For tonight’s Shrove Tuesday dinner my son requested that we have both pancakes and jambalaya, which is a thing their church in Alexandria does. “Dad, do you have a jambalaya in you?” he asked last week. It was in rotation during his childhood, but I seldom make it anymore because it is a pile of food, and until the pandemic, it was just the two of us.
The first jambalaya I ever made was decades ago from a recipe in the original “Frugal Gourmet.” It was a recipe Jeff Smith got from some Methodist Church ladies in New Orleans and it was pretty darn good.
Later, I got Chef Paul Prudhomme’s “Louisiana Cookbook” which has several great jambalayas. I made all of them and took a tweak or two from each of them.
You can make a simple version or a more elaborate one. For the essentials you need ham (which is where it gets its name from “jambon” the French for ham.) Prudhomme uses tasso, and if you can find some, it works great. You’ll need rice, and not just any rice, but parboiled rice like “Uncle Ben’s Converted” rice (trust me on this). You’ll need the “trinity ”of cajun and creole cooking: onion, celery and green bell pepper. I usually make this the day after we have roasted a chicken so we have some leftovers. This recipe serves eight or ten, since that is how many people live in my house right now.
2 TBS vegetable oil
3 yellow onions chopped
3 stalks celery chopped
1 big green bell pepper (I’ve made it with red bell pepper and it was fine)
1 lb. Andouille sausage chopped
½ lb. ham chopped (I used a ham steak)
1 cup cooked small leftover chicken pieces
1 lb. uncooked shrimp peeled and deveined (save the shells to make the stock)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper (cayenne) or to taste
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 bay leaves crumbled
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 TBS tomato paste
2 TBS Worcester Sauce
4 cups chicken stock (or shrimp stock made from the shells)
4 chopped scallions
4 TBS chopped parsley
4 cups parboiled rice
I make this in a big cast iron Dutch oven. I start it on the range top and finish it in the oven.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 f. Heat the oil in the Dutch oven over high heat and saute the ham and sausage for about five minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the chopped onion, green pepper, and celery and cook for another five minutes or so, stirring. Add the Worcester sauce, the tomatoes and tomato paste and keep stirring until it bubbles. Add the chicken and stir.
Add the dry seasonings (salt, red pepper, black pepper, white pepper, and bay leaves) Stir for a minute and add the stock. Bring to a boil stirring frequently. Add the scallions and parsley and stir in the shrimp. Stir in the rice. Bring it all to a boil, cover and put it in the oven for 35 minutes. Let it stand covered for 10 minutes and serve.
I like a sturdy red wine with it, but a crisp white will work or beer.
(Photo: R.L. Floyd, 2021)