• Servings: 8-12
  • Time: 0hr 40mins
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Shrimp Jambalaya

What is jambalaya? It is basically a one dish vegetable and rice dish comprised of a variety of pork, chicken and/or seafood carried in a sauce of tomato or broth. Gumbo is similar, but is typically based in a roux, which is a brown sauce thickened with filé (FEE-lay) or okra. It is then served over rice.

The first time I made jambalaya, it was for a big parish dinner and I failed to peel the shrimp. Once we realized the mistake, we all just laughed, picked them from our bowls and peeled them at the table.

Mistakes can be funny ice breakers… just roll with them!

1 pound ham Tear or cut into generous bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) diced white or yellow onion Set aside.

Tip: With onion on its side, cut off and discard both ends. Cut in half from pole to pole; peel off any layers that look dry or tough; discard. Place cut sides down and slice to 1/4-inch, holding the pieces together as you work. Cut across slices to dice.

Holding together reduces exposure to eye-irritants.
1/2 cup (2 ounces) finely diced celery Set aside.

Tip: Rinse celery; cut off light colored bottoms and leafy tops. Cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips; cut across strips to dice. 

1/2 cup (2 ounces) diced red bell pepper Set aside.

Tip: Set pepper on end, slice off sides; remove any pale membrane still attached. Cut into 1/4-inch slices; cut across slices to dice.

Flat pieces of pepper are easy to dice.
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into several pieces Circulate butter in a 5-quart tri-ply stockpot over medium heat to evenly coat the base. As it begins to foam (2-3 minutes), add ham and brown (5-6 minutes) turning once with a bamboo spatula. Add onion, celery and green pepper (the “holy trinity”). Sauté, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent (2-3 minutes). A bamboo spatula’s edge offers good coverage and is gentle on cookware.
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup long grain white rice
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon roughly ground black pepper
Add all to stockpot. Sauté, stirring occasionally, just until garlic is fragrant (1-2 minutes).

Tip: After separating a garlic clove from the head; cut off the root end. Place the broad side of a chef’s knife over top; strike with your fist or palm. Release the skin and discard. Cut in half, place cut sides down; rock knife over top to mince.

Garlic burns easily, and is therefore added after the “holy trinity”.
28 ounces canned diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
Add all to stockpot; gently stir to deglaze the pan (release the tasty browned bits). Increase heat to medium-high to bring to the boil; promptly reduce heat to hold at a simmer (195-205°F, where bubbles continually break the surface), stirring occasionally, until rice is tender (18-20 minutes). Meanwhile, position a rack about 6 inches from the broiler element; set to broil. Simmering minimizes texture damaging turbulence.
1 pound 71-90 count shrimp, uncooked, peeled, deveined In a wire mesh strainer, rinse, pat dry with a paper towel; add to a half sheet pan.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon roughly ground black pepper
Drizzle/distribute evenly over shrimp. Toss with your hands to evenly coat; spread in an even layer. Broil just until shrimp is browned and bubbly (3-4 minutes). Monitor closely. Flip and repeat. Serve over jambalaya. Regular (inexpensive) olive oil is used here because the subtle flavors of extra-virgin are lost when heated.

Replace ham with 8 ounces bacon and 1 pound chicken, each cut into bite-sized pieces. Preheat the stockpot empty (omit the butter); brown bacon until crispy. Spoon off any bacon fat in excess of 1/4 cup, add chicken pieces and brown just until signs of pink have vanished. Omit shrimp.

An hour before starting the jambalaya, bring 1 cup (6 ounces) dried red beans, picked through and rinsed to eliminate any debre, and 3 cups tap water to the boil in a 1-quart tri-ply saucepan over high heat (avoid cooking beans in an acidic tomato environment, it inhibits softening). Cover and promptly reduce heat to hold at a simmer (195-205°F, where bubbles continually break the surface) until tender and doubled in volume (about 1 hour). Strain and add to stockpot just before adding diced tomatoes. Omit shrimp.

Omit the ham and shrimp. Reduce chicken broth to about 2 cups.