The first jambalaya recipes were made by the Spanish attempting to make something close to paella with what they could find in the “New World.” Because Spanish settlers could not find saffron here and it was too expensive to import, they used tomatoes instead. As time passed and the recipe began to travel throughout the state, jambalaya took on new seasonings and flavors influenced by French settlers. Today, we have two basic versions of jambalaya referred to by some as Creole and Cajun. Creole, or red, jambalaya is made with tomatoes; and Cajun, is made without tomatoes.
First, choose the right equipment, like a cast iron pot or Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. Next, prepare your vegetables by using equal parts of onion, peppers and celery and cut them uniformly so they are evenly balanced throughout your jambalaya. Brown your meat until it is safely done, but be careful not to over cook it because it will cook more once mixed in with the rice. Finally, choose good quality rice. There are many rice farms in South Louisiana providing local-grown varieties that may be found in our neighborhood grocery stores. You can do everything right in your jambalaya, but if the rice is poor quality, sticky from being over cooked, or hard and crunchy from being under cooked, it can ruin your whole dish.
Oven Red Jambalaya
2 or 3 chicken breasts, cut into one-inch pieces
1 pound pork sausage, sliced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 or 4 celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, diced
2 tablespoons butter
3 1/2 cups chicken or beef broth
1/2 small can tomato paste (optional)
2 cups uncooked rice
Salt, pepper and Tabasco to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Brown sausage, set aside to drain on a platter lined with paper towels. Then brown chicken in sausage drippings. Combine cooked chicken with sausage and set aside. Saute bell pepper, onion, celery and garlic in butter until tender then remove from heat. Stir in meat mixture. Pour uncooked rice into a Dutch oven with a secure lid or other oven-safe covered dish. For a more Creole version, whisk together tomato paste and broth or use broth alone. Pour broth mixture over rice. Add seasonings and hot sauce. Stir in meat and vegetables. Cover tightly and bake for one hour or until rice is tender.