Before we dive into this authentic jambalaya recipe, let’s first dive into the history of this famous cajun dish, where it comes from and how it came to be.
When you think of New Orleans, great food is one of the first things that comes to mind. Home to mouthwatering cuisine from its Creole and Cajun roots, NOLA is responsible for some of the America’s most delicious and spicy dishes.
One of the most celebrated of these dishes is jambalaya. In fact, this spicy and savory rice, vegetable, and meat dish is so revered that it’s even got its own annual festival in the self-proclaimed jambalaya capital of Gonzales. A testament to the culinary ingenuity of the Southeast United States, jambalaya is known for being inexpensive, versatile, and absolutely delicious.
A Fiery History of Flavor and Culture
But what exactly is jambalaya? And why is it such a cultural staple in Louisiana? For starters, there is no one hard and fast way to make jambalaya, which is what makes it so great. Developed as a means to stretch ingredients, jambalaya can quite literally be made using a variety of things the cook has on hand. Since the Pelican state is heavily influenced by French, West African, and Spanish cuisine, the ingredients used can vary greatly. Just a few of the most common jambalaya additions include seafood, andouille sausage, and—the “holy trinity” of Southern cooking—onions, celery, and green bell pepper. In New Orleans, jambalaya is considered an offshoot of jollof rice which happens to include tomatoes. Aside from these, every household also has its own preferred additions to jambalaya that are inspired by the family’s unique history and tastebuds.
Jambalaya’s Defining Factors
That said, there are still some defining factors that complete a jambalaya. First, jambalaya is always cooked in a single vessel. Traditionally, most jambalaya was made in cast-iron pots since these can handle higher cooking temperatures. Today, though, many contemporary recipes substitute cast-iron with other modern-day appliances. Case in point, many cooks today use slow cookers. Because these appliances are designed to cook food over long periods under controlled temperatures, the jambalaya has a chance to deepen its flavors. Alternatively, plenty of recipes now also suggest cooking jambalaya in rice cookers. As more space-efficient kitchen appliances, rice cookers can cook the ingredients together over a set time and then keep it warm until consumption. This reduces the chances of either under or over-cooking the jambalaya’s rice and meats. Such new variations on what single pot or appliance jambalaya is cooked in have made the dish more accessible across the board.
Second, an authentic jambalaya recipe almost always uses either brown or red rice. Although the specific additions to rice may differ, what is always certain is that the jambalaya rice will be one of the two aforementioned shades. Usually, the color of the jambalaya is dependent on whether it’s Cajun or Creole. As mentioned earlier, since tomatoes are a hallmark of Creole cooking, their jambalaya is a deep crimson. Meanwhile, Cajun jambalaya is a warm brown because of the caramelization that occurs in their tomato-free version. Regardless of which version of jambalaya you prefer, though, the beauty of this dish is that you can always tweak it in your own unique way.
Authentic Jambalaya Recipe Ingredients:
– green peppers
– ground pepper
– Creole or Cajun seasoning
– cayenne pepper
– chili peppers (your choice)
– water or broth
– protein (your choice)
– tomatoes (optional)
– Small Axe Peppers Hot Sauce (of your choosing)
How To Make This Authentic Jambalaya Recipe:
1. Pre-heat the cooking vessel of your choice and add a little oil if needed. Once heated, fry the proteins first to get color and texture. Remove and drain.
2. In the same cooking vessel with the same used oil, add the vegetables and allow them to soften. Since this is a spicy jambalaya, you can heighten the dish’s kick by adding in your chili peppers. You can use any pepper you prefer, but for a nice contrast, you can try using a serrano pepper. As we described in a previous post on peppers, serranos have a nice heat and acidic, earthy, and semi-sweet flavor.
3. Next, return the meat to the pot and stir again. At this point, you can add the liquid, seasonings, and rice. If you’re using tomatoes, now is the time to add them in. Stir well then cover and allow to cook for at least 20 minutes or as long as your protein needs.
4. Once the rice is al dente, taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Top with your favorite garnish and serve while warm! For those who want it extra hot, you can serve some Small Axe hot sauce on the side.
Spice Up Your Jambalaya Right…
Article written by Thylane Daniel. For more recipes, stories, and hot sauce updates, please check his blog here.