I remember going to Amite, Louisiana, for summer vacation as a kid. The Town of Amite City, commonly just called Amite, lies at the intersection of I-55 and Hwy. 16. Amite is halfway between New Orleans, Louisiana, and Jackson, Mississippi. What I remember most about Amite were the big black pots in the front yard where the family would gather and cook quintessential classic red Jambalaya.
Jambalaya was introduced to southern Louisiana by the Spanish settlers. Jambalaya is the dish created when they were trying to make paella. The ingredients to make paella were not available. Therefore, the recipe was adapted to ingredients found in southern Louisiana. For example, fresh pork replaced cured ham, tomatoes became a replacement for saffron, and crawfish replaced mussels. Years later, the French renamed this unique dish “Jambon a la Yaya,” meaning ham with rice.
MY MEMAW’S JAMBALAYA
7 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces, 1 pound smoked pork neck bones, 5 smoked turkey tails, 2 1/2 pounds jumbo (with heads and shells) shrimp, peeled and deveined, 1 1/2 cup tasso ham, diced, 5 spicy smoked sausages, sliced, 6 garlic cloves, minced, 1 small green bell pepper julienne cut, 1 small red bell pepper julienne cut, 1 small yellow bell pepper julienne cut, 6 stalks celery, finely diced, 15 fresh okra pods, 1 large yellow onion, chopped, 1/2 small purple onion, chopped, 10 ripe peeled tomatoes, 1 1/2 tablespoon paprika, 2 tablespoons chili powder, 2 tablespoons cayenne, 4 tablespoons dried parsley flakes, 4 cups shrimp stock, 2 cups V-8 juice, 3 cups long-grain rice, 3 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 pound crawfish, shell on, 2 bunches green onions, 3 bay leaves, crumbled.
Add the neckbones and smoked turkey tails in a large pot, and cover with water. Peel off the shrimp heads and shells. Add the heads and shells to a pot of water, at least 6 cups of water. Add about 2 tablespoons of chicken bouillon, 1 tablespoon black pepper, 2 tablespoons granulated garlic, and 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes. Cover and cook on medium heat until the neckbones are done, set aside. Heat 3 tablespoons of butter in a dutch oven. Season the chicken thighs, dredge the chicken in seasoned flour. Shake off the excess flour. Add the chicken to the pot. Cook until the chicken is browned. Add the sausage and cook for another couple of minutes or until the sausage is brown. Add the holy trinity (onions, bell pepper, celery, and garlic) cook for about 5 minutes until the onions start to sweat. Continue to stir throughout this entire process. Add the neckbones, ham, turkey tails, and 1 bunch of green onions to the pot. Add the rice, tomatoes, shrimp stock, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and bay leaves. Stir and combine everything, bring to a boil. Lower heat, and simmer for another 15 minutes. When the rice is done, stir in the shrimp and crawfish simmer for another 10 minutes. Serve sprinkled with sliced green onions and chopped flat-leaf parsley.