ME OH MY—JAMBALAYA!
by Deborah Fagan Carpenter
Mardi Gras! It’s the South’s great party!
A prelude to Ash Wednesday and Lent, Mardi Gras originated in Europe, but it began in the U.S. in—still under debate—either New Orleans or Mobile. (In Louisiana it’s actually a legal holiday.) Although religious at its foundation, the celebration is enjoyed by even non-Catholics, and consists of several weeks filled with masked balls, costumes, elaborate parades, beads, libations, and of course, food.
At the top of the celebratory food lists are Cajun and Creole favorites like red beans and rice, gumbo, King Cake, and jambalaya. We’ve had several posts on some of these from our own Southfacin’ Cook, Patsy Brumfield: “Make a Cake like a New Orleanian” and “Red Beans and Rice by Patsy Brumfield” http://porchscene.com/2016/01/15/make-a-king-cake-like-a-new-orleanian/ , http://porchscene.com/2014/03/13/southfacin-cooks-red-beans-rice-by-patsy-brumfield/, and a gumbo recipe by John Besh in Holiday Dinner a la New Orleans” http://porchscene.com/2015/12/21/holiday-dinner-a-la-new-orleans/. Today’s post takes a look at Jambalaya, which I’ve previously never prepared OR eaten, I don’t think, but it was a great Sunday afternoon endeavor and a delicious dinner.
Jambalaya is definitely a Louisiana dish, strongly influenced by the French and Spanish, consisting of a variety of meats and often seafood, but always rice. It also includes the “holy trinity” of onion, celery, and green bell pepper, and optional garlic, which I included in my execution of it. There are multiple ways to season it, and sometimes it includes tomatoes, and sometimes not. It seems that the farther away from New Orleans one travels, the less likely it is to incorporate tomatoes. As the crow flies, I’m 358 miles from New Orleans, however, and I used them in my version. (Chef’s prerogative)
2 Tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, butter, or vegetable oil
1 pound raw chicken (I used white meat because it’s what I had, but dark meat has more flavor)
½ Pound or less Andouille sausage (I used Bradley’s sausage because it’s what I had.) Read about it in this article: http://porchscene.com/2014/01/16/oceans-of-inland-escapes-by-deborah-fagan-carpenter/
About a pound of large shrimp or crawfish (optional)
Two large cloves garlic, chopped (optional)
One large yellow onion
One green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
Two celery stalks, chopped
Two tablespoons parsley, chopped
One jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
Several green onions, chopped
About a tablespoon of thyme (I used fresh, but use less, if it’s dried)
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
A couple of tablespoons of Cajun seasoning OR a combination of three teaspoons salt, freshly ground pepper, ¼ teaspoon cayenne, ½ teaspoon chili powder, 1/8 teaspoon cloves, two whole bay leaves, ¼ teaspoon dried basil, 1/8 teaspoon mace
One cup long-grain white rice
One small can chopped tomatoes
Three cups chicken broth
In a substantial eight quart pot, brown the chicken over medium-high heat. (About five minutes) Remove the chicken and add the sausage, cooking for several minutes. Remove the sausage and add all of the vegetables, sautéing for several minutes. Add the chicken and sausage back into the pot, along with the remaining ingredients, except the shrimp, if you’re including them, which go in the last couple of minutes before serving. Cook covered on very low heat for about 45 minutes, and turn up at the end for enough time to turn the shrimp pink if you’re using them. Serve with baguettes and salad.
Aside from a bit of vegetable chopping and slicing, there’s not much to this dish, so if you’re in the mood for a little Mardi Gras fare, give it a go!
(If you’re in Memphis, and you don’t want to go to the trouble of making a King Cake for dessert, pick up some Mardi Gras cookies from Frost’s Bakery in Laurelwood!)
All photos by Deborah Fagan Carpenter