Like gumbo, jambalaya is one of those Cajun dishes that everyone makes a little differently. Some people use shrimp and sausage, some use pork and andouille. You can make a “red” jambalaya, which has somewhat of a tomato base, or a “brown,” which is more natural in color, but can be darkened with Kitchen Bouquet, a liquid browning agent.
I grew up mostly eating brown jambalaya, with pork and andouille. The pork is Boston butt, and the andouille is straight from Louisiana of course, either from Jacob’s Andouille, or homemade by my family. The recipe? In my head. But a few years ago, my uncle wrote it down for my first time doing it alone, as I was used to doing with my mom or someone else in my family — cooking by rote, by muscle memory, by taste. Although now I keep the recipe pinned up on the wall as I cook, I rarely look at it. It’s more there for comfort, my uncle’s plain, but clear writing on the notebook paper, now a little stained with grease. I put a picture of my grandfather next to it, PaPa Richard, cooking something, jambalaya or gumbo, in a big cast iron pot, probably for a fair, festival, or gathering, as he used to do.
The first thing I take out is my long stainless steel spoon, a relic of PaPa’s that my mom gave to me when I moved away. I turn on some music, a mix of Harry Connick, Jr., Sam Cooke, and the Temptations, and crack open an Abita root beer – the best kind. I get out the biggest pot I have, and measure out the rice and water to get that taken care of. It’s a 1 to 1 ratio.
1. Pour 1/2 to 1 cup of water in the pot, and add the sausage until it’s “fried.” This should take a few minutes. Remove the sausage, leave the oil (from the sausage) and water mixture.
3. Dice 1 large or two medium bell peppers, 2 ribs of celery, and 1 large or two medium onions (or a little more). Add these vegetables to the oil and water in the pot, and add in a tablespoon of minced garlic. Cook down until vegetables are wilted.
4. Add the sausage and chicken to the vegetables, and season the entire mixture. Use pepper, salt, hot sauce, and Cajun or Creole seasoning. I use Tony Chachere’s (in the green can!), and even add a little cayenne, too. I use a mixture of hot sauces: Tobasco, a homemade one, and whatever else is in my cabinet. Also add in several dashes of worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrin’s).
6. Add the rice, and stir consistently so it doesn’t stick. This should take about 8-10 minutes, or a little longer depending on the rice you bought. I prefer Uncle Ben’s. You can use straight from a bag, or use multiple boil-in-a-bags.
This batch should feed about 8-10 people in small bowls. For larger portions, it should feed about 5-6 people. I used four boil-in-a-bags for this recipe. Note: if you are uncomfortable adding uncooked rice to the mixture, you can cook the rice beforehand, and add in later – the seasoning may not absorb as well this way, but it still works.
Serve the jambalaya with a bottle of Abita beer (or your choice!) and enjoy!