Dish 2: Creole Jambalaya

Deep Southern American with influences of Spanish and French

For dish two, I decided to think outside the box. With Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday in full swing in February, I came to the conclusion that it was necessary to cook an ethnic dish that originated right here in the deep south of the United States.

Welcome to Louisiana. The state that has been most publicized lately for their NFL team, the New Orleans Saints, winning the first Superbowl in their franchise history, and of course the celebrations that ensued on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter following the big win. On a more somber note, many people still remember New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina that devastated the city in 2005.

Jambalaya, a Creole dish with influences of Spanish and French, is a popular dish that was served after Hurricane Katrina to people that lost their homes in the flooding. It can be made many several different ways including traditional, Creole, or Cajun. I made the Creole version which has tomatoes. The recipe came from Cooking.com.

After deciding on the perfect jambalaya recipe (a decision made by all of the positive reviews this one had), I needed to track down ALL 17 of the ingredients. Eventually, I was able to find them all at the local Hy-Vee, but it is quite possible that I was there for over an hour searching. Who knew that you could buy clam juice? Not me. The other problem ingredient was cayenne pepper. You would think this would be a gimme, but conveniently enough, it is one of the only spices in the spice rack that is not ordered alphabetically. Talk about bad product placement. I wasn’t about to spend $5 for the fancy glass bottle – which happened to be the only option I saw the first two times I walked by.

Ingredients in hand, I headed to the kitchen to get my cook on. Typically, I would expect a recipe to take no longer to prepare than an hour, but this time, I completely underestimated the time involved. I started chopping up the trinity (red pepper, onion and celery) around 7:30pm with the hopes of being able to eat by 8:30pm. However, I don’t possess a food processor, so chopping all of these veggies to a small enough size took A LONG TIME. To top it off, the recipe calls for cooking everything separately in a very precise order. Cook the chicken first and remove, then brown the sausage and remove, then cook the veggies until softened, don’t forget to bring the spices, rice, broth, clam juice, chicken and sausage to a boil. Next, remove and shred the chicken, and don’t forget to put the shrimp in to cook. I think I had to check and re-check the directions about 30 times just to make sure that I wasn’t missing a step.

Finally, as the clock was pushing quarter to 10, I decided that it was time to eat. No more waiting. The moment of truth was upon my small dinner group. Would this meal that I had slaved over for 2+ hours be worth the effort? Considering everyone had seconds, I’d say it was a success.

NOTE:
I should mention that I improvised a little on the recipe. It calls for a whole cup of clam juice, but after taking a whiff, I decided that ½ a cup would suffice. If I were to make this dish again, I would just cut the clam juice out all together and substitute with more chicken broth. I also used dried thyme instead of fresh, boneless chicken tenders instead of bone-in chicken thighs (saving cooking time and trouble), and seasoned with additional cayenne pepper, thyme, salt and garlic before serving.

Natalie NielsenInternational Food Blogger

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