An Introduction to Jambalaya Cuisine
What is Jambalaya cuisine and where does it come from?
Jambalaya cuisine is highly versatile Creole-Cajun style of cooking popular these days in the South. Jambalaya is a one-pot dish cooked in cast iron Jambalaya pots or Dutch ovens.
Theories abound regarding the origins of the cuisine many linked to the names of the dishes as they have come down through time. What is clear though, is that cooking Jambalaya is more of an art form than a science and its now become firmly ensconced as part of our cuisine heritage. But know this, Jambalaya is not Jambalaya if it is not cooked within the traditional cast iron Jambalaya pots or Dutch ovens.
Some suggest that the name Jambalaya comes from the Spanish word for ham, jamón plus the word paella. But as ham is not a major component of the dish there is no reason this ratione should be true.
What is clear is the importance of Louisiana's rice production and the region's original creation of Jambalaya dishes because rice is a fundamental part of all Jambalaya dishes and very important it is too as it absorbs all the flavors of all the other ingredients.
There is an important rule in cooking jambalaya dishes. After the rice has been added, the jambalaya should be turned but never stirred, so as to prevent the grains of rice from breaking up. Usually jambalaya is turned just three times after the rice is added with the cook scooping from the bottom of the pot to mix the rice evenly with other ingredients. In the largest pots shovels are used to turn the Jambalaya!
There are countless variations on Jambalaya cuisine. Jambalaya recipes can be made up from beef, fresh pork, chicken, duck, shrimp, oysters, crayfish or sausage, typically with onions, garlic, tomatoes, cayenne pepper, green peppers, celery and other seasoning; and of course, the all important long grained white rice. The typical preparation of Jambalaya involves creating a rich stock of vegetables, meat, and seafood whereupon white-grained long rice is added and the flavors absorbed as the rice cooks.
At its heart Jambalaya is a highly seasoned rice dish that is strongly flavored with mixes of meat and seafood. In one disparaging report I read it said that Jambalaya is a very adaptable dish often made from leftovers and any ingredients that are to hand, and thus traditionally it was a meal for Cajun rural folk rather than their wealthier town cousins, the Creoles.
The most common jambalaya dish is Creole jambalaya or red jambalaya. "This dish originates from the French Quarter of New Orleans. seafood and then at the end rice and stock are added. The mixture is then left to simmer for 20 to 60 minutes. The story goes that Creole Jambalaya was a best stab, by the Spanish at making the traditional Spanish paella at a time when saffron was too cost due to import costs. As a result tomatoes were substitute for saffron.
A second Jambalaya dish, popular in southwest and south-central Louisiana, is Cajun jambalaya; a dish that contains no tomatoes. The meat is browned in a cast-iron pot and removed then onions, celery, and green peppers are added and cooked until soft. Stock and seasonings are added and the meats returned to the pot. The mixture is then left to simmer for one hour and then finally rice is added to the pot. The Jambalaya is then covered and left to simmer over a low heat for half an hour without stirring.
The Church and Jambalaya cuisine
The Church has played a big part in the cuisine of development as church fairs, which were large public gatherings demanded large scale cooking and Jambalaya cuisine stepped into the frame moving from the kitchen to the outdoor fire.
Great big black cast iron pots were called for as the numbers needing feeding were in the hundreds and so todaythe tradition continues and we have Jambalaya pots going right up to 30 gallons. From these church fairs and public meetings a new style of cuisine was born, jambalaya cuisine such that today the tradition has spread to all kinds of meetings, political rallies, family events, weddings and baptisms where the cuisine is now popular.
As a final note, some suggest that Jambalaya and Gumbo cuisine are the same; but this is not so. Yes they are similar but with one big exception. In jambalaya, the rice is slowly cooked in the same pot with the rest of the ingredients, in gumbo cuisine; the rice is cooked separately and used as a base on the plate onto which the gumbo melange is ladled over.
Source by Stephen Kember