A year ago, I asked my sister-in-law to show me how to make jambalaya and wrote a post about the experience. Around that same time, I talked to a few different members of hubby’s family about how they make the dish, since everyone seems to do it differently (and have strong opinions about the right way to do it). Somehow, though I intended to try it on my own, I never got around to it until last week. Hubby and I were moving out of our little home and I was going through the freezer, unearthing all kinds of buried treasure, when I stumbled across some frozen Cajun sausage given to us by my sister-in-law. It was decided – finally time to attempt jambalaya on my own!
Here’s my SIL’s base recipe, with her sister’s version scribbled on a post-it note below it.
Only slightly intimidating, though I’d only ever even eaten jambalaya twice (unless you count that time at a Maryland restaurant, but I’m not sure the Cajuns would count that).
I started off prepping my vegetables. First, celery.
Then some onion. I really need to re-read my camera’s manual so I stop taking shots like this.
And some green bell pepper.
Here’s everything together:
Next, grab a big ol’ chunk of pork loin roast.
I cut the pork into cubes, spread them on a plate, and seasoned heavily with salt, ground black pepper, and a bit of cayenne pepper.
Next, I turned to the (thawed) sausage that had come to us all the way from Louisiana, only to sit in my freezer.
Here’s the biggest change that I made between last year’s version and this one: putting sugar in the pot and letting it melt and caramelize before adding the meat. With the original recipe (sans sugar), I had really struggled with the concept of caramelizing sausage and couldn’t figure out how this was different than sautéing it. Google hadn’t helped me, either. Hubby’s family members differ on whether or not jambalaya should be started with sugar, but I decided to go with it because caramelizing sugar makes more sense to me than caramelizing sausage.
It only took a few minutes to start melting.
Then it’ll start to brown, slowly, slowly.
Be really, really careful with it. Just a tiny drop splashed up when I got a little overenthusiastic with my stirring. The drop landed on my skin with a hiss and resulted in a blister (which mysteriously never hurt). Sooooo yeah. That step should be done by an adult and very carefully.
When the sugar was starting to get dark and cooked, I dropped in my pork and let it start cooking. The sugar helped with both the color and the smoky taste.
The pork released a lot of water. I let it cook off while the surface of the pork seared. Lots of steam!
Next, I added my sausage. This released even more liquid so I let this simmer for quite a while in hopes of letting the liquid cook off.
I had trouble getting a good picture of it and I certainly couldn’t capture the aroma, which was pretty good. Smoky and sweet.
Finally, I added in my veggies. Again, I let them cook down and then simmered off the liquid for a while.
When I was satisfied with that step, I added water and then seasoned with salt, black pepper, and cayenne.
I let that go for quite a while, then added some uncooked rice. At that point, just turn down the heat, cover, and let it continue to simmer.
An hour or so later, this is what you have!
Nom nom nom. I think I underseasoned it a bit and ended up adding salt while I was eating, but other than that, I was pleased with the result. I liked the way it turned out, and hubby’s enthusiasm was encouraging, too.
We’re moving further north, though. I’m not sure where we can get appropriate sausage for me to do this again…