Because Mardi Gras is such a big celebration is New Orleans, it’s not uncommon to see Cajun and Creole food prepared around Fat Tuesday, even if you don’t live in Louisiana. We may be past Fat Tuesday, but I’ve been thinking about making Jambalaya for the last couple weeks and finally had a chance to do so.
Jambalaya is a meat and rice dish traditional in the Creole and Cajun cultures of Louisiana. While they have a lot of similarities – both are spiced and rely on the “Holy Trinity” of onion, celery, and bell pepper – there are differences between Creole and Cajun food. The Creoles were descendants of French and Spanish colonists who had mixed French, African American and Native American ancestry. Creole food is considered “city food” and contains ingredients such as tomatoes, butter, and herbs. The Cajuns were French Canadians expelled from Nova Scotia who eventually settled in the bayous and intermarried with everyone there. Cajun food is considered “country food” and uses no tomatoes, oil instead of butter, and lots of peppers.
Jambalaya is one of my dad’s favorite foods to make, and I also love making it! Because my jambalaya is a mash-up of a number of different recipes, I don’t think I’ve ever made it the same way twice, but I have definitely overheard my husband bragging about how good my jambalaya is. This Creole-style “red” Jambalaya is the version I made most recently.* Every time I make this, I am flabbergasted at how flavorful it is – every mouthful is amazing. Maybe someday I’ll try a Cajun “brown” Jambalaya, but for now I love this version enough to keep making it again.
3 Tbsp butter
1 white onion, diced (1-2 c)
2 ribs celery (½ – 1 c)
1 green pepper, diced (½ – 1 c)
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
10 oz Andouille sausage, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
14 oz can crushed tomatoes (or chopped fresh tomatoes)
2 Tbsp Creole seasoning
2 tsp Worcestershire
2 tsp Tobasco
3 bay leaves
½ lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 ½ c uncooked long-grain white rice
3 c chicken stock
Optional: thinly sliced green onions for garnish
Creole Seasoning: 2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp paprika, 1 or 2 Tbsp salt (your preference for saltiness), 2 Tbsp garlic powder, 1 Tbsp onion powder, 1 Tbsp black pepper, 1 Tbsp cayenne, 1 Tbsp oregano, 1 Tbsp thyme, 2 teaspoons dried basil, rosemary, or parsley
- Heat 2 Tbsp butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add celery, onion, bell peppers. Sauté for 5 minutes until the vegetables are soft and mostly cooked.
- Stir in the remaining 1 Tbsp of butter along with chicken and Andouille. Sauté for another 5 minutes until chicken is no longer pink (mostly cooked.)
- Add garlic, tomatoes, Creole seasoning, Worcestershire, Tobasco, and bay leaves.
- Stir in the rice, then slowly add stock. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Give it a stir and add the shrimp. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes or until the rice is tender.
- Season with S&P, hot sauce, and extra Creole seasoning if needed. Remove from heat and serve garnished with green onion.
* okay, it’s not exactly the same… I don’t put shrimp in my Jambalaya when I’m making it for just Joe and me because neither of us like shrimp, but for the sake of authenticity I included it in the recipe.
** Some recipes have you cook the chicken first with half the Creole seasoning, then the Andouille until all the meat is slightly browned – this is the Cajun way of doing it, as well. I have made this recipe both ways and both are delicious.