Even in the most casual restaurants in Louisiana, you’ll rarely see Jambalaya on the menu. It’s the kind of dish that people cook at home or for large casual gatherings, like tailgating and festivals. There’s a festival for every sort of iconic food in Louisiana: Boudin, Crawfish, Gumbo, even Frog in the little town of Rayne, and yes, a Jambalaya Festival in Gonzales. It’s hearty and spicy and totally not the kind of thing that you’re going to see elegantly plated with paint-brushed sauces and olive sphere garnishes. So I really fretted about serving this at a dinner party I’d offered as a Rotary Club Auction contribution. I’d agreed to do this only because it was Richard’s parents who’d asked, Richard being one of the most supportive guys I’d encountered at my job as the cook of Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity. As it happens, Richard’s dad is also the prosecutor in some high profile cases, lately the one of a couple for child abuse homicide, but earlier the Barefoot Bandit and the Dog Whisperer, and yet he and his wife are the most unpretentious, gracious people I’ve ever met. And still, I worried they’d all find this to be not special enough. I suppose it helped that I started with Crabmeat Beignets, a recipe from La Petite Grocery in New Orleans, a divinely crispy, deep-fried beer-battered morsel of crabmeat and a warm crawfish dip over french bread, but when I pulled the Chicken and Andouille Jambalaya out of the oven and lifted the lid, it was beautiful in it’s own way, the kind of thing you just want to eat, looks aside. Everyone seemed happy and the dinner went on for ages after everyone had stopped actually eating. I’m often reminded of this, that most importantly, food is what brings people together and that if you forget that and focus too much on wowing and impressing, something is lost.
Crabmeat Beignets: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Blue-Crab-Beignets-51161220
Crawfish Dip: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/hot-crawfish-dip-50400000119139/
Chicken and Andouille Jambalaya: lots of recipes out there, but I used the one in my book HUNGRY, p. 229, cut in half (which easily served 12 people with leftovers).