Creole (Red) Jambalaya

Jambalaya

John loves rice dishes and spicy Jambalaya hits the spot.  I was in New Orleans a year or two before Hurricane Katrina flooded the city, and tasted several types of Jambalaya, all of them very good.  The name “Jambalaya” is believed to come from the French “jambon” (for ham) “a la” (in the style of) and “ya” (African word for rice).  There are two predominant types of Jambalaya in Louisiana: Creole (red) Jambalaya and Cajun (brown) Jambalaya.  Creole cuisine has French origins but has been greatly influenced by other cultures such as Spanish (indeed some claim Jambalaya was actually created by Spanish settlers using local ingredients as a variation of paella) and African, and is centered around New Orleans. Cajun cuisine is more rustic and was developed by the Cajuns, French Canadians from Acadia (now Nova Scotia) exiled by the English in the mid 1800s.  They moved southwards into the United States and settled in the Louisiana swamps.  Creole Jambalaya contains tomatoes; Cajun Jambalaya does not.  But both contain rice generally flavored with onions, peppers, celery, garlic and thyme with whatever meat is on hand (ham chicken and shellfish predominate in Creole Jambalaya.  Cajun Jambalaya may contain sausages, rabbit, duck or whatever can be taken off the land).

The version I cooked tonight:

1 tbsp canola oil

1/2 pound each diced chicken meat and diced ham

1 tbsp flour

1/2 onion chopped

1 green bell pepper diced

1 cup diced celery

2 cloves garlic minced

2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes (one can pureed)

1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, 1 bay leaf,. 1 tsp ground black pepper, 1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 1/2 cups long grain rice

2 cups low sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup chopped parsley

Heat 1/2 oil in a large skillet over high heat.  Lightly season chicken with salt and pepper and dust with flour.  Add chicken and ham to the skillet and toss until chicken is lightly browned.  Remove meat from the pan.  Reduce heat to medium and add the remaining oil.  Add the onions, peppers, celery and garlic and saute until soft.  Turn heat back up to high, and add tomatoes, herbs and peppers.  Bring sauce to a fast boil.  Stir in rice and broth.  Occasionally stir mixture until thick and rice has absorbed about half the liquid (about 10 minutes, having a glass of wine while tending to the stove helps).  Turn heat to low and cover.  Cook for about 20 minutes, stir occasionally.  When done, taste and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.  Remove bay leaf, sprinkle parsley on top and serve.  6 servings.

And of course, this post would not be complete without the refrain to the Hank Williams Sr. song in both English and French:

Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and file’ gumbo
‘Cause tonight I’m gonna see my ma cher amio
Pick guitar, fill fruit jar and be gay-o
Son of a gun, we’ll have big fun on the bayou

Thibodeaux, Fontainenot, the place is buzzin’
Kinfolk come to see Yvonne by the dozen
Dress in style and go hog wild, me oh my oh
Son of a gun, we’ll have big fun on the bayou

Jambalaya, des tartes d’ecrevisse, file gombo
Par a soir moi j’va allez voir ma chere ami-o
Jouer l’guitar, boire de la jogue

Et fair de la musique tomnnerre m’ecrase
Un va avoir un bon temp de sur le bayou
Thibodeaux, Fontenot, la place apre sonner
Ca vien “en tas” pour voir yvonne par les douzaines
Fair bien l’amour, et fair le fou, fair la musique

Tonnerre m’ecrase
Un va avoir un bon temp  de sur le bayou

Laissez les bon temps roulez!

(c) all rights reserved

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