Jambalaya has its origins in New Orleans as a Creole dish and is generally believed to be a cousin to Spanish Paella. As it made its way west to Cajun Country, it lost its tomatoes, the seafood turned to pork or wild game (and nowadays, chicken), the andouille changed to smoked pork sausage, and the seasonings were simplified.
Jambalaya was traditionally made on the stove top in the same cast iron pot the ingredients were prepared in, and the crunchy rice stuck to the bottom of the pot was a cherished delicacy. But nowadays, most Cajuns finish it in the oven, where more reliable results can be achieved. This change was probably made because, unless you’re cooking the same dish every day (as in a restaurant), it’s difficult to hone down your skills from the mistakes you made the last time.
I do enjoy a chicken jambalaya. And some cooks will put chicken and pork in the same jambalaya. Or chicken and wild small game, like rabbit. But I always come back to pork as my favorite!
It’s not worth trying to reduce the fat in this recipe. Besides flavor, fat also adds a moistness to the rice that helps keep the grains separate.
Whether you’re doing a pork or chicken jambalaya, stick with the dark meats. Chicken thighs, legs, and wings, or pork shoulder (or country ribs) lend a lot more flavor and the flesh is more toothsome.
Following are the ingredients. Please note that in the video I prepared a DOUBLE batch of jambalaya. The ingredients below are for a single batch and will not look the same as in my video.
1# smoked pork sausage sliced ½” thick (Richard’s brand smoked green onion, if you can get it)
2# boneless pork butt (cut into 2-3″ cubes, or country ribs)
2 c. finely chopped onion (1#)
½ c. finely chopped poblano or green bell pepper (⅓#)
2 celery ribs chopped fine (optional, I did not use this in the video)
4 cloves garlic crushed
3½ c. water
3 tbs. flour, for the roux
1½ tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. salted Cajun seasoning (I use Konriko, Tony Chachere’s is one of the most popular)
2 tbs. dried parsley
1 cube chicken bouillon
½ c. chopped green onions
2½ c. raw long grain rice
– As in the video, it’s very important to have all your ingredients prepared and in place before you start. This is always good practice, but it’s especially important in this recipe.
– The sausage you choose is the most important aspect of jambalaya, don’t just throw any ole thing in there. Your first choice should be a smoked pork sausage that is known as a local favorite. National brands have a mushy hot dog sort of texture and is not desirable. Savoie’s /sah-vwahz/ is one particular Louisiana brand of andouille /on-doo-we/that is available all over the Southeast and makes a good jambalaya. Savoie’s is a pretty good andouille sausage, but I would still choose a local smoked sausage over this one.
– In the video, I forgot to shoot content of me adding the black pepper, parsley, chicken bouillon and green onions. They all get added at the same time as the roux into the simmering pot.
– The only exception is the green onions, which can be stirred into the stock pot after picking out the meat and other solids, which is actually more my preference. I like this method because the green onion flavor shines more in the finished product.
– Do not add the seasonings to the roux while browning it. They will burn and you’ll have to start over.
– Some of the broth water will evaporate. At the end when straining out the broth to measure, you may find you need to add a little more water. Or, if you started with too much, you’ll have to boil it down.
– Don’t fudge on the water to rice ratio. Too much will make a gloppy mess. Not enough will yield crunchy rice!
– While this jambalaya stands on its own just fine, it’s never a bad idea to serve it with a roux gravy. People will always come back saying how “the jambalaya was great, but that roux gravy….wow!” Learn how to make a proper Cajun roux gravy here. Watch the whole video to get the context, or skip right to the roux at 1:50.
– If you prefer to try your hand at cooking the jambalaya entirely on the stovetop, make sure you have the pot set on a burner (gas or electric) that is the same size as the pot. Set the heat to the tiniest simmer then cover the pot tightly and cook for 30 minutes. But, be warned, unless you’re accustomed to cooking larger volume rice dishes on the stove, this is tricky business. And once you remove the lid, only to find the rice isn’t fully cooked, it’s almost impossible to salvage the dish.
– If you have a Dutch oven large enough (a gumbo pot, as we call them in Louisiana) the whole pot can go right in the oven, provided it’s all on-piece-construction and has not plastic handles. Most Cajuns use a Magnalite pot. And we will bring the whole thing to the party we’re cooking for, pot and all!
Let me know how yours came out!
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