Soul Food, a Virtual Hug: Authentic Creole Jambalaya
I should start by saying that ,as always, this is a quarantine-styled recipe. I have swapped a few ingredients for convenience purposes, but will let you know the typical ones you would need.
Lately, I have been pretty vocal on Instagram about the deep need for societal conversations on race, fairness and equality (not in every post, mostly in sharing story posts of various helpful resources- it is okay to be worried about saying the wrong thing, as I, like many others, cannot begin to understand the struggle, but showing that we care and want to help bring a change is a great start- so worry less about sounding eloquent and educate yourself more on the topic! The entire point of Black Out Tuesday was to let people from the Black community educate us, our job was- and still is- to share and listen). As parents, it is our mandate to ensure the next generation not only embraces all cultures, but is also excited to share, and learn.
The events from the past few weeks have made it incredibly challenging to watch the news as more and more horrible police brutality cases seemed to pop up daily: more names, more injustice, barely any arrests. As I was proud to see people peacefully marching in support of their peers, I also had to be realistic: with a young baby at home with a developing immune system, I do not go out unless it is to go to the grocery store, appointments, or social distance walks- and unfortunately, a march with thousands of people is simply not a risk I can take. That is why I turned to social media to share resources and my blog, to *surprise surprise* promote diversity in food, and the rich history behind meals such as this one! As long as we ensure to keep the conversation going at home, our children will recognise injustice, stand up to it, and be proactive members of society.
Another good way to teach them about other cultures is through food. And oh, how we will celebrate them.
The Delicious Result of a Collision of Cultures
Let's talk about this dish, Creole Jambalaya, and how its New Orleans roots offer a perfect example of an absolute collision of cultures. Behind each ingredient hides a story about the thousands of people who came to create the dish- so many lives and travel journeys. For example, the recipe has been partly adapted from the Spanish, bringing the Paella technique to the South in the 18th century. At the time, this region would not have had access to rice, if it wasn't for the Senegalese slaves who brought their expertise on rice cultivation. Enter German immigrants who then brought sausages to Louisiana, then the French who adapted the mirepoix and the Native Americans (they were there first, but who knows at what point others started stealing their ingredients too?) introduced the cayenne pepper. You then have this quite literate melting pot of cultures and flavors, rich in spices, which is enjoyed by all.
Ingredients I used,
Sausages (4 larges, chopped- they recommend andouille but I had regular Italian ones in the freezer)
Olive oil (4 tbsp)
Chili oil (a few drops)
Yellow onion (1, diced)
Bell peppers (2, red and green preferably, chopped)
Garlic (4 cloves, minced)
Celery (3/4 cup, chopped)
Crushed tomatoes (1 can, 450 g)
Oregano (I used both dried and fresh, chopped)
Thyme (I used fresh stems, using some leaves for the broth and a bouquet for the simmering part which I later removed before serving)
Salt for taste (I used paprika-infused sea salt)
Red pepper flakes (or cayenne pepper powder, 1/2 tbsp)
Hot pepper sauce (1/2 tbsp)
Worcestershire sauce (3 tbsp)
Chicken broth (3 cups, use low sodium if you can)
Scallions (2, chopped, white bottoms for the meal and green tops for garnish)
Black pepper for taste
White rice (1 1/2 cups- I use Calrose)
Corn (1 small can- this is not part of the original ingredients list, I simply wanted to compensate for the lack of meat/fish- also I'm always looking for excuses to throw in a little corn, sue me)
Note: this meal is typically prepared with chicken or pork and prawns as well, but I had neither left, this was an end-of-the-week meal!
Of course, you know I went for my pre-chopped freezer stash. This is my life forever.
A few steps,
Start with the sausage: in a skillet over medium-heat, drizzle a drop or two of chili oil with 1 tbsp of olive oil and cook the sausages until browned. Set aside. Note: although this is technically a one-pot recipe, I chose to cook these in a separate skillet, but you could easily remove them and throw them back in the mix later.
Next, sautée your vegetables: in a large skillet over medium-heat, cook oil and add onions, celery and peppers until soft and the celery is translucent. Add white scallion bottoms and garlic and toss for 30 seconds.
Stir in the tomatoes, adding salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, pepper flakes, a tad more chili oil, hot pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce and the corn.
Add in the rice and pour the chicken broth over your tomato mix. Stir, bring to a boil and then reduce to lower heat. Cover and let simmer for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally (I saw some recipes which suggested a lower time-frame, however after 20 minutes my rice was still on the harder side, so start checking for the texture at that time, yours might cook faster). Remove the top thyme stems once you are happy with the consistency.
Taste to see if you need more salt, cayenne pepper/chili flakes or the opposite (see below). Garnish with chopped green scallions.
Too Spicy? Try this.
As this is a tomato-based meal, you can easily add ketchup to dim down the spice without altering the taste you worked so hard on achieving! You can also add ingredients to spread the sauce and delude the spiciness a bit: I opted for a handful of chopped cherry tomatoes. Another option is to add dairy, so why not add shredded cheese if you're up for it? I did with my leftovers to give my bowls a little kick, the cookbooks won't tell you to do so, but I loved it.