Several years ago I dined at a great restaurant in downtown Detroit known as Fishbone (look here and here). There I had my first dish of jambalaya ever. For years Fishbone was the only restaurant I found this amazing dish at. Then one day I was in San Diego and visited a restaurant that had a great jambalaya too. So now anytime I visit I make sure to eat there. (If only I could remember the name of the place.)
Well this year we had a wonderful baby girl and one day last summer I had a craving for some good jambalaya. I knew it would be some time before we'd be back at Fishbone so I decided I'd take a crack at making my own. Bear in mind I'm rarely cook and when I do it's nothing special.
I began by ordering a book of Louisiana recipes. When it arrived I looked up the jambalaya recipes it contained. I tried to imagine what it would be like compared to the other two I had had. Unfortunately none of them seemed right. I didn't bother to cook them up: their ingredients just didn't remind me of what I'd eaten.
So the next step, and in the future will be my first step, was to scour the Internet looking for recipes. It was incredible. I easily found more recipes than I could read. Ultimately I settled on several that looked promising and finally chose one. That recipe is shown below.
The Recipe I Use
Just in case The Wisdom Dude ever takes the recipe down, I've duplicated it here.
When I've made this I didn't use the pork, the saffron or the MSG. I also couldn't find the Andouille sausage so I improvised with a packaged Italian sausage. I also found that I needed a lot of V8 juice or the mixture would easily burn in the pot that I have (which isn't exactly a Dutch oven). In any case I still thoroughly enjoyed this recipe as did others I served it to.
This is a personal recipe, gleaned from several people's kitchens. It owes nothing to recipe books, nor to commercial establishments. It is basically Creole (NOT Cajun), with a heavy Tampa accent. Some things are best not trifled with; it's no secret that the use of black, white, and red (Cayenne) pepper gives it that distinctive deep, smoky "N'Awlins" taste. For some reason, folks where the snow flies almost invariably skip the three peppers, or make substitutions Ñ and then complain mightily that the dish just doesn't taste right!
- 3 tablespoons of Spanish olive oil. (This is an important ingredient that you must not make substitutions for. Vigo makes the best; Goya will work. The Giant Foods house brand of olive oil is Spanish, but not every supermarket chain is the same, so check before you buy.)
- 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
- 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
- 1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
- 6 cloves of garlic, pressed or crushed
- 1 12-oz. can of whole tomatoes, crushed by hand (this is not an effete dish!)
- 1 cup finely chopped celery
- 12 to 16 ounces of raw, shelled shrimp
- 2 1/2 cups of rice
- 4 to 5 ounces of chicken, cut into portions approximately the size of the first joint of your little finger
- 2 to 3 ounces of pork Ñ country-style rib meat or a chop Ñ cut the same way as the chicken. (Do not use smoked pork!)
- 4 to 5 ounces of ham, cubed
- 6 to 8 ounces of Andouille sausage, sliced thin. This is one of the most important ingredients, and it must be specifically Andouille sausage Ñ do not make substitutions, or you'll rue the day!
- 2 cups of chicken stock (if fresh stock is not available, use 1 can of College Inn chicken broth)
- As needed: clam juice or a vegetable juice, preferably V-8. DO NOT USE WATER!
- if desired, 1 tablespoon or less of dry, pale sherry
Herbs and Spices:
- 1/2 tablespoon each of red pepper, black pepper, and white pepper
- A hefty pinch (1/4 tsp.) of saffron Ñ crush it with your fingers when you add it
- 1/4 teaspoon of monosodium glutamate
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of Hungarian hot paprika (be careful not to get mixed up and use sweet paprika!)
- Thyme Ñ either a hefty pinch (1/4 tsp.) if it's dried, or about a teaspoon if it's fresh
- 1 small bay leaf
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot. Cast-iron is best, but aluminum will work. (A New Orleans jambalaya pot and a Tampa paella pot are the same critter Ñ heavy cast-iron and as roomy as a Dutch oven. If you're buying a pot, prefer one that's U.S.-made Ñ they're heavier.)
- Stir in the peppers, onion, garlic, and celery. Cook on high until everything is translucent.
- Add the raw meats. Keep stirring on high until the chicken and pork have turned white.
- Add the cured meats. Stir for 2 or 3 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, and stir for 5 to 6 minutes.
- Lower the heat to medium-high. Add the stock and all the seasonings. Cook for about 20 minutes, until everything is well melded.
- Add the rice, cover, and cook for 30 minutes.
- Add the shrimp, and the extra liquid if you need to (if the rice is dry or not all the way cooked), and stir it thoroughly. Cook 5 to 10 more minutes.
- Prepare for your guests to swoon in ecstasy.