jalapeno and Cayenne pepper to your liking.
- 2 medium green bell peppers
- 2 red or other sweetish onions
- 6 ribs of celery
- 1/2 cup butter
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 1 shallot
- 6 green onions
- 1 Jalepeno pepper, seeded
- 3 small bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon Oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon Thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- 2 teaspoons Creole Seasoning
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- 6 chicken legs with skin and bone, rinsed and patted dry
- 1 pound Andouille sausage
- 1/2 pound smoked ham, cubed
- 1/4 pound Canadian Bacon, cubed
- 1 pound shelled, rinsed and cooked Crawfish tails ( you can use shrimp if crawfish is unavailable just add them at the end so they don’t overcook Cajun Grocer is a good online source for them and also for the Andouille)
- 2 cups canned diced tomatoes
- 4 cups organic chicken stock
- 3 cups of long grain white rice, rinsed and drained
- flat leaf parsley for garnish
Chop the green peppers, celery and onion to uniform size. These three compose what is commonly called the “trinity” or “”holy trinity” of Cajun and Creole cooking- the base of all that is to come. Slice the green onions and reserve a few Tablespoons for garnish. Mince the garlic with the Creole Seasoning. Mince the Jalapeno and Shallot and add them to the garlic.
In a large dutch oven or stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat and add the trinity. Saute until softened and then add the garlic mixture, green onion, bay leaves and seasonings. Saute all until it starts browning a bit and is softened. Add the tomato paste. Stir in. Add the chicken legs and cover the pot for about 5 minutes. Turn the legs and stir the pot. Slice the Andouille and add it with the ham and Canadian bacon to the pot. Stir well and cook until they are sizzling a bit. Add the chicken stock and undrained tomatoes to the pot and stir all until simmering. Add the rice, stir, cover the pot and set the heat to low. Cook for about 30 minutes stirring only occasionally or until rice is tender (al dente) and the liquid is mostly absorbed, add the crawfish and stir in very gently to heat through. Serve in a bowl, garnish with chopped parsley. Don’t forget to remove the bay leaves once cooked.
Serve with a green salad, French Bread a glass of wine and c’est magnifique!
Hope you enjoy!