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|Main ingredients||Meats, vegetables, stock, rice|
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Jambalaya (// JUM-bə-LY-ə) is a Louisiana Creole dish of Spanish and French (especially Provençal) influence. It consists of meat and vegetables mixed with rice. Traditionally, the meat always includes sausage of some sort, often a smoked sausage such as Andouille, along with some other meat or seafood, frequently pork, chicken, crayfish, or shrimp. The vegetables are usually a sofrito-like mixture known as the "holy trinity" in Creole and Cajun cooking, consisting of onion, celery, and green bell pepper, though other vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes, chilis, and garlic are also used. After browning and sauteeing the meat and vegetables, rice, seasonings, and broth are added and the entire dish is cooked together until the rice is done.
Jambalaya is similar to (but distinct from) other rice-and-meat dishes known in Louisiana cuisine. Gumbo uses similar sausages, meats, seafood, vegetables and seasonings, however gumbo includes filé powder and okra, which are not common in jambalaya. Gumbo is also usually served over white rice, which is prepared separate from the rest of the dish, unlike jambalaya, where the rice is prepared with the other ingredients. Étouffée is a stew which always includes shellfish such as shrimp or crayfish, but does not have the sausage common to jambalaya and gumbo. Also, like gumbo, étouffée is usually served over separately prepared rice.
Jambalaya has its origins in several rice-based dishes well attested in the Mediterranean cuisines of Spain and France, especially in the Spanish dish paella (native to Valencia) and the French dish known as jambalaia (native to Provence). Other seasoned rice-based dishes from other cuisines include pilaf, risotto and Hoppin' John.
There are two primary methods of making jambalaya, differentiated by the presence or absence of tomatoes.
The first and most common is the city Creole jambalaya (also called "red jambalaya"). First, meat is added to the trinity of celery, peppers, and onions; the meat is usually chicken and sausage such as andouille or smoked sausage. Next vegetables and tomatoes are added to cook, followed by seafood. Rice and stock are added in equal proportions at the very end. The mixture is brought to a boil and left to simmer for 20 to 60 minutes, depending on the recipe, with infrequent stirring. Towards the end of the cooking process, stirring usually ceases. Some versions call for the jambalaya to be baked after the cooking of all the ingredients.
The second style, more characteristic of southwestern and south-central Louisiana, is rural Creole jambalaya, which contains no tomatoes (the idea being the farther away from New Orleans one gets, the less common tomatoes are in dishes). The meat is browned in a cast-iron pot. The bits of meat that stick to the bottom of the pot (sucs) are what give a rural jambalaya its brown color. A little vegetable oil is added if there is not enough fat in the pot. The trinity (of 50% onions, 25% celery, and 25% green or red bell pepper, although proportions can be altered to suit one's taste) is added and sautéed until soft. Stock and seasonings are added in the next step, and then the meats are returned to the pot. This mixture is then simmered, covered, for at least one hour. Lastly, the mixture is brought to a boil and rice is added to the pot. It is then covered and left to simmer over very low heat for at least 1/2 hour without stirring. The dish is finished when the rice has cooked.
A third method is less common, the "Cajun" jambalaya. In this version, meat and vegetables are cooked separately from the rice. At the same time, rice is cooked in a savory stock. It is added to the meat and vegetables before serving. This is called "white jambalaya." This dish is rare in Louisiana as it is seen as a "quick" attempt to make jambalaya, popularized outside the state to shorten cooking time.
Many people in the south, and typically in Louisiana, enjoy a simpler Jambalaya style. This style is cooked the same as the rural style, but there are no vegetables. Many restaurants serve this style as opposed to the others, because it is more child-friendly, has a more consistent texture, and is easier to make.
Jambalaya is considered by most Louisianans to be a filling but simple-to-prepare rice dish; gumbos, étouffées, and creoles are considered more difficult to perfect. Most often a long grain white rice is used in making jambalaya.
Jambalaya is differentiated from gumbo and étouffée by the way in which the rice is included. In these dishes, the rice is cooked separately and is served as a bed on which the main dish is served. In the usual method of preparing jambalaya, a rich stock is created from vegetables, meat, and seafood; raw rice is then added to the broth and the flavor is absorbed by the grains as the rice cooks.
Creole jambalaya originates from the French Quarter of New Orleans, in the original European sector. It was an attempt by the Spanish to make paella in the New World, where saffron was not readily available due to import costs. Tomatoes became the substitute for saffron. As time went on, French influence became strong in New Orleans, and spices from the Caribbean changed this New World paella into a unique dish. In modern Louisiana, the dish has evolved along a variety of different lines. Creole jambalaya, or red jambalaya, is found primarily in and around New Orleans, where it is simply known as 'jambalaya'. City Creole jambalaya includes tomatoes, whereas rural jambalaya does not.
Rural Jambalaya originates from Louisiana's rural, low-lying swamp country where crawfish, shrimp, oysters, alligator, duck, turtle, boar, venison, nutria and other game were readily available. Any variety or combination of meats, including chicken or turkey may be used to make jambalaya. Rural jambalaya is known as 'Brown jambalaya' in the New Orleans area; to rural Creoles it is simply known as 'jambalaya.' Rural jambalaya has more of a smoky and spicy flavor than its cousin jambalaya. The French Creoles of couleur introduced jambalaya to the Cajuns.
The first appearance in print of any variant of the word 'jambalaya' in any language occurred in Leis amours de Vanus; vo, Lou paysan oou théâtré, by Fortuné (Fortunat) Chailan, first published in Provençal dialect in 1837. The earliest appearance of the word in print in English occurs in the May 1849 issue of the American Agriculturalist, page 161, where Solon Robinson refers to a recipe for 'Hopping Johnny (jambalaya)'. Jambalaya did not appear in a cookbook until 1878, when The Gulf City Cook Book, by the ladies of the St. Francis Street Methodist Episcopal Church, was printed in South Mobile, Alabama. It contains a recipe for "JAM BOLAYA".
Jambalaya experienced a brief jump in popularity during the 1920s and 1930s because of its flexible recipe. The dish was little more than the rice and vegetables the populace could afford, but the recipe grew from humble roots.
The Oxford English Dictionary indicates that 'jambalaya' comes from the Provençal word 'jambalaia', meaning a mish mash, or mixup, and also meaning a pilau (pilaf) of rice. This is supported by the fact that the first printed appearance of the word is in a Provençal poem published in 1837.
Another popular source suggests that the word comes from the Spanish 'jamón' ("ham") + 'paella', a noted Spanish rice dish. However, the evidence for this idea is also thin. Again, ham is not a featured element of the dish, and Spanish speakers would call a ham paella 'paella con jamón', not 'jamón paella.'
The Dictionary of American Food and Drink offers this creative old wives' tale about the origin of the word:
Late one evening a traveling gentleman stopped by a New Orleans inn which had little food remaining from the evening meal. The traveler instructed the cook, "Jean, balayez!" or "Jean, sweep something together!" in the local dialect. The guest pronounced the resulting hodge-podge dish as "Jean balayez."
The Atakapa tribe states the origin of the name. The original word "Sham, pal ha! Ya!" means "Be full, not skinny! Eat Up!" with a French equivalent of "Bon appétit!". Spanish influence resulted in the current spelling of the name.
- Arroz con pollo, Arroz con gandules (Latin America)
- Biryani (South Asia)
- Fried rice (East Asia)
- Jollof rice (West Africa)
- Kabsa (Saudi Arabia)
- Kedgeree (United Kingdom)
- Kushari (Egypt)
- Nasi goreng (Indonesia)
- Paella (Spain)
- Pilaf/Pilau (Greece, Balkans, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, South Asia)
- Rice and peas (Caribbean)
- Risotto (Italy)
- Spanish rice (Mexico)
- Yeung Chow fried rice (China)
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