Last summer, while waiting for my gumbo to finish cooking, I happened to catch my friend online. Since he's from New Orleans, I figured I could ask him about the differences between gumbo and jambalaya. I often confuse the two. Well, after this conversation, I've never again said the two dishes were the same thing.
WC: if i scoop out some gumbo and cook the rice in the it. does that make it jambalaya? :)
Friend: far from it
Friend: they are made from different things
WC: haha. but it's all the same ingredients
WC: really? all the recipes online have the same ingredients
Friend: if it's the same ingredients you're doing it wrong
Friend: they are freaking crackheads
WC: my gumbo was made with sausage, chicken, shrimp, onion, bell pepper, fennel (b/c celery was $2 each), tomatoes and okra.
WC: seasoned with Bay seasoning, cayenne, thyme, bay leaves
WC: no tabasco so i used sriracha
Friend: order gumbo cookbook here
Friend: where'd you get the roux?
WC: 1/2 stick butter, 2 tblsp flour
Friend: and don't put tuong ot in place of hot sauce
Friend: that's just naughty
WC: such a purist
Friend: no lard or pork fat for your roux will knock you down a notch
Friend: but butter's ok
WC: you'd shun me if i went healthy and used olive oil huh?
Friend: boy would i
WC: so is that gumbo ok?
WC: for the most part?
Friend: it will do
WC: so what's in jambalaya then?
Friend: but jambalaya is made of different business altogether
Friend: no bay leaf
Friend: no okra
Friend: no celery
Friend: few ingredients in common
Friend: some retards put celery in their jambalaya
Friend: but i shun them
Friend: jambalaya has to have tomatoes
Friend: and should have andouille
Friend: and tasso
Friend: and probably about a third of a cayenne pepper
WC: so i just pick out the okra and celery and i'm good? hehe
Friend: tomato is the principal ingredient
Friend: for the jambalaya sauce
WC: meaning it should be very red?
WC: what about bell peppers?
Friend: bell peppers are no good
Friend: not the proper flavor
WC: i put tomatoes in gumbo. i like it!
Friend: it's canh chua
Friend: not gumbo
WC: canh chua gumbo
Friend: jambalaya=jamon=pig=tasso ham
WC: so jambalaya, roux, onions, tomatoes, ham. can i do sausage?
Friend: jambalaya has no roux
WC: so just saute onions and tomatoes and ham, then add rice and broth?
Friend: "First, meat is added, usually chicken and sausage such as andouille or smoked sausage. Then, vegetables and tomatoes are added to cook, then seafood. Rice and stock are added in equal proportions at the very end. The mix is brought to a boil and left to simmer for 20-60 minutes, depending on the recipe, with infrequent stirring. Towards the end of the cooking process, stirring usually ceases."
Friend: too luoi [lazy in Vietnamese] to type this stuff out
Friend: i put tasso in mine
Friend: so do most good cajuns
Friend: order some
Friend: it's like 4 bucks online
WC: i'm not cajun
Friend: they mail it to you
Friend: you eat cajun
Friend: you want cajun
WC: i'll do ham
Friend: an inadequate substitute
WC: i'm not from nawlins. i'm not a purist
Friend: ay ay ay
Friend: then you're just eating com chien
WC: just like my gumbo has tomatoes
Friend: and canh chua
Friend: you're going to make me nervous
WC: well, if you were here, you could have made it correctly for me. too bad
Friend: well yes
Friend: but were the tables reversed
Friend: the opposite would be true
Friend: my efforts at vietnamese cooking would bring shame to my ancestors
WC: but you're not cajun anyway
WC: or creole
Friend: i can cook it though
WC: i guess i'll just have to make jambalaya and clear up all that misinformation
Friend: in emergencies one could theoretically put in a spot of red bell pepper
Friend: but these silly bastards can't be trusted
Friend: perhaps you will one day get to the bottom of it all
So finally, to "clear up" any confusion for the purists, I present my interpretation of my friend's version of what a proper jambalaya entails. Well, except, I still didn't have any tasso ham or andouille sausage. Ha! ;)
According to Wikipedia, Creole red jambalaya was invented in the French Quarter of New Orleans as a way for the Spanish residents to recreate paella, substituting tomatoes for saffron. Cajun brown jambalaya arose out of the swamps where crawfish, shrimp, duck, alligator, and other game meat was added. No tomatoes are used and the meat is browned, hence the name.
As for the "Holy Trinity" of onions, celery, and bell peppers that are ubiquitous in New Orleans cooking, I leave that up for debate. I opted to stick with my friend's advice about tomatoes being the primary vegetable flavor and added red bell pepper since my friend said I could "theoretically put in a spot." :P
Creole Red Jambalaya with Chicken and Sausage
For about 6 to 8 servings, you'll need:
1 lb Andouille sausage, or substitute with Louisiana hot sausage or a smoked sausage of your choice, cut into 1/4-inch coins
1/2 lb Tasso or regular ham, diced
1/2 lb chicken boneless breasts or thighs, diced
2 cups uncooked rice
3 to 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 large onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz can diced or whole tomatoes or 6 fresh tomatoes, diced
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp or more Tabasco sauce
Cut and dice all vegetables and meats. Set aside.
In a large saute pan on medium-high heat, saute the sausage. As you can tell, I used Louisiana hot sausage and Italian spicy ground sausage.
When the meat is lightly browned, add diced chicken, onion, garlic, and 2 cups dry rice. Saute until the rice grains become coated in the meat juices and the onions are translucent.
Sauteing the rice is similar to my method for risotto, so that the rice can absorb more of the meat flavors.
Add a 28-oz can of diced or crushed tomatoes, including liquid, or dice 6 small fresh tomatoes. Add 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp ground black pepper, 1 tsp basil, 1 tsp thyme, and 2 tsp or more of Tabasco sauce. Stir to mix everything evenly.
Then add about 3 cups of chicken or vegetable stock, just until the rice is covered.
Cover and let simmer on medium-low heat for about 45 minutes, checking halfway through to see if more broth is needed.
I tend to cook late at night when all the world is silent and I don't feel so rushed. Unfortunately, I also have a tendency to cook in large quantities. So when I noticed that Tony of SinoSoul and his better half were still out and about at this late hour, I invited them over for some jambalaya.
Better yet, Tony offered to take photos for me.
What struck me as I finally got around to posting this recipe is how my cooking and photography skills have improved because of the blog. The first time I attempted jambalaya was October 2007. Instead of sausages, I used leftover hot dogs I got from Hoffy's. This time, I used Emeril's all natural organic vegetable stock that I got from Foodbuzz. I still use what ingredients I have on hand, and it's still supplemented by what I get to sample. For the record, the Emeril's stock tasted a bit yeasty, but was fine when cooked in the jambalaya.
And of course, I have since learned that I can't just add rice to gumbo and call it jambalaya. ;)
So in June 2008, I made jambalaya again. This time with smoked sausage and ham. The photo was alright, but I think the angle and plating could have been better. What can I say? I'm a Libra, I like things centered.
And last night, I think I finally got the recipe and the photo the way I like it. Although, darn it. Why doesn't my camera perform as nicely when I'm the one behind it? Thanks for making my food look good, Tony! He's not a purist either, asking for Huy Fong's Tuong Ot Sriracha hot sauce to put on his jambalaya too. Haha. I think my friend would shudder if I told him that.
So what's a "proper" jambalaya to you?
Some of my other American Southern recipes:
Cajun Vietnamese Shrimp Boil
Fried Green Tomatoes
Okra and Tomatoes
Southern Baked Beans
Southern Fried Chicken with Cream Gravy and Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes
1 year ago today, The Cravery - Tustin (Closed) and Live on the Go redux.
2 years ago today, Tri-Colored Crostinis with Arugula Pesto, Bruschetta al Pomodoro, and Squash Blossom Ricotta.