Home Food DigiBites: Jumpin’ Jambalaya! – Chef Charlie Is Back From Nola, Cher!

DigiBites: Jumpin’ Jambalaya! – Chef Charlie Is Back From Nola, Cher!

A French Quarter favorite and a dish to warm the cockles (and other bits) on a cloudy day in California! Photo: Chef Charlie/Epicurean Exchange

“Having just returned from New Orleans leading our annual Culinary, History and Culture tour (www.epicureanexchange.com/new-orleans-2019), I think I have perfected my Jambalaya recipe as evidenced by the photo of the batch we prepared last evening.  I am not an expert on Creole and Cajun cooking, but I have learned a lot from my NOLA chef-friends.

Generally speaking, Jambalaya is a creole dish (which includes tomatoes; Cajun generally does not), and is a relative of paella (which is flavored saffron and smoked paprika).  Both contain a combination of proteins (chicken, Andouille sausage and shellfish – shrimp or crawfish).

Gumbo begins with a roux, and is more like a soup that is served with rice on the side.  Étouffee is a thick gravy using one type of shellfish (crawfish or shrimp) and is served over rice.  So there you go!

My version of Jambalaya features file powder (got my supply in NOLA; tough to find, but can be ordered online) and okra (which is sautéed separately before adding to the dish to reduce its slimy characteristics; skip this step if you like it that way).  Both provide thickening properties and a silky texture.

Give it a try, and let me know what you think – feedback is appreciated!

Chef Charlie/ Orinda, Calif. 

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups frozen, sliced okra
1 medium onion, cut into a 1/2-inch dice
1 red bell pepper, cut into a 1/2-inch dice
1 green bell pepper, cut into a 1/2-inch dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Andouille sausages (Silva brand) or Louisiana hot links, sliced
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons file powder
1 3/4 cups long grain, white rice
2 tablespoons Tony Cachere Creole seasoning (or more depending on personal taste)
2 tablespoons dried thyme
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup clam juice or fish stock
1 – 15 ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
•     Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add the okra and sauté until it looses its “ropiness” and is lightly browned, about 10 minutes.  Set aside.
•     Meanwhile, in a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onions, bell peppers and sausage and sauté until sausage begins to brown, about
6 – 8 minutes.  Add garlic and file powder, and cook, stirring frequently, for another 5 minutes.
•     Add the rice, Creole spice, and thyme and cook until rice begins to brown and takes on a rich color.
•     Add the chicken, chicken stock, clam juice, tomatoes, and okra and increase the heat.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring periodically, until the rice is tender.
•     Season to taste with salt and pepper and additional spice seasoning, if necessary.  Check consisteny; if too thick, add a bit more water to loosen the rice.
•     5 minutes before serving, add the shrimp.  Immerse the shrimp in the rice mixture, cover and cook just 5 minutes more.  Serve immediately.

Serves 8


  1. Good one. Question – what’s your local source for seafood? I used to be able to buy off the dock but it’s harder to find (at a reasonable price) out here. Lunardis? Diablo?

  2. Tim (regarding seafood) – Personally (we all have preferences for particular reasons. Locally (being from Lamorinda) WF for everyday (sourced-well, core selection, reasonably priced); Diablo Foods (premium for special occasions, sea scallops!); Lunardi’s equally nice. Best for me, through the tunnel: Market Hall, Berkeley Bowl, Tokyo Fish and REALLY fresh: Ranch 99. Sure there are others, these are mine.
    – Chef Charlie

  3. Thanks Charles! I’ll admit I haven’t heard of the last two on your TTT list but I’m going to check them out. We like seafood in our household. Thanks for the reply!

  4. Lived in NOLA for several years and the influences and nuances in the food there are amazing. This was like coming home. While it has been some time since I cooked up a pot of Jambalaya this article just brings back too many pleasant memories to resist.

  5. I made this last night. My husband loved it! I left out the diced tomatoes (don’t like them) and added extra Creole seasoning.

    Easy to make (I love to cook) and tastes great!

  6. @Danielle – Thanks for the feedback; so glad you and your husband enjoyed it! Good to show others that you can modify and still have great results! – Chef Charlie

  7. This was delicious and we made it with a little extra kick to keep the rain away. Stayed pretty close to this recipe (very good) to see if we could duplicate the experience and we think we did pretty well. We had fun. Boyfriend paired it with a couple of smoked beers from Bootlegger’s Brewery and that really set it off nicely. OK, we’re hooked. Looking forward to the next recipe!

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