Holiday Shrimp and Crawfish Jambalaya Recipe

Yvonne Duivenvoorden/Getty Images
  • 100 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins,
  • Cook: 80 mins
  • Yield: 8-12 Servings

Jambalaya is a quintessential New Orleans dish that reflects the diversity of the city's cultural influences. The dish is a cousin of the Spanish rice dish paella, with which it shares many ingredients. The main difference is that a traditional paella includes saffron, which was mostly unavailable in the New World. Tomatoes, however, were readily available and were used to color and flavor the dish that ultimately became known as Creole-style Jambalaya.

The name, though, is most likely derived from a Provencal French word jambalaya, meaning a mishmash. Taken together, the combination of Spanish and French culinary input -- along with the skills of the local cooks and the bounty of wonderful local ingredients -- can all rightly be said to have creatively influenced this beloved New Orleans classic.

This version features tasty shrimp and succulent crawfish tails (available pre-cooked, shelled, and ready for use in the freezer section) and makes a whole lot of delicious jambalaya that can feed a crowd. It's perfect for holiday parties, special events, buffet suppers, etc. It's an easy dish to make and transport since it finishes in the oven in a large roasting pan (the disposable foil type is fine and saves cleanup.) It's specially seasoned with a touch of smoked paprika to give it a hint of the 'cooked over an open fire' flavor of traditional Spanish paella. If smoked paprika is unavailable, just use additional sweet paprika.

Jambalaya is a dish that welcomes creativity. You can add what you like and/or what you have on hand to produce your own unique version. Chicken, shrimp, and sausage are standards, but you can also use duck, bacon, turkey and other meats, shellfish such as clams and oysters, and yes, even alligator (though shrimp and shellfish are easier to catch!)

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What You'll Need

  • 3 tablespoon vegetable oil or bacon fat
  • 8 ounces andouille sausage (or another spicy sausage), cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/2 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 can (28-ounces) petite diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (10-ounces) tomatoes with green chiles ('Rotel'-type ), undrained
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (or additional sweet paprika; see Cook's Notes)
  • 3 cups converted rice ('Uncle Ben's'-type)
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 pounds Extra Large uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 12-ounces cooked crawfish tails (see Cook's Notes)
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped scallion tops (optional)

How to Make It

  1. In a very large skillet or pot, lightly brown the sausage in the oil over Medium heat.
  2. Add the onion, celery, green pepper, garlic, thyme, basil, and black pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in both cans of tomatoes (with their juice), the chicken stock, water, and both paprikas. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Stir in the rice and transfer the contents of the pot to a large roasting pan lightly coated with cooking spray (a disposable foil roasting pan is fine; be sure to support the underside with a baking sheet when lifting.) Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
  1. Saute the shrimp in the butter until the shrimp are just barely opaque. Stir in the crawfish tails (and any fat) and saute until the tails are just heated through.
  2. Stir the shrimp, crawfish tails, and parsley into the jambalaya. Taste and add salt if needed (celery salt is a good choice.) Re-cover with foil and return the pan to the oven for an additional 7-10 minutes if serving immediately. If the jambalaya will be reheated and served at a later time, skip this step.
  3. Sprinkle with the scallion tops, if desired, and serve.

Cook's Notes:

  • Spanish smoked paprika, known as Pimenton de La Vera can be found in specialty food shops or it can be ordered online. It comes in three types: Sweet, Bittersweet, and Hot. 'Bittersweet' isn't actually bitter; it's a blend of Sweet and Hot. Generally speaking, use the Sweet style for seafood dishes. If you can't obtain smoked paprika, use additional regular paprika instead
  • Ready to use (i.e., pre-cooked and peeled) crawfish tails can be found in the frozen seafood section of many supermarkets, including Wal-mart or can be ordered online. Genuine Louisiana crawfish are preferable if available, but the imported type are the same species, Procambarus clarkii most often farmed in the US.