“Let the Good Times Roll” this Mardi Gras with Florida Jambalaya!

For all my Florida folks who won’t be making it to New Orleans for Mardi Gras today, this recipe for Florida Jambalaya will allow you to laissez les bons temps rouler without ever leaving our fabulous state!

I discovered this recipe in Bon Appétit magazine about twenty years ago when I was just learning my way around the kitchen. After making this dish for the first time I  thought, “Wow, I actually made that!” and I was officially hooked on cooking. This recipe has been one of my signature dishes ever since and over the years I’ve had the chance to make it for friends from Denver, Colorado to New York City and it has always, I repeat, always garnered rave reviews.

The word jambalaya has French origins, stemming from the word “jambalaia” which, according to Merriam-Webster, originated in Southern France as part of the Occitan language. This recipe for Florida Jambalaya differs substantially from the two traditional styles of Jambalaya, Creole and Cajun. Creole jambalaya hails from the French Quarter of New Orleans and originated as an attempt to make Spanish paella in the New World. Saffron, an intrinsic component of paella, was not readily available so tomatoes were substituted instead. Creole jambalaya also involves the essential component of Louisiana cooking called the “trinity”, a mixture of celery, onion and green pepper. This incarnation also calls for a combination of meats including chicken and/or andouille sausage as well as seafood. Cajun jambalaya, on the other hand, originated in the rural, low lying swamp country of Louisiana where crayfish, oysters and turtles were plentiful. It is smokier and spicier than Creole and does not call for tomatoes. The meat in the dish was usually browned to give the dish its color which is why it is often referred to as “Brown Jambalaya.”

Florida jambalaya is just that, Florida’s take on this Louisiana classic. It is, at best, loosely based on the traditional preparation in that it calls for sausage, seafood and rice. Instead of andouille sausage, this recipe calls for kielbasa and for the shrimp, Key West pinks make a delicious choice. The recipe itself is pretty straightforward and only takes about an hour to make which includes cooking time. As for a dry, white wine to use in the recipe, I like something with a French twist such as the Michel Redde Sancerre “Les Tuilieres” from the Loire or the Maison Joseph Drouhin Vaudon Chablis from Burgundy. In addition to imparting delicious flavor, both wine make excellent choices to enjoy paired with the finished product.

In addition to making a delicious accompaniment to your Mardi Gras festivities, Florida Jambalaya is also a delicious meal at any time of the year. I hope you enjoy it tonight as you and your guests laissez les bons temps rouler!




Florida Jambalaya
Serves 4

3 Tablespoons salted butter
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 lb. Polska Kielbasa or other smoked sausage cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 cup long grain white rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 medium potatoes peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
2 1/4 cups canned chicken broth
1 4 ounce jar of sliced pimientos with juices
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Cayenne pepper to taste
1/2 lb. uncooked shrimp, peeled & deveined
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Melt butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until just soft, 3-5 minutes (be careful not to let the garlic burn). Add the kielbasa and cook until it begins to brown, approximately 5 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat. Mix in potatoes, broth, wine , pimientos and turmeric. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. Bring to a boil and stir well. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover and cook until the rice and potatoes are tender and liquid is absorbed, approximately 25 minutes.
Mix in shrimp and cilantro. Cover and cook until shrimp are cooked, 5 minutes. Serve on a large platter and garnish with more chopped fresh cilantro.