Items that I think are important about Jambalaya;
word Jambalaya comes from both the Spanish and French words for Ham – Jamon.
And the Creole slang – ya ya , for many people talking together or from the
Cajun for an mishap. Also many say it is African for rice.
- Jambalaya is best cooked in a cast iron pot. Cast
Iron is preferred because it distributes the heat evenly, and holds the heat
after cooking. But most of all because it is easy to clean up!! Many Cajun
Chefs like to use a wooden paddle or spoon, but this is wrong!! You can
introduce bacteria using wood and you can't scrape the bottom of the pot
well enough with wood. You really need to use a stainless steal paddle or
spoon to insure that the "graton" won't burn.
A Cajun Jambalaya gets its brown color from the
“graton” of scab that is produced from browning the meats. A Creole
jambalaya is reddish in color and derives its color from the addition of
tomatoes. Also a Creole jambalaya is usually made with shrimp and a seafood
- Jambalaya can be made from many base meats, both
smoked and fresh. Smoked meats can be a hot or mild smoked pork sausage,
tasso or wild game. Fresh meats such as chicken, pork, rabbit, alligator
and road kill are all used.
- Fresh produce should be used. Frozen/thawed produce
has its cell structure broken and will turn to water before cooking. When
cooking for myself and doing a Creole jambalaya, I like to use fresh Creole
tomatoes that are blanched with the skin removed then chopped up. However,
Creole tomatoes are only available for a short growing period, so; caned
stewed tomatoes, tomato paste and sauce are acceptable.
- Fresh garlic (or commercially minced garlic), is
preferred because when cooked along with the produce it will release its
flavor into the meats. But variations of roasted garlic puree’ and
granulated garlic give different but highly acceptable results.
- In a Cajun jambalaya the onions are cooked until they
are a little caramelized and lightly brown (I usually only use onions in my
Cajun jambalaya). In a Creole jambalaya fresh produce of onions, celery and
bell peppers are used. The are cooked until the onions are clear.
- Jambalaya is NOT hot! It is a blend of peppers! White,
black and red. The red peppers can be a blend also of cayenne and Tabasco.
BUT it is VERY IMPORTANT to taste the peppers across the tongue, red on the
tip and center, black on the sides and white pepper deep in the throat.
- I also add Thyme and Sweet Basil to my jambalayas. I
like the fresh, but it is seldom available in large quantities, so I use
both dried whole thyme and chopped basil leafs.
- Jambalaya should be made from stocks. For a Cajun
jambalaya, a chicken or pork stock should be used. For a Creole jambalaya a
seafood or shrimp stock is preferred. BUT, soup bases can be a great
substitute. Commercial chicken, pork and shrimp bases are available, one
must be careful with them because they are high in salt content.
- The rice in jambalaya gets its flavor from absorbing
all of the ingredients in the stock and seasonings. The rice is infused
with the blend of aromas, seasonings, meats, vegetables, basically
everything in the pot. Adding cooked rice to a jambalaya only coats the
rice with the flavors.
- Long grain rice is preferred. I like to wash my rice
to remove the starch (and I know, I know, I know! some many of the vitamins
and inherent goodness of the grain.) BUT, when cooking, the rice is less
likely to become sticky and mushy. ALSO, parboiled rice is acceptable and
is a lot more forgiving, thus a lot easier to cook with. A little less
stock or even a little more stock doesn’t drastically affect the quality of
- In a Cajun jambalaya, I use a ratio of 1 ˝ volumes of
stock to rice. When cooking a Creole Jambalaya I add a slight bit more
stock, a Creole jambalaya is a little more mushy and sticky then a Cajun
- This is important, when the stock is added, bring to a
low bubble boil and allow some time for the seasonings, meats and flavors to
marry, about 15 - 20 mins.
- Once the rice is added, increase temp, stir and scrape
the bottom of the pot to insure that the rice doesn’t stick and burn on the
bottom. Once it comes back up to a boil and the rice starts to absorb the
stock, turn off the fire! PUT a lid on it and DON’T TOUCH!! For at least 25
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