Jambalaya could be a second
cousin of gumbo - the recipes are similar with the exception of cooked
rice. In gumbo, the rice is cooked separately and the gumbo ingredients
are ladled over the rice. In jambalaya, the rice is slowly cooked in the
same pot with the rest of the ingredients. Jambalaya is a rice dish
that is highly seasoned and strongly flavored with combinations of beef,
pork, poultry, smoked sausage, ham or tasso (lean chunk of highly
seasoned ham), or seafood. It is a very adaptable dish often made from
leftovers and ingredients on hand, and thus traditionally a meal for the
Cajun rural folks rather than their wealthier town cousins, the Creoles.
It is thought that the word
"jambalaya" comes from the French word "jambon" mean "ham," the French
words "a la," meaning "with" or "in the manner of," and the African
"ya," meaning "rice." Put the words together and they mean "ham with
rice." The dish is a takeoff from the Spanish paella and is also
amazingly similar to the West African dish called jollof rice. Jambalaya
is a one-pot dish - most cooks prefer to cook it in cast-iron pots.
There is one rule in cooking
jambalaya. After the rice has been added, jambalaya should never be
stirred. Instead, it should be turned, as this prevents the grains of
rice from breaking up. Most cooks turn jambalaya only two or three times
after the rice is added, being sure to scoop from the bottom of the pot
to mix rice evenly with other ingredients. Shovels are used when cooking
outdoors in large cast-iron kettles.
Jambalaya is a favorite at
church fairs, political rallies, weddings, family reunions, and any
other affair with an excuse to serve food.
In Gonzales, Louisiana, the
Jambalaya Festival and World champion Jambalaya cooking Contest is held
annually. This event attract participants who have spent years
perfecting the art of cooking and seasoning this wonderful stew.
Check out my
Shrimp Recipes for more great cooking ideas. Also check out
Purchasing, Deveining, Cooking, Brining, and Etiquette of Shrimp.
Shrimp Jambalaya Recipe
Yields: 4 to 6 servings
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 50 min
6 bacon slices, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
2 sprigs of fresh
thyme leaves or 1/3 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons salt
Tabasco Sauce or to taste*
1 teaspoon red (cayenne) pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 bay leaf
1 (15-ounce) can whole
tomatoes, undrained and cup up**
1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain rice
1 1/2 to 2 pounds raw extra-large
shrimp, peeled and deveined (can also use frozen
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Can substitute your favorite hot sauce.
** To easily prepare the
tomatoes, use a sharp knife and cut the tomatoes while still in the can.
*** To add flavor, place
the shells of the shrimp in a saucepan and cover with water. Simmer over
low heat approximately 7 to 10 minutes. remove from heat and strain the
broth; discarding shells. Substitute shrimp broth for the water in the
In a large heavy pot over medium heat (I like to use my
Cast-Iron Dutch Oven), fry the bacon until it begins to turn brown. Add onion, garlic, celery, and bell pepper;
sauté 8 to 10 minutes or until vegetable are soft.
Stir in thyme, salt, Tabasco Sauce, cayenne pepper, cloves, bay leaf, and tomatoes.
Stir in clam juice and water; bring mixture to a
boil. Add rice, cover, and turn heat to low; cook 30 minutes or until the rice
has absorbed almost all of the liquid and is cooked through.
Gently stir the jambalaya, then add shrimp and parsley, tossing lightly to distribute them
evenly; cook 6 to 7 minutes until shrimp is opaque in center (cut to test). Remove from heat and serve immediately.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.