I moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana for two years when I was ten years old. That was the first place we moved to from Canada so you can imagine that there was a little bit of culture shock involved. The most difficult thing for me to get used to was the food. People in Louisiana LOVE Cajun food, and I just have zero tolerance for spicy food. It’s really not all that popular in Ontario so I wasn’t used to breathing fire while eating. I never got used to it since we only lived there for two years, and I was still convinced that I hated Cajon food when I moved to Texas. The rest of my family fell in love with the food in Louisiana so I had plenty of opportunities to eat it even after we moved. I have discovered in recent years that I actually quite like jambalaya which is a classic Cajun dish usually made with meat and vegetables combined with stock and rice in a great big pot. I guess that my taste buds were just not ready for it when I was in middle school, but it really has been growing on me.
The best thing about my two years in Baton Rouge was Mardi Gras. Seriously, it’s one of the best holidays ever. It is a lot of fun, and I wish that I could eat king cake all year. I made two attempts at baking a king cake last year, and while I was happier with the second one than with the first, neither was particularly successful. I really wanted to try again this year, but they are really time consuming to make. I just did not have the time because of school, but I still wanted to make something to celebrate Mardi Gras (which was yesterday). I decided to make jambalaya because I have eaten it plenty of times, but I have never made it myself.
I got my recipe from Emeril because it just seemed silly to go to anyone else for a Cajun recipe. If you search for jamalaya recipes on the Food Network website, you get a hilarious amount of recipes from Emeril. He has come up with so many different variations of it that I had a hard time choosing one. I narrowed it down with two conditions: I did not want it to have crawfish (the most disgusting thing on the planet), and I did not want it to take hours to make. That lead me to Emeril’s recipe for Cajun jambalaya. It was delicious and easy to make. It was definitely too spicy for me so I had my jug of milk in one hand while eating it, but it was probably the best jambalaya that I have eaten. My boyfriend loved it and didn’t think it was too spicy so I would take his word over mine because I’m a wimp. This recipe has chicken, shrimp, and Andouille sausage in it so there is a really great mix of meats. The only expensive ingredient in this recipe is the shrimp, but I already had some frozen shrimp in my freezer. If you are like me and are a little tight on money, I would suggest buying a big package of frozen shrimp because it lasts forever even though it is expensive up front.
12 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and chopped (I buy frozen shrimp that is already peeled and deveined, and they are easiest to chop when they are still slightly frozen)
4 oz chicken, diced (I used 2 thin-sliced boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
1 Tbsp Creole seasoning, recipe follows
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup green bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 Tbsp chopped garlic
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
3 bay leaves
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp hot sauce (I used Louisiana hot sauce)
3/4 cup rice
3 cups chicken stock
5 oz Andouille sausage, sliced
Salt and pepper
In a bowl combine shrimp, chicken, and Creole seasoning. Work in the seasoning well.
In a large saucepan heat oil over high heat with onion, pepper, and celery for 3 minutes (heat it altogether – don’t heat the oil first).
Add garlic, tomatoes, bay leaves, Worcestershire, and hot sauce. Stir in rice and slowly add broth. Reduce heat to medium and cook until rice absorbs liquid and becomes tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. When rice is just tender add shrimp and chicken mixture and sausage.
Cook until meat is done, about 10 minutes more. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and Creole seasoning.
Emeril’s ESSENCE Creole Seasoning
2 1/2 Tbsp paprika
2 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp dried thyme