Jambalaya is descended from Spanish paella. Every Louisiana household has a special recipe for this dish but it’s the city of Gonzales that put jambalaya on the map. Known as “The Jambalaya Capital of the World,” this Spanish-influenced Louisiana city hosts an annual jambalaya competition in which the dish is cooked in gigantic iron pots over wood-fueled fires.
Andouille sausage is a smoky, peppery sausage. If you can’t find it, use smoked kielbasa. Stirring the rice in the skillet for about a minute before adding the liquid gives it a hot fat coating that will help it retain its texture. There are as many versions of jambalaya as there are cooks in Louisiana, so feel free to change this recipe each time you make it by adding chicken, oysters, catfish, pork ribs, ground beef or crawfish.
Jambalaya Seasoning Mix
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/8 tsp ground cloves
2 TBS olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small ham steak, trimmed and diced
1 package (about 14 oz.) smoked andouille or “New Orleans-style” sausage
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
1 can (14.5 oz) stewed tomatoes
1 can (8 oz.) tomato paste
3 bay leaves
3 cups water
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
Fresh parsley for garnish, minced
Seasoning: In a small bowl, mix salt, pepper, cayenne, chili powder, parsley, basil and cloves. Set aside.
Jambalaya: In a large skillet, in hot oil, sauté onion, green pepper and shallots until softened. Add garlic and seasoning mix. Sauté for 1 minute. Add andouille sausage and ham. Sauté 2 minutes. Add rice. Sauté 1 minute. Add tomatoes and tomato paste, bay leaves and water. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 40 minutes. Add shrimp, cover and cook 5-7 minutes longer or until shrimp are pink. Remove bay leaves. Divide jambalaya among 4 plates. Garnish with minced parsley.
Gary – The shrimp will take on the flavors in the jambalaya, so the most important ingredients are the ham (which will have overtones of smoke and salt) and the sausage (which will be earthy, smoky and flavorful).
Due to the tomato overtones and flavorful meat ingredients, I would look for red wines with forward fruit, low tannins and oak levels, and subtle alcohol. Gamay would be a delight with this dish as would a youthful Tempranillo; a light, fresh Zinfandel/Primitivo; or a fresh Garnacha with its dark fruit character. A rosé would also be a fine choice, preferably one in a softly dry style.
Other red wines made in lighter styles (with lower price points) could be delightful – just check the alcohol level on the label. These wines can offer tremendous pairing experiences. Research as you check the shelves or ask your fine wine retailer for assistance.