Wine With. . . Jambalaya
by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas
There's a lot to be said for one-dish meals. They can be made ahead of time. They can feed a single pair of people or an entire party. And because they incorporate a multiplicity of ingredients, they tend to go well with a wide range of wines. Jambalaya is just such a dish.
A few days ago the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra teamed up with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, treating our city to a high-energy, rip roaring, crowd-pleasing performance--which we, unfortunately, missed as we were out of town that night. But a handful of our pals who did go to the show gathered together beforehand at our friend Georgia's house for a jambalaya feast to set the mood for the New Orleans style jazz fest they were about to experience. We got a consolation prize when Georgia showed up at our door the next day with leftover jambalaya and a request to come up with the best wine for the dish. It was a challenge we readily accepted.
What we discovered is that jambalaya can be surprisingly accommodating to many different styles of wine. Georgia's rendition of the traditional New Orleans dish was a Creole-styled tomato-based 'red jambalaya' rather than the Cajun 'brown jambalaya' (which is based on chicken or beef stock), and its diverse components included chicken, shrimp, ham and sausage (no alligator). One or another of these ingredients struck a flavor-chord with different wines: the richness of concentrated tomato with bright fruit flavors of an Aussie Shiraz, for example, and the piquancy of cayenne with the spiciness of Zinfandel and Rioja. The smoky/meatiness of sausage and ham intertwined tastily with similar elements in a variety of wines, while Rosé and certain Chardonnays provided a welcome refreshing note.
What didn't work? Wines that were too lightweight and/or too acidic or, conversely, too overbearing. Jambalaya needs a wine that's relatively big in flavor, but not necessarily in texture. It most definitely needs a wine with a gutsy finish. Let the good times roll!
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
3 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
½ pound lean smoked ham cut into bite-sized pieces
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pound andouille sausage cut into ½ inch pieces
½ pound medium shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes (or a combination)
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
¾ cup uncooked rice
1 ¾ cup chicken stock
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
Heat oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, bell pepper and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent. Add parsley, ham, chicken, bay leaf, and cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add tomatoes (with juice), tomato sauce, and chicken stock. Over low heat, simmer, uncovered, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in rice. Bring mixture to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, 45 minutes or until rice is tender and has absorbed most of the liquid.
Meanwhile, sauté pieces of andouille in a skillet pan until lightly browned on all sides. Remove from pan and place on paper towels to drain off excess oil. In the oil remaining in skillet, sauté shrimp for about a minute on each side.
Add shrimp and browned andouille to the rice mixture and cook 5 minutes more. Remove bay leaf. Season to taste with more red pepper and salt if desired. Serves 6.