Cooking Louisiana - Jambalaya Basics

Over the years I've seen and read about cooking a jambalaya, an old Louisiana favorite. Most of the struggle with jambalaya is with cooking the rice. The rest is simple confusion and fear. Let's get unconfused and fearless about jambalaya.

Let's step back a moment and define a jambalaya. It's a "whatever you got left over, throw it in a pot and add rice" dish. No more complicated than that folks. Just think of an ingredient or ingredients you like and you can make a jambalaya with it... that's how it originated! Had boiled shrimp, crawfish, roast, fried chicken or pork chops the night before? Got leftovers? Jambalaya! It's also the "Don't you dare waste any of that expensive food" dish... and, it's GOOD!

Okay, let's get to the basics... Basically, same as a gumbo or stew.... onions, celery, bell pepper, garlic and seasonings. The trinity adjusted to the dish.

There are brown and red jambalayas. Brown is browned onions and a meat, Red is scorched tomato sauce and paste and a meat. That's it! 

Here's the rice deal... it's the big deal with the dish.

Start your dish as you normally would...Onions, celery, bell pepper. Add meat and season.

When the veggies and meat are done...

Add rice and just enough water to cover everything. (notice I don't measure).

Bring to a boil (med-fire), and stir using a spatula to scrape the bottom. You want to maintain a slight boiling bubble. Every time you stir it smooth the top out to keep all the rice kernels in continuous contact with each other. Don't stir more than once a minute or so. Continue to cook stirring and smoothing. Notice I don't cover it while I'm cooking (yet). In about 8 - 10 minutes the water will boil out for the most part (if it sticks your fire is too high). Look closely at the rice to see if it's done (it should be puffy). 

Note: If you didn't add enough water some of the rice won't be done. If you added too much water it will be overly sticky.

Remember this one point, don't let it stop boiling until the rice is done. If you do, you're finished. Why? Rice has to cook completely from start to finish. You can't cook it half way, stop, then start again. That means if it quits boiling at any time during the cooking process you've screwed it up.  Just about every time you taste a jambalaya and the rice is sticky that's what happened. 

Every few minutes stir the pot scraping the bottom and re-cover.

Keep the water level just barely at the top of the food. Here's the "maybe". If you need to add water (read carefully) microwave it until it is boiling (you can do it in a pot to on the stove too) then add it. DO NOT ADD COLD WATER. 

When you see the rice is done, lower the fire (med-low), stir, smooth and continue to cook until you get a Jambalaya consistency. You can now cut the fire off and cover.

What is a Jambalaya consistency? It's not a rice dressing consistency... like puffy rice and meat (a rice dressing). It's on the verge of sticky but not 100% sticky. The sticky comes from overdone rice.  

I may have surprised you above with fried chicken as an ingredient. Just pull the crust off, debone the chicken and you're there!

Use the "Search" on this site to find Jambalaya recipes and adjust as needed!

If you have a question email me!

Be creative....practice (on the family), and fear not! cajun cooking

Click here to make a Shrimp Jambalaya from scratch, the old way. 

 

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