Many cooks think that jambalaya is hard to make, but it isn’t. It is a bit time consuming because it does contain a lot of ingredients, and in some parts of the country those ingredients, such as andouille or tasso sausage, aren’t that easy to find. Ideally, the cook makes homemade stock out of chicken or shrimp or crawfish shells. Every cook who loves to make jambalaya probably has their own version of it.
Jambalaya comes from Louisiana and has French, African and Acadian, or Cajun roots. The word comes from the French “jambon,” or ham, “ya” which means rice in an African language and “á la” which is Cajun. Whatever other ingredients go into jambalaya, it must have rice and a type of ham or sausage.
Seafood or Not?
Jambalaya can be made with or without seafood. The seafood is usually shrimp or crayfish, which are abundant in Louisiana’s bayous and off its coast. Jambalaya made without seafood can contain not only ham but combinations of poultry, beef and even rabbit. It should have what Louisianians refer to as the “holy trinity,” of onions, green sweet peppers and celery. Tomatoes are another popular ingredient for jambalaya. The dish is full of spices, and some of these spices, like ground red sandalwood, are difficult to find in some parts of the country.
Tasso and Chicken Jambalaya
One jambalaya recipe calls for tasso, which is a very spicy smoked ham popular in Cajun country, and boneless chicken cut into bite sized pieces. Other ingredients are:
The Holy Trinity
Canned tomato sauce
Peeled and chopped tomatoes
Put all the seasonings in a small bowl and reserve, then melt the butter in a two-quart saucepan over high heat. Cook the tasso until it’s brown, then add the chicken and cook till it’s brown. Stir frequently and scrape up the fond from the bottom of the pan.
Stir in the seasonings and half of the onions, peppers, garlic and celery. Cook until the vegetables wilt, then stir in the tomato sauce and heat.
Stir in the rest of the onions, peppers, garlic, tomatoes and celery, and remove from the heat. Stir in the chicken stock and the raw rice, and mix well. Pour into a baking pan, and bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven until the rice is tender. This should take about an hour. Remove the pan from the oven, stir and take out the bay leaves. Let the casserole sit for about five minutes before serving.
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