Sunday, February 24, 2013


There was a joke between my class in culinary school that whenever someone asked, "What are you making?", the reply was always, "jambalaya", regardless of what was actually being made.

I've always thought of jambalaya as a one-pot/clean-out-fridge dish of Cajun/Creole origin--perhaps my definition is rather loose considering that jambalaya is a specific cultural dish along the lines of browned chicken, spicy andouille, shrimp, onions, celery, peppers, rice, tomatoes, stock, and seasoned with bay leaves, red pepper, and salt.

When I make jambalaya - I use the basic outline of meat, onions, peppers, rice, red pepper, and bay leaves all cooked together with stock. Then I improvise with whatever is around my kitchen - evoking the historical origin of jambalaya as a meshing of Spanish paella, French herbs/technique, and native Louisiana food culture. 

This jamabalaya started with a need to use up some Prather Ranch whiskey maple sausage, so I started by slicing the sausage and browning it. Browning is an important technique for getting that delicious Cajun flavor.

Then I added some chopped onions, carrots, peppers, and garlic and sauteed these all together until they had a bit of color on them.

Rice gets added before any liquid. The rice will cook better if it's warmed and coated in fat first - this is easily achieved by stirring raw rice into the sauteing meat and veggies for about a minute. 

Next add stock and some spices. This time I used a liberal sprinkle of paprika, a pinch of saffron, and a dash of cumin. And shame on me for not having any bay leaves at hand! Bay leaves are so prevalent in the Bay Area, there's no excuse for me to not have fresh bay leaves in my kitchen!

Let everything simmer together, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender and the liquid is gone. Voila! Jambalaya!

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