Jambalaya has been a popular Cajun dish for a long time. It’s origin is from France and Spain (similar to the Spanish dish paella) then to New Orleans before the Cajun’s embraced it as one of their favorite rice dishes. It consists of vegetables, rice, stock, meat and/or seafood. The difference in the creole dish of New Orleans is the addition of tomatoes where it gets the name “red jambalaya”, but the Cajun’s omitted the tomatoes therefore earning it’s name of the “brown jambalaya”. Tomatoes weren’t easy to come by unless they were in season so the country people of south Louisiana used what they had. That’s why it quickly became a favorite dish of theirs with the abundance of rice on hand.
I can remember as a teenager one Easter Sunday going to the Trahan camp for our annual family gathering. Some of the men were standing under the oak trees around a large black pot stirring a jambalaya with a boat paddle over an open fire. This is how they used to feed large gatherings of people at events such as weddings or whenever they decided it was a good time to eat together. I was delighted to experience it. Mama said that it’s not easy to cook over an open unregulated flame. Often the rice would scorch so they would place slices of white bread over the jambalaya before serving in order to absorb the burnt taste. You know how awful that smell and taste is? You never forget it! I tried this trick once in my own kitchen after overcooking a rice dish and to my surprise it worked! No one complained of me burning the rice that day!
The beauty of this dish is that it is quick and can be inexpensively made using ingredients you may already have in your kitchen. There is no wrong or right way to fix jambalaya as long as you stay with the 4 base ingredient. It’s like that basic pair of black pants you have hanging in your closet. You can dress it up or dress it down. With the jambalaya’s flexibility in the choices of the main ingredients it is always a win win situation at our house. I used to pick up a box of jambalaya mix on my way home from work when my kids were younger and I had to hurry to get dinner on the table. I don’t know what I was thinking! By the time I went to the store and came home to prepare it I could have already had the vegetables chopped and the meat browning in the pot using whatever ingredients I already had in the refrigerator. I would have saved time and money.
Mama always starts hers with the Cajun trinity of chopped onions, celery and bell peppers. Are you surprised we’re not beginning with a roux? If you are one who is timid about making a roux you will find this Cajun dish even easier. Then she likes to add cut up pork steaks for the meat in her jambalaya. Very simple and oh, so satisfying!
The recipe I am sharing with you today calls for smoked sausage and ground venison. We have the advantage of an abundance of deer living here in Ashley County, Arkansas. Our freezer is usually well stocked with deer meat. Also, since it is deer season I thought it would be appropriate to add some to our jambalaya today. You can substitute ground beef for the venison or whatever meat and/or seafood you desire. It’s your choice so don’t be afraid to try different combinations. Here’s the jambalaya:
8 ounces smoked sausage, sliced
1 onion, chopped (or 1 cup green onion tops)
1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup red, orange and yellow sweet mini peppers
1/2 cup celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 pound ground venison (or whatever meat and/or seafood you choose)
1 cup rice
2 1/2 cups beef broth
Brown sausage in large dutch oven. Remove from pot and set aside.
Add vegetables to dutch oven and cook for about 5 minutes. Add ground meat and brown with the vegetables continually stirring.
Add browned sausage, rice, broth and seasonings. Bring to a boil then cover and simmer on low heat for 25 minutes. Check it while it’s cooking in order to adjust the heat so the rice doesn’t scorch.
I hope you make many different combinations of this recipe for your friends and family to enjoy. I know that since I’ve had to brush up on my jambalaya skills our family will be seeing it more on our table. Enjoy!
If you don’t see yourself as a winner, then you cannot perform as a winner. Zig Ziglar