Chicken, Andouille, Shrimp Jambalaya
Makes 4 servings
Jambalaya is a Cajun/Creole staple that many in Louisiana and New Orleans have enjoyed for centuries, but who developed the original recipe and why does it have such staying power? First off we have to delve deep into who settled into the Gulf Coast area that is now Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
In the 14th and 15th Centuries Spaniards and French explored and lived in the area. New Orleans was not established as a city until 1718 and there are some claims that Louisiana was not settled until 1699, but we know that Hernando De Soto discovered the Mississippi River in 1539 and there were people living there prior to being “settled”.
The Spanish are known for a dish called Paella, a rice and seafood dish with a base called “sofrito” made up of tomatoes and saffron. Paella and Jambalaya have definite similarities. It is said that the Spaniards who were in Louisiana wanted to recreate their favorite dish, however, there was no saffron, so they used tomatoes instead and the French contributed to the dish by adding in sausages. However, according to the resources on the origins of Paella; it was not a dish recorded in Spain until the 18th century; and this was after the first recording of jambalaya in the 1600s. Rice was traded with the Arabs in the beginning in the 10th century and Spaniards did eat casserole style dishes with vegetables and rice.
Tomatoes are indigenous to Central America and in the mid-1400s the tomato had started to travel all over the world as a result of Portuguese explorations. The Portuguese brought the tomato back to Europe with them. As well-known travelers and traders, they traded along the African Coast known to them as the “Grain Coast” trading tomatoes for rice beginning in the mid-1400s. A known trading partner was the Wolof Empire, which stretched from modern-day Mauritania, Senegambian area, down through Ghana and Nigeria.
A famous celebration that has known origins in Senegambia, Jollof, is a rice dish stewed in one pot with a tomato-pepper mixture. Jollof was also called Benachin, which means “one-pot” was derived from a dish called Thiebodienne, which is rumored to have been created by a chef named Penda Mbaye after a barley shortage forced her to use broken rice meal. Over time the dish evolved and different areas have differing recipes, which in modern-day has spawned the “Jollof Wars”, which was inadvertently started by British Celebrity Chef, Jamie Oliver.
The similarities between Jollof Rice and Jambalaya is uncanny. How in the world did these two dishes come to be so similar and they were presumably created worlds apart? There are receipts (as recipes were called) from the 1600s recording Jambalaya. Furthermore, slaves from the Senegambian area were primarily brought over between 1719 and 1730, well after Jambalaya was recorded and after the Paella was developed in Spain.
After 1492 when Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue, ships brought slaves from Africa into Haiti and other Caribbean islands after the native Haitians that the Spanish enslaved diminished due to disease and harsh treatment. The new slaves were from the West Coast of Africa, while most were from modern-day Nigeria, the Ivory Coast and Ghana (which were all a part of Wolof Empire), there were also people from the Senegambian area where the Jollof rice was thought to have originated. In the 1500s and 1600s when the area was predominately settled by Spanish, slaves traveled with the Spanish throughout South and Central American and I would assume (although information was difficult to find) to the Gulf Coast. So, while I couldn’t find many references to how Jambalaya actually derived since so much is whitewashed by claiming it was dish adapted from the Spaniards love of Paella and the French uses of ham and rice. I believe, based on my research, is that the Haitian slaves who were from the Senegambian area brought their Jollof rice with them to the new world earlier than the influx of slaves into New Orleans. With the combination of the slaves, the Spanish, and French; the dish eventually evolved into what we know as Jambalaya today. While it was not solely just from Jollof rice, it is the original concept with the use of tomatoes, peppers, and spices.
1 tablespoon grass-fed butter
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in 1-inch cubes
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 pound andouille sausage, sliced in ½-inch slices
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped red or green bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
3 green onions, sliced and divided
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 cups white rice
2 medium-sized tomatoes, pureed (about 1 ½ cups)*
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
In a 12-inch ½ tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add chicken and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt, cook for about 5 minutes per side until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add sausage and cook about 3 minutes per side until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon.
Add remaining ½ tablespoon butter and melt. Add onions, celery and bell pepper, cook stirring occasionally until softened, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, remaining ¾ teaspoon salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne, white parts of the green onions and thyme. Stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add rice, stir until fragrant and turns translucent about 3 minutes. Stir in pureed tomatoes until combined. Stir in broth and bay leaf, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for 15 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked through. Fluff with a fork.
Add shrimp, chicken, andouille, and parsley into the pan, stirring to combine. Cover and cook 4 minutes more until the shrimp are no longer translucent and cooked through. Sprinkle with green parts of the green onion and serve immediately.
*I pureed the tomatoes with my food processor.