Welcome to The Storied Recipe Podcast! This recipe comes from John and Rebekah Leekely, Emmy-award winning TV writers. John learned all the nuances of making the perfect Cajun Dutch Oven Jambalaya recipe from long conversations with Paul Prudhomme at a tiny corner table in his famous New Orlean's restaurant, Commander's Palace.
The recipe was born one evening when John was taken by a local to a restaurant for locals only, deep in the swamps of Cajun country. Later, during repeated visits back to New Orleans for the annual Jazz Festival, John befriended famed chef Paul Prudhomme who taught him where to source the best ingredients and the proper techniques for a authentic Cajun Jambalaya.
The resulting Jambalaya is ultra high end, worthy of a place at Commander's Palace. Really good to learn from and delicious beyond reckoning. However, in this recipe, I've also suggested the adjustments that I make for a cheaper, quicker Jambalaya with ingredients that are easier to source.
For me and my whole family, *this* Dutch Oven Jambalaya is the BEST we've ever had - or can imagine. It's rich, meaty and the flavors are complicated: layered, deep, spicy, and bold.
You can try this for Mardi Gras, but for me, it's a go-to when I need to make a recipe for a huge crowd! This family-sized Jambalaya is easily adaptable for a crowd of 30, 50, or even 100.
P.S. Have lots of questions about Jambalaya? Try reading these posts Confusing: Creole vs. Cajun and Jambalaya vs. Everything
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John and Rebekah Leekely discuss cooking for their large blended family, expert tips on making Jambalaya, and the African, Caribbean, and French influence on Cajun & Creole cooking.
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Ingredients: What goes in Cajun Jambalaya?
Best rice choice?
- Long grain rice is grown in Louisiana, so that's the authentic option.
- Long grain rice is also very cheap. On a dish that loads up on proteins, it makes sense to save a little on the rice.
- Zatarain's boxed Jambalaya uses parboiled rice and it may be a good idea for you to consider parboiled also (although I don't suggest you use their boxed mix, as you'll be adding your own seasonings.)
- Parboiled rice stays firmer and retains more vitamins & minerals than fully hulled rice, both advantages, in my opinion. For more information about the parboiling process, I highly recommend this post from Mahatma Rice.
Top tomato choice?
- Paul Prudhomme's Jambalaya is a Creole Jambalaya, which is popular in New Orleans and calls for tomatoes. However, as John says, while the tomatoes are a critical part of this dish, they aren't the star.
- In our interview, John explained at length why Cento certified San Marzano tomatoes are the only tomatoes he uses. Grown in a particular region of Italy, these tomatoes are less watery and more pulpy than others
- If you choose to use other tomatoes, whether fresh or canned, you can replicate this advantage by discarding extra juice or seeds
- If you like more tomato flavor, I recommend adding extra tomato paste rather than extra tomato sauce
Does Jambalaya have okra?
- The best answer I can give to this question is, "Not Paul Prudhomme's jambalaya; not this jambalaya."
- However, there are infinite variations on this particular dish, and if you want to add it - by all means, add it.
Chicken Stock vs. Seafood Stock
- The stock you choose will have a significant impact on the taste
- John, based on his conversations with Chef Prudhomme, makes a combination of stocks from the shells of the seafood included in his dish and chicken.
- Frankly, I make a cheaper and quicker version of this Jambalaya with shrimp as the only seafood and chicken stock from Costco. I'm sure it makes a difference in the outcome, but that's what I do at this phase in my life.
Substitutions for 4 Proteins
- In John's ultra high end Jambalaya, he calls for 1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp, 1 whole crab, and 1 pound crawfish, langostino, or oysters. He uses the discarded shells to make broth for the Jambalaya
- For me, I use a 2lb bag of Costco shelled and deveined shrimp to save time and money.
- If you want to save time by buying pre-shelled shrimp and still include seafood broth flavor, you can use this Bar Harbor Seafood Broth
- Without a doubt, the most authentic New Orleans Jambalaya will use Tasso Ham.
- Tasso Ham is actually cured pork shoulder seasoned with a spicy Cajun spice mixture.
- If you don't have time or money to source Tasso Ham, cook your own pork shoulder - but make sure you season with ⅓ of John's Cajun mixture before cooking
- Definitely choose thighs, not chicken breasts. So much more flavor in the thighs!
- John's recipe calls for chopping the thighs into pieces, then cooking in the Dutch oven over medium-high heat. The advantage to this is method is that you'll add those delicious chicken flavor to the pan.
- For me, I like to grill the thighs over an open flame or charcoal briquettes. I love the grilled flavor in the meat and I like that I can prep in advance.
- Andouille sausage is the gold standard here! It's spicy and authentic.
- You can also use smoked sausage. I use that often also.
- I usually cook the sausage first to get all that delicious flavor in the pan and impart it to all the other ingredients.
- In our interview, John makes the controversial statement that the Holy Trinity of Cajun cooking does NOT contain green pepper!
- Instead, John says Chef Prudhomme included red pepper, which is a choice I enjoy
- This powder comes from the Sassafras plant and has a sort of sweet, herby flavor.
- It was discovered and refined by Native Americans in Louisiana and represents their influence on this dish.
- I believe its an essential flavor that sets the Jambalaya apart
READ: Jambalaya vs. Dirty Rice vs. Paella vs. Etouffe vs.
Cajun Seasoning Spices
- Read Paul/John's mix carefully and don't skimp - for me, this is what makes this a great recipe
- No red pepper flakes
- Although this is a super high end recipe (with modifications from me), Dutch oven Jambalaya is essentially a one pot meal
- In fact, using just one pot is a critical part of the success - all the flavors mix and mingle from the very beginning.
- If you're cooking a pork shoulder or grilling the chicken, you can start the prep work the night before. I usually make a HUGE pot of this recipe, enough for 30-50 people, and it helps to start the night before.
- It's essential to have a really LARGE Dutch Oven for this recipe.
- Cast Iron Dutch Oven vs. Large Enameled Dutch Oven - Some prefer cast iron because it can be seasoned and add flavor to every dish. However, cast iron pans require a lot of care and specialty tools. Enameled cast iron pots can be cared for with more traditional methods and tools
- When I make a REALLY big serving of this dish, I use an absolutely GIANT roasting pan, like this one.
- You'll need a good slotted spoon to get proteins and vegetables from pan while leaving the juices and flavor behind
Storage & Reheating
- Yes! Jumbalaya is easy to store! You can refrigerate it up to a week and freeze it up to 6 months.
- To freeze, I like to place the leftovers in a foil pan and cover tightly with plastic wrap, then foil.
- When ready to eat, defrost in the refrigerator overnight.
- Remove the plastic wrap, add broth, replace the foil, and slowly reheat in the oven at 250 for about an hour.
- If you don't have time to defrost, no problem - just plan to heat gently in the oven for 90-120 minutes.
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Food Safety working with Shrimp:
- Thaw frozen shrimp in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.
- Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw shrimp away from other ingredients and surfaces.
- Wash hands thoroughly after handling raw shrimp.
Food Safety working with Chicken:
- Keep chicken refrigerated at 40°F (4°C) or below until it's time to cook.
- Thoroughly cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to ensure it's safe to eat.
- Wash hands and any utensils that come into contact with raw chicken before touching other ingredients.
This is a one-pot meal, so use separate utensils or wash thoroughly between handling different ingredients to avoid cross-contamination.
Cook final Jambalaya to an internal minimum temperature of 165°F (74°C) - Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the Jambalaya.
- Divide leftovers into smaller portions for even reheating.
- Reheat Jambalaya to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F (74°C)
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