In the 1970’s I was working for a diving company based in Belle Chasse, LA. I can’t think about N’Orl’ns (one word) without thinking about the food. For two years I lived off of Muffulettas, Shrimp Etouffee, boiled crawfish, and Jambalaya. Louisiana food generally falls into two main cuisines Creole and Cajun, which roughly corresponds to city and country. I have posted a Cajun jambalaya, but today I decided to go Creole.
Creole are the descendants of the original Spanish and French settlers of New Orleans in the 1600’s. Their cuisine was influenced by close contact with the African food traditions of the slaves. The French Acadians settled in the countryside around New Orleans, after they were forced out of Canada by the British in the late 1700’s. They became the Cajuns and their food was influenced by the Native Americans living in the region.
Both cuisines are primarily French and use the “holy trinity,” a sofrito of onions, green bell peppers and celery. The usual ratio for these ingredients is 1:1:1—although some recipes use 2:1:1. The primary difference between a Creole and Cajun Jambalaya though is tomatoes. If you add tomatoes it is Creole.
With jambalaya, the rice is cooked in the stew as it is being prepared. In many other Louisiana dishes—like gumbo and etouffe—the rice is prepared separately, with the stew poured over it at the last minute. Son-in-law Chris is back on a low-carb diet and he requested that I limit the amount of rice I added to the dish. To please him—and to keep this a jambalaya—I decided to use low glycemic wild rice, with brown rice on the side for those diners who wanted more starch.
Note: Order of cooking may sometimes make a large difference in taste of the final dish. Do you fry the meat or sauté the vegetables first? If you fry the meat first, the flavorful fond may scorch as you cook the vegetables, but the vegetables will also absorb some of that flavor as they brown. When I made my Cajun jambalaya I had mostly followed the directions of the recipes from which I was adapting to my needs. I had intended to do the same with this dish, but as I started cooking—with my ingredients arranged and ready to hand—my unconscious took over and I cooked things in the order that seemed reasonable to me rather than the traditional order.
Karl’s Creole Jambalaya
½ cup wild rice
1 can (14.5 oz.) low sodium chicken broth, separate uses
1 lb. raw shrimp, shell on
1 lb. cod
3-4 Tbs. butter, separate uses
1½ cup yellow onion, course
1 tsp. Kosher salt (to taste)
1½ cup celery, chopped
1½ cup green bell pepper, chopped
10 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Andouille (about 2 sausages), sliced
3-4 chicken thighs, boneless cut into large pieces
2 Tbs. tomato paste
¼ cup Karl’s Creole Spice Blend
1 Tbs. sweet paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. oregano, dried
1 tsp. sweet basil, dried
1 tsp. thyme leaves, dried
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. white pepper
½ tsp. celery seed
½ tsp. cayenne)
1 can (13.5 oz.) fire roasted tomatoes
1 cup Jasmine brown rice
1. Put 1 cup of chicken broth in a small pot and bring it to a boil.
2. Add the wild rice and reduce the heat to a simmer.
3. Simmer the rice for 4 minutes, cover, remove the pot from the heat and reserve.
Tip: Wild rice takes much more time to cook that rice that has had the hulls removed. By par boiling the rice you are giving it a jump start on cooking, so that the other ingredients do not overcook while you wait for the rice to become tender.
4. Peel the shrimp and cut the cod into one inch pieces.
5. Put the shrimp meat and cod in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
6. Put the shrimp shells into a medium pot and dry fry them for 2-3 minutes, until the shell are pink.
Tip: While some cooks might skip this step, I always strive to eek out all of the flavor I can—even from what some might consider trash.
7. Add the rest of the can of chicken broth to the pot, cover, and boil the shells for 5 minutes.
8. Strain and reserve the cooking broth.
9. Melt one tablespoon of butter in a Dutch oven and add the onions and salt.
Tip: The salt draws out the moisture from the onions and helps them to brown and soften more quickly.
10. Sauté the onions for three minutes, until they are just translucent.
11. Add the celery, peppers and garlic and continue sautéing 3-4 minutes more.
12. Pull the vegetables to the sides of the Dutch oven and add the garlic to the hole in the center.
13. Sauté the garlic for one minute and mix them into the rest of the vegetables.
14. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl.
15. Without cleaning the Dutch oven, add another tablespoon of butter and sauté the Andouille, over medium high heat, until the slices just start to pick up some color, about 2-3 minutes.
Tip: Before you slice the sausage into rings make a score down its length to break the casing.
Note: If the casing is intact, the slices will poof-up into little hats as the casing shrinks during frying.
16. Remove the sausage to the bowl.
17. Without cleaning the Dutch oven, brown the chicken pieces over a high heat.
Tip: If necessary, add extra butter.
Note: You are not trying to cook the pieces all the way through, you just just to get a good brown on a side or two.
18. Remove the chicken pieces to the bowl when the pieces are well browned.
19. Add the tomato paste to the center of Dutch oven cook until it has.
20. Cook until the tomato paste starts to brown, 2-3 minutes.
21. Sprinkle the Creole spice blend around the edges of the pot heat it for 10-20 seconds, until the spices are fragrant
Tip: Turn the fan on and hold your breath while “blooming” the spice. It can be an intense experience to get a lung full of the volatiles coming out of the pot.
22. Add the can of tomatoes with their juices and deglaze the pot.
23. Add the shrimp broth and return the vegetables and meats to the Dutch oven.
Note: Do not add the shrimp or fish at this time.
24. Stir in the rice and its cooking broth.
Tip: Jambalaya is usually fairly dry, because the rice usually soaks up much of the liquid.
Note: Wild rice absorbs less than many other kinds of rice. In my Cajun jambalaya, I used white rice that soaked up two cans of chicken broth. With the wild rice a single can will work.
25. Start steaming the brown rice.
Tip: If you wish, you may use chicken broth instead of water when cooking the rice.
Note: Put the rice in a rice cooker and add 1½ cups of water or broth.
26. Cover the Dutch oven and put it in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes, until the rice is almost done.
Alternative: Simmer on the stove top on low.
27. Stir in half of the shrimp and all of the cod.
Note: The jambalaya will still be a bit “wet” at this point.
28. Arrange the rest of the shrimp decoratively over the top of the rice.
29. Cover and return the pot to the oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
10. Serve the jambalaya with steamed brown rice on the side.