Possibly the most famous of all Louisiana Cajun-Creole creations, jambalaya has as many versions, and utilizes as wide a variety of ingredients, as any dish in all of American cookery. The name most likely derives from the French jambon (ham), the African ya (rice), with an à la tossed in to link the two primary ingredients, but as anyone who has visited New Orleans or Cajun country knows, everything from pork, sausage, chicken, crawfish, shrimp, and various vegetables and seasonings can show up in the dish. All Louisianans take their jambalaya very seriously, but none more so than the citizens of the Cajun town of Gonzales, where an official jambalaya cook-off takes place every year. My own romance with jambalaya began many years ago, when I was asked to judge an enormous buffet of dishes in New Orleans prepared by some two dozen unknown local chefs. When I pointed to a sublime jambalaya and said I’d like to meet the person responsible, over stalked an enormous man who quietly introduced himself as
In a large pot, melt the butter over moderate heat, add the onion, garlic, celery, and bell pepper, and cook, stirring, till the vegetables are fully softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in all remaining ingredients except the rice, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer about 10 minutes. Return to a boil, add the rice, stir, reduce the heat again to low, and cook, covered, stirring occasionally from the bottom of the pot, till the rice has absorbed most of the liquid, 25 to 30 minutes. (If necessary, add a little more chicken broth to prevent the jambalaya from scorching or drying out too much.) Fluff the jambalaya with a fork and serve hot.
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