There is some dispute as to the exact origin of the name jambalaya, the excellent blend of rice and other ingredients including—depending on your recipe—sausage, shrimp, crawfish, and ham, among other things. In the most definitive book on Creole and Cajun cooking, Chef Paul Prud-homme’s Louisiana Kitchen, the author quotes the Acadian Dictionary, written by Rita and Gabrielle Claudet and published in Houma, Louisiana, in 1981. Jambalaya, the dictionary declares, “comes from the French ‘jambon’ meaning ham, the African ‘ya’ meaning rice, and the Acadian [language] where everything is “à la.’ “ If you really want to be authentic, the ham used in a basic jambalaya is a Cajun specialty called tasso. It is a highly seasoned ham and rarely found outside Louisiana.
© 1987 Craig Claiborne estate. All rights reserved.