Since Gonzales, a small Cajun town between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, proclaims itself “The Jambalaya Capital of the World” and sponsors a major festival and cooking competition every June, don’t even suggest to any of the locals that this legendary rice dish is considered by many to be a hallmark of Creole cookery. What matters is that the name itself derives from the French jambon, and that some form of ham continues to be the main ingredient of jambalaya even when crawfish or shrimp, poultry, or even game is added to the elaborate dish. Cajuns will tell you that no jambalaya is authentic unless it contains tasso, a highly seasoned local ham rarely found outside Louisiana. Nor are you likely to encounter any jambalaya in the region that doesn’t also boast a spicy, smoked pork sausage such as andouille or kielbasa. The best I can determine is that my jambalaya would be classified as Creole by virtue of the fact that it has no tomatoes.
This recipe is excerpted from Pig: King of the Southern Table.
Serve the jambalaya with Tabasco on the side.
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