New Orleans Seafood Cookbook
by Ralph Brennan
This rice dish is one of the oldest in the traditional New Orleans Creole cook's repertoire. It shares characteristics with Spanish paellas, but it has even stronger connections with traditional African rice cookery.
Some have speculated that "jambalaya" is a contraction of jambon a la ya-ya— marrying the French word jambon, for ham, with the old African Bantu word ya-ya, for rice.
Over the decades, jambalaya has taken on a multitude of identities in South Louisiana. The classic New Orleans dish with shrimp and ham is among the "red" jambalayas, thanks to the presence of tomatoes in it. In many of the Cajun communities to the west of the city, "brown" jambalayas, with oysters, giblets and lusty country sausages, are more familiar.
In present-day New Orleans homes, Jambalaya's easy preparation makes it popular party fare, especially during such local celebrations as Mardi Gras and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
For 6 servings
Note: This recipe can be prepared up to two days ahead by completing Steps 1 through 4, allowing the base sauce to cool a bit, then covering and storing it in the refrigerator. When it's time to finish the preparation, bring the base sauce to a boil and proceed from Step 5.
• A heavy, nonreactive 6-quart saucepan or Dutch oven
• A nonreactive lidded container for refrigerated storage
• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (or 2 tablespoons if the pork and sausage are very lean)
• 4 ounces andouille sausage,* sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
• 4 ounces pickled pork** or ham, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
• 1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped
• 1 bunch of green onions, chopped, with white and green parts separated
• 1 medium-size green sweet pepper, chopped
• 2 cans (10 ounces each) crushed plum tomatoes
• 1/4 cup canned tomato puree
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 whole bay leaf
• 1 teaspoon table salt
• 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
• 1/4 teaspoon dry thyme leaves
• 4 quarts chicken stock
• 1 tablespoon Louisiana pepper sauce
• 2 cups long-grain white rice, uncooked
• 1 pound raw medium shrimp, peeled
*Smoked or Polish sausage (kielbasa) may be substituted for the andouille.
**Pickled pork (or "pickled meat," as it is sometimes called) is a familiar seasoning meat in the traditional "pot cooking" of the American Deep South. It is often used to add flavor to greens, beans and other "pot food." In this jambalaya recipe, any good-quality ham may be used instead.
1. Over medium-high heat, melt the butter in a heavy, nonreactive 6-quart saucepan or Dutch oven.
2. Add the sausage and pickled pork or ham and cook until all of the fat is rendered out of the meats, about five minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the yellow onions, the white part of the green onions and the sweet peppers. Cook the vegetables until they are clear, about five minutes, occasionally stirring and scraping the pan bottom clean.
4. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, garlic, bay leaf, table salt, black pepper, cayenne, and thyme. Cook and stir this base sauce about two minutes. (If the dish is being prepared ahead, allow the base sauce to cool, then place in a lidded nonreactive container and store it in the refrigerator for up to two days. For the final preparation, heat the base to a boil and proceed with the remainder of the recipe.)
5. Add the chicken stock and pepper sauce to the base and bring to a boil.
6. Reduce the heat to maintain a strong simmer, and simmer the liquid uncovered until it is reduced by one third, about one hour 15 minutes. Skim any foam or coagulates as they develop on the surface.
7. Return the liquid to a boil and stir in the rice.
8. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook uncovered until the rice is just short of being done (it should still be a little firm in the center), about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
9. Add the shrimp and cook until the rice is tender and the shrimp turn bright pink, about three minutes. Do not overcook.
10. Stir in the green part of the green onions.
Serving Suggestion: Spoon the warm jambalaya onto a heated serving platter or into a wide, shallow serving bowl.