Jambalaya Recipe

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Jambalaya Recipe

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The special food Jambalaya typically includes several kinds of shellfish, especially scallops, the symbol of St. James. A communal feast of rice, spices (usually red or yellow), seafood, and pork is typical in countries around the Mediterranean and in areas of the New World influenced by them such as Louisiana and the Carribean. Because of the association with seafood, especially scallops, this is appropriate for Saint James’ feast day on July 25th, but it is good any time that seafood is available.

The traditional food is called Jambalaya in the Carribean, Gumbo in Louisiana, Paella in Spain, Bouillabaisse in Provence, and Cioppini in Italy, with special ingredients according to local tradition and availability. In England, oysters are usually substituted for the scallops. Nowadays it almost always includes tomatoes. This recipe is really more like Paella because it has saffron but no tomatoes.

Ingredients and Instructions:
1/2 lb. of sausage or bacon. Saute this first, set aside the sausage and throw the grease away.

1/4 cup of mild onions (shallots, leeks or scallions), washed and cut small
1 cup of rice
Saute the onions in the pot, then add butter and rice and saute the rice.

1 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups of water
Add water, chicken stock, spices and (optional) vegetables.

fresh herbs such as parsley, thyme and a bay leaf
a bit of fresh fennel, either fronds or bulb, cut small
a pinch of saffron, optional, most typical in Spanish dishes
a pinch of cayenne pepper
a pinch of chili pepper (you can make it much hotter if you like)
fresh ground black pepper and salt to taste

While the rice mixture is simmering, wash and prepare the vegetables and seafood.

Vegetables (optional)
1/2 cup each of vegetables such as corn kernels, carrots and small string beans cut small, or peas.
Wash and cut them and add them to the rice.

This is the kind of seafood I like:
1/2 lb. scallops
1/2 lb. shrimp
1/2 lb. fish, especially a delicate white fish. This will fall apart when it has cooked.
Wash and scrub and clean the seafood, but leave the mussels, clams and shrimp, if any in their shells.

When the rice is almost done add the seafood which only takes a few minutes.

When the vegetables are tender and the seafood is opaque, it is done. Return the sausage to the pot, stir it together and add a splash of wine if you have it. Of course you should have chilled white wine with this, or if you are feeling adventurous, pastis.

Put some New Orleans Jazz on the CD player, preferably the very cheerful kind that traditionally accompanies funerals like St. James Infirmary Blues. My favorite version is by Eric Burden and the Animals, but there are lots of others, including one by Van Morrison and an instrumental version by Cab Calloway (on a Betty Boop cartoon). There is also a traditional one by the Saint James Infirmary Jazz Band. There are links to these songs on YouTube, given on the pages for Halloween Songs, because Halloween is the other festival for St. James/Yama.

Most versions of this dish have tomato paste or cut up tomatoes in it, though the Spanish Paella does not. Gumbo is usually thickened with filé, made from the crumbled dried leaves of sassafras. This can be bought in the spice section of the grocery store, or you can dry your own leaves, but if it isn’t available, just thicken the stew with flour or cornstarch. The French version is much less thick than Gumbo, and is based more on a fish stock, with plenty of tomatoes.

Other foods with scallops include Coquilles St. Jacques, made from scallops sauteed in butter and shallot sauce and served in the scallop shells, and Quiche St. Jacques, also made with scallops. Both are named for St. Jacques, the modern French form of the name of St. James or Santiago de Compostela. [fuggle26]

In most versions of this dish, all the little sea creatures are presented whole and looking up at you from a bowl of red broth which does look a bit like something was dismembered, hence its appropriateness for St. James Day, which is normally set to July 25th. See the Yama article, for the relationship of St. James to Yama and the possible origin of this tradition.

Reference for the Recipe
Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker, Scribner, NY, 1997 edition.

© 2007, last updated 3/1/2015, piereligion.org/jambalaya.html