The "real" part is a little ribbing for my Crecent City friends.
Probably not well known outside of Louisiana, there are actually 2 main variations of Jambalaya in the Pelican State. Red and brown. The main difference is the use of tomatoes. There are some other differences too, but tomatoes is the main divider. Since New Orleans is a famous city frequented by many tourists every year most people think jambalaya is red and has tomatoes in it and andouille and shrimp or even crawfish, or God forbid something like alligator or nutria. However, head west on I-10 toward Baton Rouge and you will discover a very different version of jambalaya. Those of us from the south central area of the state, in and around Baton Rouge, call this version the "real" jambalaya. It is brown and would never, ever in a million years be in the same zip code with tomatoes.
Now, I am only kidding when I say brown is the "real" jambalaya, but only a little. We are passionate about jambalaya where I come from.
*For starters, we pronounce it jumbalaya. Don't ask me why, we just do. Its a U sound not an A sound. Not jam but jum.
* The jambalaya epicenter is a little town immediately east of Baton Rouge called Gonzales, Louisiana. This is where the Jambalaya Festival is held every year in late May.
*Brown Jambalaya is truly an art to cook. In fact, participants in the Jambalaya festival have to choose from the same ingredients: Chicken, yellow onions, green onions, garlic, bell peppers, celery, red pepper, black pepper, salt and cooking oil. You don't have to use all of them but you must use from this. You must use a cast iron pot and THE HEAT IS FROM A WOOD FIRE. This is not a contest you do just for kicks. These folks are dead serious about it.
Well, I had the envie (pronounced auhvee) for some jambalaya today and I remembered to take some pics to share. Now, I am not a good jambalaya cooker but it is fun and every now and again I get it right.
Festival Jambalaya only has chicken as the meat. But everywhere else we use chicken, sausage and often pork. I ended up using all the pork butt for some Italian sausage I made this morning so I just used chicken and sausage.
I start by browning about a pound of cut up chicken thighs. Proper browning of the meat to achieve a gratin, where the meat sticks a little bit to the bottom of the pot. This is vitally important as this gives jambalaya its distinctive flavor and its brown color.
The trick is getting lots of gratin but not scorching the meat:
This is good stuff on the bottom. I've seen better gratin but this will work
Now to brown the sausage. Not too much on the sausage as it will burn easier.
Now the onions, green onions, bell pepper and garlic and a little parsley:
As the veggies sweat they will deglaze the gratin.
As the gratin loosens it will turn everything nice and dark. This is where the color will come from.
Most of the grating is off the bottom and incorporated into the veggies.
Now we add the meat and some stock:
Let it simmer for 15- 20 or so:
Then get it to a hard rolling boil and add the rice. This is important since you want it to come to a boil again ASAP after the rice. This will make the rice "pop", where it actually splits at the seam later as it cooks. Let it roll without a lid until it it starts to gain bulk and absorb the stock. I let it go a little longer after this pic and then put on the lid and cut the fire down to barely on.
Don't touch it for 20-30 minutes. If you have a lot in the pot leave it closer to 30. No peaking.
After 20 minutes or so you need to turn the rice. Do not scrape the bottom. Gently get the rice toward the bottom to trade places with the rice at the top. If there is still some liquid put on the lid and let it go another 10 minutes on super low heat then check it again. Then put the top on and take it off the flame let it set for at least 15 minutes.
If there is no liquid left when you turn the rice, then put the lid on and let set for at least 15 minutes. Longer is better.
After 20 minutes and a turn.:
Just about ready to eat. Some of the rice has split, a good sign. It should be most of the grains but I am not complaining. This jambalaya came out good. Like I said, I'm a so-so jambalaya cooker but the Gods smiled on me today.
Edited by tbrtt1 - 9/10/16 at 8:13pm