Friday, August 25, 2006

The 2 Truths of Jambalaya

The ugly jambalaya

Last night while making Jambalaya, I learned 2 things.
  1. You cannot take a pretty picture of it
  2. You cannot make a small amount of it.
Both suck, but the fact you cannot freeze leftovers without totally destroying them, makes the #2 issue suck more.

I made a mountain of it. I could have fed half of Brooklyn with what I made. And I cut a 10 serving recipe in half.

I also did some research about jambalaya before I made it so I could make a more traditional one. Wikipedia has good info, among which is this nugget:
Prominent among them is the combination of the French "jambon" meaning ham, the French article "à la" meaning "in the style of" and "ya", thought by some to be of West African origin meaning rice, though "ya-ya" is also an old Creole patois phase meaning "everybody's talking at once."
The other thing is that jambalaya is both Creole and Cajun. I never actually knew that there was a difference. Creole is more city – urban, cosmopolitan, and French-inspired – while Cajun is more country, with simpler recipes and more common ingredients. Cajun cooking uses foods that one could grow, fish, shoot or catch in the mid-southern LA region. Actually, the whole Cajun history is really interesting. There are ethnic cajuns as well are folks who culturally identify with the Cajun tradition and call themselves cajun. They came first from France and then Canada, where they are known are Acadians, then forced out of Canada to Southern Louisiana.

A few years ago my sister and I drove from Laredo Texas to the southern most point in Louisiana via the southern most back road route. We drove down this peninsula that ended at the mouth of Brenton Sound. On this peninsula I couldn't understand anything people were saying to me at the grocery store or gas station and it took me a few minutes before I realized that they were speaking with very heavy Cajun accents. It was thrilling. We also got great food down there.

Anyway. The history of Cajun and Creole and what sets them apart are more interesting than the Jambalaya but here is the recipe anyway. I never used andouille before.

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter
2 red onions, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 jalapeño chili, finely chopped with seeds
1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound andouille sausage cut into pieces
3/4 tasso, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used a smoked ham steak instead)
28 ounce chicken broth
28 can plum tomatoes, diced, with liquid
3 cups long-grain rice

Melt butter in heavy large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add red onions, bell pepper, garlic, bay leaves, jalapeño, Creole Seasoning, cayenne pepper and oregano. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Mix in tomato paste. Add sausage, tasso, broth, tomatoes and rice. Bring mixture to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until rice is very tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.
Serves 10.

It was good, spicy, very filling. Too spicy for my kids to eat it. tags

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