Jambalaya, the name just sounds fun. This is a dish made for a crowd and shows off the best of South Louisiana cuisine. Here is Sweet Daddy D’s Creole Jambalaya, a savory concoction of smoked meats and shrimp with tomatoes, the Holy Trinity and rice all cooked together in a rich stock. The outcome is a homogeneous combination of flavors where no single ingredient dominates but all add to the symphony. It’s simple and delicious and definitely Creole.
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What Is Jambalaya?
Jambalaya, like the South Louisiana culture itself, is a merging of cuisines producing something larger than the sum of its parts. This rice dish combines elements of African and Spanish influences as well as French and Cajun experiences and methods. Dating back to the earliest settlers and slave communities, the name jambalaya comes from the French word for ham, “jambon” and the African word for rice, “ya”. Throw in the phrase “à la” which, in cooking, means cooked in a particular style or manner and you have the South Louisiana culture represented right on your plate.
Is Jambalaya Cajun or Creole?
The answer to this question is yes. The distinction between Cajun and Creole can sometimes be a little obscure, but jambalaya makes it simple...there is a Creole version and a Cajun version. Both versions are cooked in a similar fashion, but the ingredients and process develop flavors in a slightly different manner. Cajun Jambalaya, known as brown jambalaya, was developed in the swamps and prairies of southwest Louisiana by the Acadians and utilized methods and ingredients available to them. Creole Jambalaya, often called red jambalaya was an adaptation influenced by the methods and ingredients available to the Creole cooks in the port city of New Orleans. The major difference between the two versions is their appearance. Creole jambalaya contains tomatoes and sometimes shrimp and will have an orange or reddish appearance, while the more rustic Cajun jambalaya is brown in appearance, taking its hue from the browned meats. The difference in ingredients and processes creates two distinctive flavors with subtle differences, which may characterize the subtle distinctions between Cajun and Creole cuisines-city cooking versus country cooking.
But guess what, it’s not that simple. Like most traditional Creole and Cajun dishes, there are as many recipes as there are cooks in South Louisiana. Common Cajun Jambalaya ingredients include chicken, pork, pork sausage, ham and/or game, while the Creole variety may contain pork sausage, ham and shrimp and always tomatoes. But again, there is no limit to the ingredients a Cajun or Creole cook may use and a sure way to get in an argument in South Louisiana is to tell someone what they have to put in their gumbo or jambalaya. It wouldn’t surprise me if even this recipe draws someone ire, but let’s check out Sweet Daddy D’s Creole Jambalaya, I think you’ll like it!
Here’s What You Need
- Smoked bacon, Andouille sausage
- Fresh Shrimp (peeled, deveined and rinsed). Frozen shrimp, which can usually be found peeled and cleaned in the freezer of the grocery or seafood market, can be substituted for fresh shrimp.
- The Holy Trinity: Yellow onions, green pepper, celery
- Roma tomatoes-peeled and with juice
- Aromatics: Green onions, garlic
- Shrimp stock-the shells from fresh shrimp can be used to make Homemade Shrimp Stock, or commercial seafood stock or chicken stock can easily be substituted.
- Tomato sauce
- 2 cups long-grain rice (uncooked)
Herb and Spice Blend
- Oregano, basil, thyme, creole seasoning (you’ll also use some for the shrimp), kosher salt, ground black pepper, bay leaves
Equipment: Heavy bottom cast iron Dutch oven
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Here’s What You Do
First...you have a beer. I always find a jambalaya is fun to cook because it often involves a crowd or get-together of some sort. There are only nine ingredients plus the proteins and spices and everything goes together in one pot. Simple, but you will benefit from a little mise en place. Start out with a beer and while you sip, read the recipe completely, making sure you have all the ingredients and know what to do with them. If you are using fresh shrimp, you can use the shells to make Homemade Shrimp Stock which can be done days or weeks before. The cleaned shrimp, as well as the stock, can be kept in the refrigerator or freezer until you are ready to use them. When its time to cook, mix some Creole seasoning into the shrimp and set them back in the fridge until you are ready for them.
Slice the sausage and bacon and chop all the vegetables. The Trinity (that’s the yellow onions, bell peppers, and celery) can all be placed in a bowl together with the garlic and green onions in a separate bowl. Measure the rice and stock and open the cans of tomatoes and tomato sauce. We will use all the juice in the tomato can. Mix the Herb and Spice Blend and set it aside. Another sip or two of beer and you’re ready to go.
First-render the fats and caramelize the vegetables
Place a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and fry the bacon until most of the fat has been rendered. This will take about 5 minutes. Leaving the bacon in the Dutch oven, add the sliced sausage and continue to fry until it’s fat is rendered, another 5 minutes, approximately.
Add the Trinity (yellow onions, bell peppers and celery) to the bacon and sausage and mix well to distribute the fat throughout the vegetables. Lower the heat slightly to medium and continue to cook the Trinity, stirring occasionally, until they begin to caramelize and brown a little on the edges. This should take about 15 minutes.
At this point, mix in the garlic and green onions and saute for about 2 minutes or until the garlic becomes aromatic. Add about ¾ of the Herb and Spice Blend and continue to saute another couple of minutes. Reserve the remainder of the Herb and Spice Blend to add later if needed.
Add the tomatoes and the stock
Next, the whole tomatoes go in. Crush each tomato by hand as you add them, along with all the juice, to the vegetables and meats. Mix well and bring it to a heavy simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the tomato sauce and stock (have a little more stock on hand in case you need to add some later), mix well and bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat to a heavy simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes while all the flavors get to know each other.
Add the Rice, then the Shrimp
After simmering for 10 minutes, increase the heat and mix in the uncooked rice, stirring thoroughly to evenly distribute the uncooked rice.
Allow the pot to return to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Cover the Dutch oven and let it simmer for 15 minutes. During this time, do not take the lid off the Dutch oven. After 15 minutes, remove the lid and give the pot a thorough stir. Add the shrimp a few at a time, stirring to combine the shrimp and rice completely.
Replace the lid and simmer for an additional 15 minutes (again, do not open the lid during this time). After 15 minutes, remove the lid and test the rice for doneness and seasoning. If the rice is cooked, the jambalaya is done. If the rice is still a little hard, replace the cover and simmer for up to an additional 10 minutes or until the rice is done. If more liquid is needed, add some of the reserved stock. Pay attention because you don’t want the rice overcooked and mushy. Add some or all of the reserved Herb and Spice Blend as needed. Once done, remove the Dutch oven from the heat and let it sit covered for another 5 minutes. Fluff it up, remove the bay leaves and you are ready to geaux!
That’s it, all there is to it.
Hints and Tips
What kind of rice should I use?
- I commonly use parboiled rice, such as Uncle Ben’s Converted Rice, which cuts the cooking time slightly, but regular long-grain rice is perfect for this recipe as well. Keep in mind, many factors can affect cooking time, such as altitude, so it's important to test the jambalaya after cooking for 30 minutes-it’s done when the rice is done.
Do I need Andouille Sausage?
- Andouille sausage is highly seasoned (that doesn’t mean it’s always spicy) coarse-grained, smoked pork sausage which is very common in Cajun and Creole recipes. Any smoked pork sausage, like kielbasa, can be substituted for the andouille, but keep in mind that the andouille adds a lot of flavors that other sausages do not. In addition to smoked sausage, you can also add some smoked ham or tasso to the recipe.
What if I can’t find fresh shrimp?
- Frozen shrimp, sold in many grocery stores and seafood markets, are perfectly good in Creole Jambalaya. Make sure to thaw the shrimp in the refrigerator overnight and rinse before using. Pat them dry with a paper towel and sprinkle on some Creole seasoning and they will be ready when you are.
- The shrimp do not have to be large. Medium shrimp (41/50 count) work well, but small shrimp will work if that's all you can find. The term “count” refers to the number of shrimp in a pound. In this example, the shrimp are such a size that between 41 and 50 shrimp would weigh one-pound.
- If you are buying fresh shrimp in the shell, you will have to buy more than 2 pounds to net 2 pounds of shrimp-the shells and heads add to the weight. As a rule of thumb, without heads, I buy about 2 ¾ to 3 pounds; with heads, I buy about 4 pounds. You may end up with more shrimp than you need, but they freeze well and you could have worse problems.
How long do Jambalaya leftovers last?
- Leftovers will last about 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator and should be stored in an airtight container. Reheat the Jambalaya in the microwave. You can reheat on top of the stove, but add a little water to the saucepan, place over medium heat and stir occasionally until warmed through.
- Creole jambalaya does not freeze well because the rice will tend to get mushy. If you do freeze the leftover jambalaya make sure to use an airtight container or a vacuum sealer for best results.
- If you want to cook this ahead of time, consider cooking up to the point just before you add the rice. Freeze the mixture in an airtight container and when you are ready to eat, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight, then bring it to a boil and add the rice and shrimp as the recipe directs.
Is this the same as Shrimp Creole, Gumbo or other Cajun/Creole dishes?
- Other popular Cajun and Creole dishes such as Gumbo, Etouffee, Shrimp Creole and Dirty Rice are completely different than both Cajun and Creole Jambalaya. Jambalaya, as you have just read is seasoned proteins and vegetables cooked in a rich stock with uncooked rice until the rice absorbs all the wonderful flavors. Shrimp Creole and any Etouffee are highly seasoned sauces that are served over rice. Dirty Rice utilizes cooked rice blended into seasoned meat with liver/gizzards, a perfect use for left-over rice. Gumbo, of course, is a soup-like combination of proteins and vegetables that is often served with a scoop of cooked rice as an addon. All are unbelievably delicious and come with a Cajun or Creole cook ready to argue with you about what you should put in each one!
Take a look at these Cajun Jambalaya, Shrimp Creole and Dirty Rice recipes...try them all!
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Yeah You Right!
Here's What You Need
- 2 pounds shrimp peeled, cleaned and rinsed
- 2 strips smoked bacon sliced into 1" pieces
- 1 pound andouille sausage sliced into medallions
- 2 medium yellow onions chopped
- 1 small green pepper chopped
- 2 stalks celery chopped
- 1 bunch green onions chopped
- 5 cloves garlic chopped
- 15 ounces whole peeled roma tomatoes See Recipe Notes
- 8 ounces tomato sauce
- 2 cups long-grain rice See Recipe Notes
- 3 ½ cups shrimp stock See Recipe Notes
Herb and Spice Blend
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon basil
- ½ teaspoon thyme
- 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning plus some for the shrimp
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
Here's What You Do
Prep the Ingredients
- Peel, clean and rinse the shrimp. Pat dry with paper towels and mix about 1 tablespoon of Creole seasoning into the shrimp and place in refrigerator until needed.
- Slice the bacon and sausage, chop the yellow onions, bell peppers and celery; chop the green onions and garlic; measure the stock, rice and Herb and Spice Blend; open the cans of whole tomatoes and sauce. Set all aside until needed.
Make the Jambalaya
- Fry the bacon in a dutch oven over medium heat to render the fat, about 5 minutes.
- Add sausage and saute to render the fat, about 5 minutes.
- Add the Trinity (yellow onions, bell peppers and celery) and saute until starting to caramelize, about 15 minutes.
- Add garlic and green onions and saute about 2 minutes
- Add about ¾ of the Herb and Spice Blend plus the Bay Leaves, stir to mix for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes by crushing each tomato by hand as you add to the dutch oven. Add in any juice from the tomatoes.
- Increase the heat to a heavy simmer for 5 minutes, then add tomato sauce and stock.
- Stir well and bring it to a heavy boil, then reduce the heat to a heavy simmer and cook uncovered for about 10-15 minutes while all the flavors merge.
- Mix in the rice and return to a boil before reducing the heat to a simmer. Cover the dutch oven and cook for 15 minutes. Do not open the lid during this period.
- After 15 minutes, remove the lid, stir well. Add the shrimp, a few at a time, and stir to combine completely.
- Replace the lid and simmer for an additional 15 minutes, again, do not open the lid during this period.
- After 15 minutes, remove the lid to test rice for seasoning and doneness. If rice is still a little hard, replace the cover and simmer for up to an additional 10 minutes until the rice is done. Add some reserved Herb and Spice Blend, if needed.
- Remove the dutch oven from the heat and let sit covered for another 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and serve.