After that deliciously wonderful New Orleans Style Bloody Mary from James Gaffney, photographer, my thoughts and appetite turned to one of my most favored Big Easy dish: Jambalaya. It’s so easy to make, very hearty and filled with wonderful flavors from fresh vegetables and meats, as well as seafood.
There are various versions, all of which are delicious. I must confess that depending upon how I feel, I will sometimes change meats. In this recipe I selected Andouille sausage, Cajun style and just shrimp. Chicken is also an option as a substitution for the seafood or just another added ingredient. I love vegetables, so I’ve added lots of them.
First, a jambalaya is not a gumbo. And no, jambalaya is not a paella. All three dishes share some key common ingredients, such as rice and vegetables. However, they are distinguished by the use of herbs and spices, as well as method of cooking. Gumbo includes okra and filé powder, an earthy-like flavor “made from dried and ground leaves of sassafras tree (Sassafras albidum).” Paella typically includes saffron as its spice and is cooked in a unique pan called a paella pan, a very wide nearly flat with rounded rims.
Without a doubt, however, jambalaya and gumbo are the invention of New Orleans, Louisiana. Even there, you’ll find some variances in jambalaya distinguished by the area in which the dish is cooked. In the French Quarters, “Creole or red jambalaya” includes tomatoes. “Cajun or brown jambalaya” which originated in the rural, low-lying swamp areas doen’t include tomatoes. Regardless of the areas, the name jambalaya is simply used.
Key ingredients for a jambalaya will include rice; the three “trinity” vegetables (onions, bell peppers, and celery); and a combination of meats (chicken, sausage, and seafood).
History for all three dishes is fascinating. For further reading, you may want to start where I did:
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes, Cook Time: 30 minutes
Suggested Tools: 4-quart stainless-steel saucepan
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
1 cup sweet onions, chopped
1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic, minced
12-ounces Andouille sausage, Cajun style
1 - 14 ounce diced tomatoes with juice, canned
16 ounces chicken broth
1 cup long grain rice
Fresh thyme, leaves only from 7 sprigs
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pound shrimp
If using a stainless steel skillet, set it to heat on low or high-low to avoid food from sticking.
Add olive oil and butter. Allow butter to melt.
Add onions, bell pepper, and celery. Cook until almost translucent, then add garlic. Stir.
Push vegetables to the side of the skillet and add Andouille sausage. Lightly brown it.
Stir all ingredients together.
Except for shrimps, add remaining ingredients: tomatoes, chicken broth, rice, thyme and salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir once or twice during simmer.
Add shrimp. Stir. Cook for 2 minutes.
Remove from heat. Allow to sit for 1 minute then serve.