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Linguists claim that the word jambalaya comes from jamon, the Spanish word for ham, one of the main ingredients in the first jambalayas. But John F. Mariani in The Dictionary of American Food and Drink offers a more colorful possible origin: the owner of a New Orleans inn told his cook, whose name was Jean, to mix some things together—balayez in Creole dialect-—when a late-night diner came to the inn. After devouring his food, the delighted guest dubbed his meal “Jean Balayez.”
- 1 pound medium shrimp
- 2 chicken breast halves (about 1 pound total)
- 4 cups water
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 medium celery ribs, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ pound andouille or kielbasa sausage, cut into ½-inch-thick rounds
- 1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 4 scallions, chopped
- 1 (15-ounce) can peeled plum tomatoes in juice
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 cups long-grain rice
- Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
1. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the shrimp over high heat just until they turn pink, about 2 minutes. Cool, peel, and devein the shrimp, reserving the shrimp and their shells separately.
2. In a large saucepan, combine the chicken breasts, the reserved shrimp shells, the water, half the chopped onion, half the chopped celery, one third of the garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, partially covered, until the chicken juices run clear yellow when pierced with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the chicken breasts from the cooking liquid.
3. In a sieve set over a large bowl, drain and reserve the cooking liquid, discarding the solids. You should have about 4 cups of liquid; add water, if necessary. Remove and discard the chicken bones. Chop the breast meat coarsely and set it aside.
4. Heat the oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven. Add the sausage and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the bell pepper, scallions, and the remaining onion, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables have softened, about 7 minutes. Then stir in the reserved cooking liquid, the remaining teaspoon of salt, the tomatoes with their juice, Worcestershire sauce, thyme: and cayenne. Bring to a simmer, breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon. Stir in the rice and return to the simmer. Cook over medium-low heat, tightly covered, until the rice has absorbed all the liquid, about 25 minutes.
5. Remove the Dutch oven from the heat, stir in the reserved shrimp and chicken, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer the jambalaya to a warmed serving bowl, sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.
There’s something about serving jambalaya at a party that almost guarantees the good times will roll. As it’s difficult to decide just what kind of jambalaya to make (meat, shellfish, or poultry), we normally put a little bit of everything into the pot. (Not to complicate matters, but you can use 1 cup chopped smoked ham instead of the sausage. Or you could stir in ½ pound cooked crabmeat at the end to replace the shrimp.)
© 1991 Eric V. Copage