Few cities have contributed more to America’s culinary fabric than New Orleans. And few cities have as unique of a food scene than the capital of Creole and Cajun.
New Orleans is its own melting pot within the larger American melting pot. Or perhaps a fondue pot would be a more accurate description for the city that has chosen the fleur de lis as its symbol. And if there’s one dish that represents the cultural diversity of The Crescent City, it’s jambalaya.
For more than a century, the folks in Southeast Louisiana have been cooking up this descendent of paella. The story goes that Spanish immigrants brought their iconic rice dish to Louisiana in the 1700s, but of course they didn’t have access to the same ingredients they did back home. Eventually the dish took a new shape, taking ingredients and techniques from African, Caribbean and French cuisine, and eventually an entirely new dish was born: jambalaya.
There is no real “traditional” version of this rice dish, which is what makes it so great to cook: you can tinker and adapt as much as you want. Some of the most common elements are andouille sausage, shrimp and what is often referred to as the Cajun Holy Trinity (celery, bell pepper and onion). This Cajun version (as opposed to creole, which calls for tomato) swaps the shrimp for lobster, because, well, why the heck not?
Jambalaya is a dish that’s meant for a party. It can feed the masses, and – lobster aside – is relatively cheap to make. And there’s no way to excite a gang of hungry friends like adding lobster to their meal. Jambalaya is a New Orleans staple, after all, and if there’s any city that embraces decadence it’s The Big Easy.
*Recipe and photo courtesy of The Food Channel.
- 1 pound smoked sausage, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1/4 cup bacon fat, or butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 bunch scallions, tops and bottoms, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon celery seeds
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon basil
- 2 cups jasmine or basmati rice, uncooked
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 pound lobster meat, cut into pieces
- 1 Stir-fry sliced sausage in bacon drippings in large, heavy kettle over moderately high heat for 5 minutes. Remove to bowl with slotted spoon.
- 2 Whisk in flour and cook 2-3 minutes to make a rich, brown roux. Add onion and garlic and stir-fry for 10 minutes until golden brown. Add sausage, scallions and chopped pepper along with spices and uncooked rice. Stir-fry for 2 minutes.
- 3 Add stock, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and cover. Cook until rice is soft, about 30 minutes. Uncover, add lobster and stir well. Heat for 10 minutes until rice dries out and lobster is heated through.