There are lots of ways to cook a traditional dish like Jambalaya, because every grandmother worth her salt has an old recipe that’s steeped in tradition (and probably chicken stock). Culinary historians argue as to its origins with Alabama being one of the states that lays claim to the birth of this second cousin to Spanish paella. According to some sources, the first recorded use of the term “Jambalaya” in the English language comes from an article in the American Agriculturist in 1849, where an author contributed three recipes from Mobile, one of which was a Jambalaya dish. Regardless of where it comes from, this variety of Creole Jambalaya features seafood – fresh Alabama Gulf Shrimp, to be precise. The presence of seafood is what distinguishes it from traditional Cajun Jambalaya, which also does not typically have tomatoes.
So when you’re thinking about preparing a dish like this, it just seems right to use a cast iron Dutch oven. Not only is it ideal for even cooking, but cast iron adds seasoning to whatever comes out of it.
This dish requires a little bit of prep time, so give yourself 15-20 minutes to slice the veggies, finely chop the herbs, pull (or slice) the chicken and slice the sausage.
For the chicken, you have a couple options. If you have the time and are feeling a little adventurous, you can boil a chicken on the stove. The benefit is that you create your own fresh chicken stock, and it’s super easy. If you don’t have the time, grab a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. If you do that, make sure to grab some chicken stock while you’re there.
To get started, we first have to answer the question of sausage. If you’ve ever had Conecuh Sausage before, you know it just might be the most perfect sausage ever created. It’s as if backwoods hog-farmer smoked sausage, spicy sweet Spanish Chorizo and classic Cajun Andouille had a common descendant. Call it the French and Spanish influence over Lower Alabama cuisine if you like, but it’s simply delicious.
If you don’t use Conecuh, pour the olive oil in the Dutch oven and warm it up. The oil helps to evenly distribute heat and to infuse the flavor of the herbs and the sausage throughout the dish. But, if you follow the recommendation and use Conecuh Sausage, you don’t have to use any olive oil. The deliciously seasoned fat that cooks out of the sausage is more than enough to bring the whole dish together. Remove the sausage from the Dutch oven (using a slotted spoon to preserve the oil) and set aside.
For those familiar with Cajun fare, you know that it’s nearly impossible to make a traditional dish without the holy trinity of Creole cuisine: bell pepper, onion and celery. This dish calls for a slight evolution by using green onion and adding it later in the process. But as soon as those vegetables hit the bottom of that cast iron, your nose is in for a treat.
Add the freshly chopped bell pepper, garlic, celery and half the chopped parsley, stirring and sautéing for about 5 minutes. Now, it may seem odd to add uncooked rice to a dish, but don’t be afraid. The oils from the sausage help to flavor the rice, and the chicken stock will help cook it as well. After giving the rice a good coating and mixing it around with the veggies, stir in the undrained tomatoes and green onion. Add two cups of your chicken stock and mix well.
Now comes the seasoning. Stir in the dried thyme, bay leaves and oregano followed by the Creole seasoning, cayenne and black pepper. While any Creole seasoning blend will do, there are a few that are readily available and really good. Tony Chachere’s and Zatarain’s are great options that you can find almost anywhere, but to give it an authentic Alabama kick, Southern Flavors Cajun (Hot) Seasoning is on point. It’s not for the faint of heart and will really accent the heat of the Conecuh Sausage nicely.
Then, add the sausage and chicken and bring the liquid to a low boil. Cover it and now it’s ready to simmer. If you opted for the Dutch oven, you can either do this on the stove or in the oven—it’s your choice. If you chose the oven, set your temperature to 350 degrees, and if you chose the stove, use a low setting. Let it simmer for 30 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed, stirring occasionally.
Now is a great time to peel and devein your fresh Alabama Gulf Shrimp. You can use any variety (White, Brown or Royal Red), but the bigger they are, the juicier they’ll be when the dish is finished. Fresh shrimp make all the difference. Jambalaya is a smoky, savory entree that benefits tremendously from the plump, juicy burst of bright flavor from the shrimp. Frozen shrimp can be stronger, so make sure you get the freshest stuff you can. Click here for a list of retailers in your area that sell genuine Alabama Gulf Shrimp.
Lots of fish markets sell deveined or “peel & eat” shrimp, but if they don’t, doing it yourself is surprisingly easy. Click here for a 4-step tutorial you can easily follow.
After the 30 minutes are up, remove the lid and smell the glory of your creation. You’ll be hit with the beautiful combination of bell pepper, garlic, onion, sausage and 100 years of Creole creativity. Now for the final touches: the Alabama Gulf Shrimp and the remainder of your chopped parsley. Shrimp cook incredibly quickly, so the heat from the surrounding ingredients will cook them in 2-3 minutes.
Once done, add your favorite hot sauce to taste and enjoy. Oh, and if you love this recipe, make sure you share it with everybody you know.