Jambalaya and the Cajun Holy Trinity
This one pot Cajun dish is a hearty spicy stew of sausage, shrimp, tomatoes, rice and the trinity of celery, bell pepper and onion.
Most attribute the French heritage of the Louisiana bayou people to coining the name for this dish. The enslaved Africans living in of the area used the word “ya” for rice and the Cajun French speakers eventually adopted this word for wild rice. Combining the phrase ham with rice in their dialect resulted in the phrase “jambon à la ya”.
I had a chance to take in a cooking class given by a New Orleans chef who explained the secrets of making a good Jambalaya. Her mantra helped me to memorize this recipe: “remember the holy trinity”.
- The trinity of vegetables: onion, bell pepper and celery
- The trinity of herbs: oregano, thyme and bay leaf
- The trinity of spices: red pepper (cayenne), black pepper, and white pepper
It is believed that the “holy trinity” of vegetables, also used in other Cajun dishes, was derived from the mirepoix (celery, carrot and onion) which is a common base in French cuisine.
- 3 large spicy sausages
- 1 large yellow onion diced
- 1 rib of celery diced
- 1 green or red bell pepper diced
- 1 quart stewed tomatoes
- ¾ cup converted long grain rice
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup tomato juice
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp thyme
- 3 bay leaves
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
- ½ tsp fresh ground black pepper (or to taste)
- ½ tsp white pepper (or to taste)
- ½ tsp salt
- 12 medium shrimps raw, peeled
Remove the casing from the sausage and chop into bite size pieces. Cook the sausage in a large deep pan or wok on medium heat until the pink has gone.
Remove the sausage and most of the grease from the pan, saving about 1 tbsp.
Add the vegetables to the pan and cook on medium heat until tender. Return the sausage back to the pan for the last couple of minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes and seasonings and bring to a simmer.
Stir in the rice, water, broth and tomato juice and allow to simmer covered for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Before serving, bury the shrimp below the surface with the pot still simmering. Cook covered for about 5 more minutes or until the shrimp turns pink.
You can make your own variations by changing the meat. Chicken is commonly used along with other seafood like crawfish or oysters. I use hot Italian sausages but if you can find andouille (a smoked Cajun sausage) you may wish to add some and reduce the sausage proportionately. Depending on how spicy your sausage is, you may want to reduce the black, white and cayenne pepper.