• Tommy Centola

Enjoying different Creole jambalayas

In my very first column, I introduced you to jambalaya. In my opinion, it is the easiest New Orleans dish to cook. Since you can add any kind of protein to a jambalaya, the variations are endless.

While there are many variations of jambalaya, there are two backs types, Creole and Cajun. The main difference between the two is the use of tomatoes. A Creole jambalaya contains tomatoes or a tomato product while a Cajun jambalaya does not. Today, I am featuring two Creole jambalaya recipes, Chicken Jambalaya and Crawfish and Tasso Jambalaya. If you are not a fan of tomatoes, you can always leave them out of your recipe.

Here is a unique twist on jambalaya. Rarely will you find whole pieces of chicken. This is a play on a chicken and rice casserole but cooked on the stove top. This dish gives you all the flavors of jambalaya with the added flavor the cooking chicken on the bone.

Chicken Jambalaya

1 Hen, about 5 pounds, cut into serving pieces

Creole Seasoning to taste

1/2 cup Vegetable Oil

3 cups Onions, chopped

1/2 cup canned Tomatoes, chopped, with juice

1 cup Celery, chopped

2 quarts Chicken Stock plus additional if needed

1/4 teaspoon Thyme

2 Bay Leaves

2 teaspoons Hot Sauce

3 cup long-grained Rice

2 tablespoons fresh Parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons Green onions, chopped, green parts only

Season hen with Creole seasoning. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Cook chicken pieces, in batches, until browned evenly. Transfer to a plate. Add onions to the pot and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, celery, chicken, stock, thyme, bay leaves and additional Creole seasoning, if desired. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until chicken is tender, about 1 hour. Add extra stock during the cooking to keep liquid at the same level. Add rice, cover and cook on low heat until tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat and add parsley and green onions.

Seafood is not a protein that I usually use in jambalaya. Once after a crawfish boil, I wanted to use the crawfish but not with pasta. I thought why not jambalaya. This recipe is close to my original attempt, with just a few minor tweaks. I hope you enjoy it.

Crawfish and Tasso Jambalaya

3 tablespoons Vegetable Oil

1 pound Tasso, diced

2 cups Onions, chopped

1/2 cup Celery, chopped

1 cup Red Bell Pepper, chopped

11/2 tablespoons Garlic, minced

1 (15 oz) can Diced Tomatoes

2 cups White Rice

6 cups Chicken or Seafood Stock

4 Bay Leaves

1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

2 teaspoons Creole Seasoning Blend

2 pounds Louisiana Crawfish Tails

1 cup Green Onions, sliced

Salt, Black Pepper and Hot Sauce to taste

Heat a heavy 6 to 8 quart stock pot or cast iron Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil and sauté tasso until browned on all sides. If the residue at the bottom of the pan is getting heavy or sticking, add 2 tbsp water and scrape until it is clean again. Add onions and sauté until brown and caramelized, 10 minutes. Add celery, bell peppers, and garlic. Sauté these vegetables until soft and translucent, 5-7 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, rice and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the stock, bay leaves, Worcestershire, and Creole seasoning Blend. Bring the liquid up to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer without stirring for 25 to 30 minutes. When the rice is tender or all of the liquid has been absorbed, turn heat off. Adjust salt, black pepper and hot sauce to taste. Stir in the crawfish tails and green onions and cover. Let the jambalaya rest for 10 minutes to allow the rice to fluff. Serve while hot.

Since Arkansas is the leading producer of rice in the United States, jambalaya is a wonderful way to use this popular grain. Experiment with your jambalaya by using these recipes as guidelines. Jambalaya is a great dish to add your own little twist to.

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