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Can you post an authentic Jambalaya recipe for us? What are the main components of an authentic Jambalaya? -Carrie from Colorado

12 October 2006

It would be difficult to give you one recipe and have you believe that you are preparing “the” authentic Jambalaya dish. For as you will read, there are many standard preparations and hundreds of recipes out there. If you will go to this website, Real Cajun Recipes, you will find a list of variations that I believe will offer you plenty of options. Select one and have a ball! The following excerpt was provided by Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jambalaya is a Louisiana Cajun or Creole dish. It is traditionally made in one pot, with meats and vegetables, and completed by adding rice. There are two primary methods of making Jambalaya.

The first and most common is to cook the meat(s) or sausage (such as Andouille or chorizo), then add vegetables and tomatoes to cook, then add seafood, adding rice and stock in equal proportions at the very end. This is known as “Red Jambalaya.”

The secondary method is to cook all ingredients separately from the rice, adding rice cooked in a savory stock, then blending the ingredients to serve. This is called “White Jambalaya.”

As well, there are two additional variations of styles of Jambalaya, differentiated by the addition or deletion of tomatoes. The traditional northern recipe variation omits tomatoes.

Jambalaya is considered somewhat similar to, or replacement for a simple-to-prepare, yet filling casserole by most Louisianans, while gumbos, étouffées and creoles are considered dishes more difficult to perfect.

Most usually, a long grain white rice is used in making jambalaya, which is mixed with the vegetables and meat, with numerous variations upon that central theme.

Jambalaya is differentiated from other traditional ethnic Louisiana dishes such as gumbo, étouffée, and creoles by the way in which the rice is included. In the latter dishes, the rice is cooked separatedly and is served as a bed upon which the main dish is presented. In the usual method for preparing Jambalaya, a rich stock is created from vegetables, meat, and seafood. Raw rice is then added to the broth and the flavor is aborbed by the grains as the rice cooks.
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History

Jambalaya originates from Louisiana’s rural, low-lying swamp country where crawfish (aka “mudbugs”), shrimp, oysters, alligator, duck, turtle, boar, venison and other wild meats were readily available. Any variety or combination of meats, including chicken or turkey may be used to make jambalaya. The Gulf Coast area’s geographical basin (including Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, and Louisiana) also provided an exceptionally nutritive soil and conducive environment in which rice flourished. Thus the combination of the two foods was quite natural.

The first printed reference to “jambalaya” occurred in 1872, and the 1900 edition of “The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book” called it a “Spanish-Creole dish.” Jambalaya is also very similar to the Spanish dish Paella.

The origin of the name “jambalaya” is uncertain, and there are many theories surrounding its etymology. Prominent among them is the combination of the French “jambon” meaning ham, the French article “à la” meaning “in the style of” and “ya”, thought by some to be of West African origin meaning rice, though “ya-ya” is also an old Creole patois phase meaning “everybody’s talking at once.”

Alternate entymologies of the word point to the combining of the Creole words “Jhamba” (gift) and “laya” (rice). The name came from the plantation slave meals, which were often a pot of rice (or rice and beans). The slaves considered it a treat to find a “gift” of some meat (normally a left over from the owners meal or a table scrap) in with the rice. This is the current entymology being taught by the St. Louis School of Cooking.

The Dictionary of American Food and Drink offers this colorfully creative, yet unverified explanation on the origin of the word “jambalaya”: Late one evening a traveling gentleman stopped by a New Orleans inn which had no food remaining from the evening meal. The inn’s owner instructed Jean, the cook, to “balayez” or “mix some things together” in the local dialect. The guest pronounced the resulting hodge-podge dish as “Jean Balayez.”

In 1968, Louisiana Governer John J. McKeithen proclaimed Gonzales, Louisiana the Jambalaya Capital of the World. Every Spring, the annual Jambalaya Festival is held in Gonzales.

The Avenue Inn is happy to make reservations for its guests at some of the more well known places for Jambalaya in New Orleans.

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