The mere mention of jambalaya brings a big smile to my face. You see, St. Louis, Missouri has one of the largest Mardi Gras celebrations in the United States. It may seem odd, but St. Louis was actually founded by the French, and our neighborhood closest to the Mississippi river fully embraces these roots. Historic Soulard is lined with brick rowhouses, plenty of dive bars, and permeated by grit that dates back centuries to when it was inhabited mostly by blue collar river workers.
A MISGUIDED BUT DELICIOUS YOUTH
This was my first home in St. Louis, and the memories I made there in my early 20’s are some of my favorites. Most of the stories we laugh about and tell over and over again happened squarely in this time period and in this neighborhood. Man, we were young and crazy and in Soulard, anything goes.
My apartment was smack dab in the wildest area of the Mardi Gras celebration. The streets were shut down days in advance, and residents were given permits to park about a mile away prior to parade day. A few days prior, friends would drive over with coolers packed to the brim with the cheapest beer they could find. Mind you, this apartment was about 500 square feet and the coolers took up about half of it.
Then, the night before, a handful of my besties would park a mile away and walk in with their sleeping bags to settle in and stay the night. Of course, in all of the excitement we stayed up way too late and drank way too much so we felt like 100% ass just in time for the big day. EVERY. DAMN. TIME.
Our annual bloody Mary tradition always brought us back to life the next morning and then it was game on! Man we had some crazy escapades (from what I can remember…it’s all fuzzy.) But one thing I always managed to do was make a giant pot of Zatarain’s jambalaya with sliced sausage. And every year, it was the best meal any of us had ever had. I thank you oh-dear carbs for soaking up all of those hurricanes in my belly.
Now, we might not party like we did in our 20’s, but I like to think that we are still pretty damn fun. And now we actually have functioning kitchens and sometimes behave like grown adults. So, I still make my jambalaya, but it has been “spruced up” over the years. It’s one of my go to recipes for large, laid back gatherings. Next time you consider making a giant pot of chili maybe go with jamabalaya instead. You won’t regret it!
1 tablespoon olive oil, or as needed
38 ounces of sliced andouille sausage, smoked sausage and shrimp
1 large onion, chopped
2 green peppers chopped
5 cups water
2 (8 ounce) packages Zatarain’s jambalaya mix
2 (10 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with green chile peppers (Rotel) drained
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook and stir sausage until nice and browned. Remove with slotted spoon. If using shrimp, cook in same pot (add oil if needed) for about 2-3 minutes on each side. Be careful not to overcook or shrimp will become chewy! Remove shrimp with slotted spoon and set aside.
Add green pepper and onion to same pot in hot oil until the sausage and onion are browned, 7 to 10 minutes.
Pour water, jambalaya mix, and diced tomatoes with green chile peppers into the pot; bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer until the water is mostly absorbed and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
Add sausage and/or shrimp to the pot and continue to cook for 5 more minutes.
Serve and enjoy!