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many Louisiana dishes, jambalaya has a distinctive Creole and Cajun versions. Creole jambalaya is reddish, a color it gets from tomatoes. Cajun
jambalaya never includes tomatoes and is brown.) Creole jambalaya almost
always contains shrimp. Cajun jambalaya always has smoked sausage or
Instead of stepping into the endless 'which jambalaya is better debate',
I present here my favorite version.
It has elements of both styles, with oysters
providing a unique
flavor. I don't include tomatoes - but if
you add a 16-
can of crushed tomatoes with the vegetables, that would
okay and quite authentic."
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 pounds chicken-leg quarters,
each cut into 4 pieces, bone in
2 pounds andouille or other smoked sausage,
cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
2 green bell peppers, coarsely chopped
2 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups oyster liquor or
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Tabasco
1 tablespoon salt-free Creole seasoning
1 tablespoon salt
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
4 cups (uncooked) Uncle Ben's rice
(or similar par-boiled rice)
2 green onions, chopped
3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, chopped
4 dozen large fresh, shucked oysters
1. Heat the oil in a heavy kettle or Dutch oven. Add the
sausage and brown the chicken all over. Add the onions, bell pep-
pers, celery, and garlic, and sauté until they
wilt. Add the oyster
liquor or stock and 5 cups of water. Bring to a simmer, stirring to
dissolve the browned bits in the pot.
2. Add the Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, Creole seasoning, salt,
bay leaf, thyme, and marjoram. Bring to a boil,
reduce the heat,
and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside.
Stir the rice into the pot. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, remove the chicken meat from the bones and set aside.
When the rice is cooked, stir in the chicken meat, green onions,
parsley, and oysters. Continue to cook, uncovered, gently stir-
ring occasionally, until the rice just starts to dry out. Adjust the
seasonings as needed.
Serves twelve to eighteen
And now for Tom's Creole-Cajun Jambalaya philosophy...
most fruitless discussion regarding our local cooking concerns the
differences between Creole and Cajun food.
They're really just regional variations of the same thing, using the same
ingredients. They're no more different than the food of any two towns
or France separated by the distance between New Orleans and
Two dishes, however, emphasize the differences. One is
We get one good chance a year to make a direct comparison: at the
Festival, they always have two jambalaya vendors. One does the
Cajun-style jambalaya, the other the red Creole style. My preference
jambalaya, but both have plenty of partisans, and I wouldn't
try to talk
anyone into or out of the kind he likes.
The word 'jambalaya' is half French and half African. It's a contraction
of the phrase 'jambon a la yaya'. 'Jambon' is French for ham, and 'yaya'
African word for rice.
Or maybe not. All of this may be wrong; there's as much argument about
origins of jambalaya as there is about the difference between Creole
But I find this story persuasive.
Like many another Creole dish, the main input came from the African side
its parentage, by way of the Caribbean. It's often been pointed out that
is a Creole version of paella, but I think the relationship may be
more coincidental than actual. There are rice-and-stuff dishes wherever
In fact, jambalaya is more like Chinese fried rice than any other rice dish.
The essential cooking step is identical to stir-frying. A good jambalaya
quires browning the meats and savory vegetables to the point that they
to the pot
and leave behind the color and flavor essence that give the
the distinctive jambalaya flavor.
One of the strange facts about jambalaya is that it is not much available in
restaurants. Many Orleanians do their entire annual consumption of the dish
the Jazz Festival. Funny, for one of the essential dishes of our cuisine!
I think the reasons for jambalaya's relative scarcity is that it's a real
make well at home, and that restaurants can't get away with
much for it.
It can be done in a first-class way. That's how they do it at the
which to my tastes makes the best jambalaya around. All the elements
brought up to five-star standards: the shrimp are huge instead of those
ones you usually
get. The chicken is in white-meat chunks, the sausage
quality, and even the
rice is a cut above.
But locals can't see ordering jambalaya in a place like that, and certainly
that price--no matter how much work went into it or how delicious it
I need to write a piece about culinary prejudices that prevent
better than they could.)
When restaurants do serve jambalaya, it's often as a side dish. That's a
too. Jambalaya made to fill out a plate will not be much of a
is a meal in itself, and should be treated that way."
Copyright 2002 Tom Fitzmorris.
All rights reserved.
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