Generations before us relate the creation of jambalaya coming to a need for an inexpensive meal during the 1930s due to an economic downturn. During this time, locals could barely afford the bare necessities. What began as a poor man’s dish, soon caught widespread popularity and was being served at weddings, church gatherings, and family functions all across the state!
Cajun vs. Creole
While jambalaya is a crowd favorite amongst both the rural and urban communities across the state, over time there were two very distinctly different variations of jambalaya developed. As with gumbo, crawfish étouffée and other local dishes, jambalaya has a cajun version and a creole version.
Creole jambalaya or “red jambalaya” is made using tomatoes. The ‘holy trinity’ of onions, bell peppers, and celery are cooked with the chicken, andouille sausage and shrimp, and then the tomatoes, chicken stock and rice are added. After simmering for around an hour and the liquid almost mostly dissolved and the rice is tender, this version will have a reddish hue. You’ll find this version in many Creole restaurants in New Orleans proper.
Even though I am from the Big Easy, my personal favorite style is Cajun jambalaya; this version does not use tomatoes. The meat is cooked on its own first until it browns, then the trinity of vegetables is added, followed by, the chicken stock and rice. Cajun jambalaya usually has more of a brown tone due to the meat dissolving in the broth. It also has a more smoky flavor because of the meat being allowed to brown first.
To this day, jambalaya still reigns supreme as a fan favorite in Louisiana, regardless of its Cajun or Creole preparation. Gonzales, Louisiana was proclaimed the ‘Jambalaya capital of the world’ by the governor of Louisiana in 1968. To this day, there’s an annual Jambalaya Festival where cooks from across the state and beyond come to show off their personal variation in hopes of taking home the winning prize.
Jambalaya is by far my favorite Cajun dish! It's a one pot meal that is sure to please! Pro tip: make it a day ahead to allow time for flavors to marry!
In a large Dutch oven or pot, heat oil over medium high heat; add sausage and chicken seasoned with Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning, and cook about 5 minutes or until browned.
Remove meats from the pan and add onion, celery, and bell pepper, and cook for about 3 minutes or until tender.
Add garlic and stir for about 30 seconds or until fragrant.
Add rice, and stir for about 3 minutes until lightly toasted.
Add the meats back to the pot, along with chicken broth, basil, oregano, thyme, and bay leaves.
Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low. Cover, and cook for 15 minutes or until rice is tender.
In a separate pan, add in shrimp seasoned with Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning, and cook for about 2 minutes, tossing the shrimp around frequently in the pan over medium high heat.
Add shrimp into jambalaya pot and cover, and continue to cook until rice is tender.
Once rice is done, remove pot from heat and allow jambalaya to sit uncovered until all juices are absorbed.
Continue to season as desired before serving.