Jambalaya

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(click on pics to enlarge)

No historically important cook blog – such as mine – in the entire world – and on some parts of the 837 planets outside the solar system can be without a Jambalaya recipe. There are many myths and legends as to the derivation of the name. As is the case with most things here, there is always a larger than life story about it. There are certain elements that can be assumed.

It started out Spanish near the Mediterranean where it was a rice dish using the ingredients of local seafood, meats and spices (saffron). Jambalaya can be considered the grandchild of what is commonly referred to as Valencian paella or a rice casserole made in a paella or a pan. The French word poêle means a frying pan or a stove. The Latin word patella is a pan as well. I know this because I looked it up on the Internet. I, for one, believe everything I read on the Internet.

So let’s break down Jambalaya and remove all the myths and legends behind the derivation of the name. Knowing what we know, and going with what we know, “Jamba” is a Haitian Creole word which means jamba. It is also a Croation word meaning jamba. Jamba is all over the place. It jambas around. “Laya” is a Spanish word meaning laya. It is also a French word meaning laya. So when we merge these two important multicultural meanings together what we get is, and you guessed it – Jambalaya. I looked it up! Don’t doubt me on this.

There are two flavors of Jambalaya. One is with tomatoes, the other is without tomatoes. I’m making the one without tomatoes. Why? Pretty simple, really. Those people in New Orleans like to dump everything into a pot, add tomatoes, hot peppers, broth, grab a beer and call it a day. People like me who live near New Orleans in the rural regions, drink wine with our pinky-finger extended and cook this dish in stages because it is better that way. We brown the meat and cook the veggies gently. We don’t need hot peppers and tomatoes. Because, that’s the way we roll.

Down here, the one thing we all agree on when making Jambalaya is the rice, everything else is pretty much up for debate.

Simply, what you need to know is Jambalaya is a tasty meal, with or without tomatoes. And, if all we have to worry about is whether or not to use tomatoes in Jambalaya, we’re going to be just fine.

So, let us build a dish around a 1 cup of rice. This dish will serve 2 to 4.  I say 2 b/c we have some hearty eaters around here.  BTW, after I served this dish I had two more servings it was so good.  The third serving, a smaller serving, was pure binge tasting.

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The first decision is the meat. I use 1 pound of pork shoulder picnic roast, 1 stick of andouille sausage, 2 strips applewood smoked bacon and ½ pound of shrimp. I have deer sausage in the freezer and since this is deer season here, there is plenty of it around, but I won’t use it in this recipe today. Andouille is the local sausage of choice originating in France but later perfected as it is today by German immigrants. There was a very large in-migration of Germans into Louisiana in 1722 in case you didn’t know that.

The next decision is the vegetables. In this one I will use onions, green onions (scallions), green bell pepper, orange bell pepper, garlic and celery. To me, orange bell pepper is sweeter than red.

The seasoning profile will be sea salt, ground pepper, paprika, bay leaf, Worcestershire and Tabasco pepper sauce.

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Meat
1 Lb. pork shoulder picnic roast
1 stick andouille (cut in slices)
½ Lb. shrimp tails
2 strips of applewood smoked bacon (chopped)

Veggies
½ green bell pepper (chopped)
½ orange bell pepper (chopped)
1 stalk celery (chopped)
1 small onion (chopped)
1 clove garlic (chopped)
3 green onions (chopped)

Seasoning
Sea Salt and ground pepper
1 tsp. paprika
1 bay leaf
1 dash Worcestershire
1 dash Tabasco pepper sauce
1 TBSP olive oil
2 ½ cups chicken stock

2 cups rice

Cooking:

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Chop the pork shoulder into small squares. Season with sea salt. Pour the olive oil in a Dutch oven and get the oil hot. Add the pork shoulder one hand full at a time and brown. The idea is to avoid putting too much of any ingredient in the pan and creating extra liquid. If there is too much liquid, the food won’t brown into what is referred to as a “fond” or a foundation. The meat and veggies will sweat. Not until we add the chicken stock will we begin to “deglaze” the fond.

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When the pork is browned add the bacon. Move the meat to one side of the pan and then add one handful of chopped onions and sauté.

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Move the onions to one side and add the rest of the veggies a handful at a time and sauté.

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Add the rice and stir for about 5 minutes so it can pick up the flavors in the pan .

Now add one cup of chicken stock and with a wooden spoon begin to deglaze the pan. I have a black cast iron pot so I try to make sure to scratch the bottom and hope I get most of it.

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Add the rest of the stock and the rest of the ingredients. Stir. Bring to a slight boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cover. Cook 45 to 60 minutes. Let rest and serve.

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