There are three main influences on Louisiana cuisine: French, Spanish, and African. Jambalaya seems to have a bit of all three. Some say that the word jambalaya comes from the French for ham, jambon, combined with an African word for rice, yaya. Whether or not that is indeed true, the dish is of Creole, i.e. Louisiana Spanish, origin and is a variation on the traditional Spanish paella. A Creole, or red, jambalaya always contains tomatoes while the similar Cajun, or French, jambalaya does not. As with paella, the only essential ingredient, besides the tomato in red jambalaya, is the rice. There is one more difference between jambalaya and paella: while paella is made with short grain rice, jambalaya uses the long grain rice commonly grown in Louisiana.
½ pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ pound smoked sausage, preferably Andouille or chourico, cut into ¼-inch slices
½ cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped celery
¼ cup chopped bell pepper
1Tbsp. chopped garlic, or to taste
2 small hot red peppers or to taste (I used Tobago Seasoning Peppers instead of the traditional cayenne)
2 bay leaves
½ tsp. dried thyme
1 cup rice
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, preferably salt-free
2 cups chicken stock or water, see method
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat and cook the onion, celery, and bell pepper until soft and light golden, about 5 or 6 minutes. Add the sausage and render until browned, another 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and hot peppers then the shrimp. Cook until shrimp turn pink. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly for 2 two minutes. Drain the tomatoes into a measuring cup and make up with stock to 2 cups. Pour over the rice mixture and stir to combine. Add the bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil then turn the heat to very low, cover tightly, and cook for 25 to 30 minutes.