Tomorrow is Mardi Gras (a.k.a. Fat Tuesday), so what better way to celebrate than with my best jambalaya recipe. I have tried several recipes over the years, then tinkered with them, because jambalaya is one of my very favourite dishes to make. I’m partial to “red” jambalayas, and this one is the one I like best! It’s based on a recipe by chef Pol Martin, but with my own adjustments.
- 4 rashers of bacon, diced
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 4-6 tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or one 15-oz can of tomatoes
- 1/2 tsp (2 mL) thyme
- 1/2 tsp (2 mL) fennel seed ← Crucial, do not omit
- 1 cup (250 mL) long-grain rice — see notes below
- 1 cup (250 mL) chicken broth, warm
- 1/2 lb (250 g) cooked meat, diced — ham, andouille sausage or chicken all work well for this
- 3/4 lb (375 g) shrimp, cleaned and peeled — crawfish or crab also work well
- 2 bell peppers, any colour, cut in thin strips
- 2 ribs celery, finely sliced
- a few drops of hot pepper sauce (e.g., Pickappeppa, Tabasco, etc.)
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C).
- Cook the bacon on medium heat in a large pan that can also be used in the oven. Take the bacon out of the pan and set aside. Put the onion and garlic in the warm bacon fat and cook for 8 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes, thyme and fennel seed, plus salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the rice (see notes below), meat and bacon. Mix well and bring to a boil. Cover and cook in the oven for 15 minutes. Add the shrimp, celery and peppers, mix well, and add a few drops of hot sauce.
Cover, and cook in the oven for 8 to 10 more minutes.
The big issue of rice: In theory, you can either add the cup of uncooked rice and let it absorb all the liquid, but my mother, sister and I agree that the dish is much more memorable if you cook the cup of rice in water as normal before adding to the jambalaya. The resulting dish has a lot of free liquid in it, but we think that’s the best part.
Extra flavour: Replace 1/4 to 1/2 cup (60-125 mL) of the broth with white wine.
Cooking methods: If you have a large microwave-safe casserole with a lid, this recipe is easy (and faster) to make in a microwave oven. However, cooking times will vary according to the make and model.
If I’m in a hurry or I want to use the oven for something else, I have been known to cook the entire dish on the stovetop.