Saturday, 9 January 2021

New Kreation: Jambalaya with Salmon and Shrimps

Finalised Jambalaya with Salmon and Shrimps by Omar Cherif

While all alone at the beach house in Ein el Sokhna on the Red Sea, where I have been residing for the past year, I decided to try something totally new: Jambalaya. What made me think about this Louisianian dish all the way here? Not sure. But I tend to be weirdly random like that as some of you must know by now. Well, mayhap because I had salmon and shrimp and wanted something new that combined both. So as usual, I consulted Google. 

Most jambalaya recipes include andouille sausages and cod fish. This was confirmed by Ronald McKinley, a friend a fellow drummer from L.A who’s originally from New Orleans. Not having either, I chose to carry on checking recipes; eventually realising that salmon can indeed be used while the sausages, well, the dish would still very well be edible without them. Or so I reckoned. So I headed to the kitchen and went right at it. I later shared the photo on Instagram and Facebook with a bit of history as well as a bit of etymology of the word. However, I did not share the ingredients nor the directions, which were added herein. 

All I knew about jambalaya is that it was a song by Jerry Lee Lewis, originally written and performed by Hank Williams in 1952. Much later I found out jambalaya is a Creole/Cajun dish, first made popular at the melting pot of French, Spanish, and African communities of New Orleans, Louisiana. One day I decided to try it. 
There is something highly invigorating about trying new things. You see, about not knowing what the outcome would be; about the very novelty which brings about uncertainty. Despite being a first-time experience, the final result turned out to be heavenly. Beside cooking, digging and researching the origin and history of the dish and the linguistic etymology of the word are also part of the excitement. Then this storyteller finds exquisite joy in retelling his findings. So the experience remains multilayered as it is enjoyed differently throughout the process. 

Might as well share the song, despite this odd jam

Now to the History...
Jambalaya is of Creole and Cajun origins, first made popular at the melting pot of French, Spanish, and African communities of New Orleans, Louisiana. There are two main varieties: Caju, which uses the culinary technique known as “dumping”, and Creole which uses the “layering” technique. Of course being here on the beach — all the way in Egypt — meant I had to improvise, bearing in mind what I have and what I don’t. Whatever the result, I absolutely love trying new things. And the Internet is simply a wonderful medium allowing us to do just that.
Jambalaya sounds like a funny word. But where did it come from? The below is an extensive and multicultural etymology of the word, as shown in Wikipedia:
Fittingly for a product of Cajun culture, the word “jambalaya” seems to have as many possible origins and authors as the complex dish has ingredients and variations — and most of these are easier to discredit than to verify. Until very modern times, Louisiana cooking was largely confined to the local region. The result is a meagre written record of the area’s food history, and folklore has often became “fact”.
The most commonly repeated folklore is that the word derives from the combination of the French jambon meaning ham, the French article à la”, a contraction of à la manière de”, meaning “in the style of”, and ya, thought to be of West African origin meaning rice. Hence, the dish was named “jamb à la ya”. However, ham is not the signature ingredient of the dish and there is no known African language in which “ya” means “rice”.
Another source suggests that the word comes from the Spanish jamon (ham) + paella, a noted Spanish rice dish. However, Spanish speakers would call a ham paella paella con jamon, not jamon paella.
There is also a popular old wives’ tale about the origin of the word “jambalaya”:
Late one evening a travelling gentleman stopped by a New Orleans inn which had little food remaining from the evening meal. The traveller instructed the cook, “Jean, balayez!” or “Jean, sweep something together!” in the local dialect. The guest pronounced the resulting hodge-podge dish as “Jean balayez”.
The first print appearance of any variant of the word “jambalaya” in any language occurred in Leis amours de Vanus; vo, Lou paysan oou théâtré, by Fortuné (Fourtunat) Chailan, first published in Provencal in 1837. It includes this text (translated):
The upstairs neighbors were making a din All kinds of people, rich and poor: It was a mish-mash [jambaraya] of red inebriated faces.
It is also found in a poem by Louis Charles Felix Peise, “La Testo et la Coua de la Serp”, from his book Leis Talounados de Barjomau (1865), which includes this line (translated):
This rabble [jambalaia] reminds me Of the arrival of an old snake.
Both publications are French and neither example used the word in a culinary sense. In both cases it indicates a mish-mash, rabble, or mixture — a meaning that lends itself well to jambalaya.
The earliest appearance of the word in print in English occurs in the May 1849 issue of the American Agriculturalist, where Solon Robinson refers to a recipe for “Hopping Johnny (jambalaya)”.
Interestingly, while the names Hopping John and jambalaya are treated as referring to the same dish, the recipe is clearly a jambalaya, not a “Hopping John” which is made from rice and beans or peas. An article in the 1875 New Orleans Times reported jambalaya as “spelled in French jumbliade; but the dish is of Indian origin” and “originally made of zizania aquatica, or wild rice … and of several varieties of beans or frijoles as the Mexican Indians call them.” This recipe clearly describes Hopping John, not jambalaya.
Jambalaya did not appear in a cookbook until 1878, when The Gulf City Cook Book, by the Ladies of the St. Francis Street Methodist Episcopal Church, was printed in South Mobile, Alabama. It contains a recipe for “JAM BOLAYA”.


Following such an obscure history, here comes the works. The following are the ingredients used the second time, which included a few more than on the first trial. With over 28, jambalaya is usually a one-pot meal. The cool thing about it is that you can freely add or deduct whatever you feel like.

• Olive oil
• Butter
• Diced onions
• Garlic minced
• Diced red and yellow bell peppers
• Peeled seeded chopped tomatoes
• Tomato pasta
• Carrots
• Corn
• Ginger
• Potatoes
• White rice
• Boneless skinned salmon cut in cubes
• Shrimps peeled and deveined
• Vegetable broth
• Salt Pepper
• Basil
• Thyme
• Oregano 
• Rosemary   
• Herbes de Provence
• Turmeric
• Black seeds
• Onion powder
• Garlic powder
• Soya
• Dijon mustard 
• Tabasco

Yeah, 28 ingredients and I absolutely love it! Note that, for this very reason, adding relatively small amounts of all herbs and spices seems like a mint idea. I simply used what is available here on the beach while discarding whatever I don’t like or have. Like Cod fish instead of the salmon, which is how they usually make it in Louisiana. There was also celery, which I am really not fond of. Also the Andouille sausage that is one of the main ingredients along with the fish and shrimps. In fact, many of the recipes consulted were titled: Shrimp, Sausage, and Fish Jambalaya. Then again, this is my own version one could say.

I was all alone, so the dish was made for two people, which was enjoyed over two nights. Using one salmon filet and about 12 shrimps. The remaining quantities are not added yet can be seen in the photo below taken during preparations.  


Add the oil to the heavy-bottom pot on medium high heat then the butter.

Once the butter melts, add the onion and stir for 5 minutes.

Add the yellow & red peppers and carrots to the mixture.

Then add the garlic and stir for about a minute.

Add the tomato paste and stir for 4-5 minutes.

Now add the diced tomatoes, corn, salt & pepper, a dash of soya, and 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard.

Put the vegetable broth in the mix and bring to a boil.

Stir, add a cup of rice, then reduce heat to medium low and cover — leave it undisturbed for 25-30 minutes till the rice cooks.

Finally add the shrimp and cubes of salmon while increasing the heat to medium-high. Once boiling, reduce again to simmer for another 10 minutes. Add thyme, oregano, rosemary, herbes de Provence, Turmeric, black seeds, onion powder, and garlic powder stirring occasionally.
Et Voil
à. Now serve and indulge. Nom Nom Nom.

Buon Appetito...

Jambalaya with Salmon and Shrimps in the making by Omar Cherif
The Lots


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