When I was 20 I wrote a short story called “Jambalaya” that got me a first place prize for prose from my alma mater’s literary magazine, The Catalyst. It was part of what was then to be my first novel, a road trip book called Arizona Iced Tea. This specific chapter, as the titles implies, took place in New Orleans and describe a one-night stand with a voodoo priestess named Dionne. The history of myself and the dish is far less contrived.

My stepmother is from LA but her people are from New Orleans. As gumbo is in her blood I spent my teenage years soaking in the blessing of her big pots of rue, crab, chicken, sausage etc. So of course I wanted to be down. But there’s something about making gumbo, the size of the effect and the number of things that can go wrong, that has always scared me. So I decided to make my first cajun effort something more manageable. Hence jambalaya was my first cajun challenge so to speak.

I’ve made this two days back to back. The first time (pictured above) was for myself. The second time I tried it with friends. You be the judge.

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. smoked turkey sausage
1 lb. medium shrimp
1 lb, boneless chicken breast
4 small tomatoes
2 green peppers
1 white onion
2 cloves elephant garlic
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup orange juice
cayenne pepper
sea salt
olive oil
chicken stock
1.5 cups long grain white rice

Directions:

Peel and devein shrimp; chop and dice onion, tomatoes and peppers, chop chicken and sausage into thin slices.

Put a pot of water (or three cups chicken stock) to a boil. Once boiling add rice, cover and reduce heat.

Put 2 tbs of olive oil into a skillet on medium heat. Add the garlic and allow it to fry. Then add shrimp, chicken, onions, pepppers and tomatos. All allow to saute’ for 3-5 minutes (turning regularly).

Add the stock and orange juice. Reduce heat and cover for 10-15 minutes, seasoning to taste and checking meats until they are well-cooked. Serve over rice.

Note: The version above appears without rice, which is why it looks soupy.