Jambalaya originated in the French Quarter of New Orleans. It was the accidental result of Spaniards attempting to make paella in the New World where saffron was not readily available due to import costs. Consequently, tomatoes became the substitute for saffron.
As time went on, French influence became strong in New Orleans, and spices from the Caribbean changed this New World paella into a unique dish. In modern Louisiana, the dish has evolved into many variations but primarily there are two types of Jambalaya: Creole and Cajun.
Creole Jambalaya, also called red Jambalaya, is found primarily in and around New Orleans and is made with tomatoes which make it red. Cajun Jambalaya, which has no tomatoes, originated in Louisiana's rural, low-lying swamp country. It has a distinct smokey flavor and brown color, the result of browning the meat in a cast iron pot. Both versions can contain virtually any kind of meat and/or seafood but crayfish (called crawfish in Louisiana) is a popular inclusion.
- ⅓ cup chopped celery
- ½ tablespoon butter
- ⅔ cup long grain rice
- 14.5 ounce (411g) can of tomatoes, diced or torn apart
- 1.5 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups cooked and chopped turkey, or chicken
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon savory
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1.5 teaspoons cumin
- 1 drained small can of sliced mushrooms (optional)
- Mix the salt and unground spices (bay leaf excepted) together, then grind them.
- Prepare the canned tomatoes: tear them up, remove the stem ends, remove the seeds, etc. Keep the juice.
- Select a wide pan with a lid.
- Lightly fry the celery in the butter. Soften the celery but do not brown it.
- Add everything to the pan. You can add the basil, meat and mushrooms later if you prefer.
- Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. The rice will absorb the liquid.
- Discard the bay leaf.