The mere mention of New Orleans is enough to conjure the sounds of jazz, the excitement of Mardi Gras, and the flavors and aromas of the region's Cajun and Creole cuisines. Jambalaya, much like beignets, po' boys, and gumbo, is a dish that's become virtually synonymous with The Big Easy. And while, unfortunately, a snap of your fingers can't transport you to the French Quarter, you can bring the city's classic flavors to your kitchen with a few simple techniques and ingredients.
Jambalaya, in the broadest of definitions, is a rice dish of meat and vegetables. Its origins remain a matter of debate, but many argue that the dish was influenced by Spanish settlers, who tried to mimic paella using local Gulf-area ingredients. In place of paella's saffron, the rice is colored and flavored with tomatoes, alongside onions, green bell peppers, and celery—a combination known in Creole and Cajun cooking vocabulary as "the holy trinity." The meat, meanwhile, is typically a combination of spicy Andouille sausage and ingredients ranging from chicken and pork to crayfish and other seafood.
This rendition begins with a sauté of Andouille sausage, followed by cayenne- and paprika-spiked shrimp, scallops, and oysters. Once the proteins are cooked, we set them aside and stir the vegetables into the same pot, taking full advantage of all that browned flavor.
Simmering the rice properly is crucial—you want to ensure the grains are well-seasoned and cooked through, without getting mushy. For better flavor, we look to Tuttorosso Tomato Puree for its fresh vine-ripened tomato flavor. All Tuttorosso products are picked fresh and packed in cans with special liners to lock in the flavor, so you can expect delicious results every time.
One ingredient that might surprise you here is baking soda. We incorporate it into our recipe because the acidity in tomatoes strengthens the pectin in rice's cell walls, which can result in tougher rice, even after lengthy cooking times. Baking soda counteracts that effect, making the acidic environment more alkaline, and allowing the pectin to break down. Baking soda can also mellow out the acidic flavor of the tomatoes—and do a great many other things that you can read about right here.
Once the rice is cooked, we fold in the sausage and seafood, allowing their flavors to mingle as they finish cooking. The final touches are a few dashes of our favorite hot sauce and a sprinkle of sliced scallions. Serve with or without your Mardi Gras beads.
Active Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
Andouille sausage is common in Creole and Cajun cooking, and is available in most markets. If you can't find it, substitute with any variety of smoked sausage.
Scallops are not always labeled, but keep an eye out for those marked "dry." Wet scallops are soaked in phosphates that make them retain water.
You can shuck your own oysters, but most seafood stores will also offer to shuck them for you, occasionally for a small fee.
Seafood Jambalaya With Tuttorosso Tomato Puree
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 ounces Andouille sausage, cut into ¼-inch slices
8 ounces large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 ounces sea scallops (see note above)
4 ounces shucked oysters, drained (see note above)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (28-ounce) can Tuttorosso Tomato Puree
1 onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
½ green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped (about ½ cup)
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups long grain white rice, rinsed
2 ½ cups water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 bay leaf
Hot sauce, to taste
2 bunches scallions, thinly sliced
1. In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add sausage and cook, stirring occasionally until browned on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. Do not clean the pot.
2. Keep Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Pat shrimp, scallops, and oysters dry with paper towels and season with salt, pepper, 1 teaspoon of paprika, and cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring until they just begin to lose translucency, about 2 minutes. Do not cook through; seafood will continue to cook in Step 5. Transfer to bowl with sausage and stir in 1 cup of Tuttorosso Tomato Puree.
3. Add remaining vegetable oil to the Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell peppers, and celery and season lightly with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, and remaining 1 teaspoon paprika and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
4. Stir in rice and 2 teaspoons salt. Stir in remaining Tuttorosso Tomato Puree, water, baking soda, and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Allow mixture to boil.
5. Once mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf. Stir in reserved sausage, seafood, and tomato mixture to the pot, cover, and cook over low heat until seafood is opaque and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Season with hot sauce and sprinkle with scallions. Serve immediately.