My father, and his side of the family, grew up in Iota, LA, a town in Acadia parish, in what’s known as Acadiana, which is famous as the region of the United States that spawned the cajun people and their cuisine. I grew up on gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, boudin and the like so when Traeger posted a recipe for jambalaya I knew I had to try it because it fused two of my favorite things in this world together; cooking on my Traeger and eating cajun food.
There were problems, however, which require some backstory. The food I grew up eating and loving is cajun food. What most people associate as being cajun food could actually be more accurately classified as creole. What’s the different? Read here, where it’s already been explained perfectly, no need for me to expound upon it more. And, for the most part, any ‘cajun’ restaurant you encounter nationwide is actually more of a New Orleans-style Creole restaurant. (Which is totally understandable, in addition to it’s cuisine being known worldwide, New Orleans is a great cultural center, being a major port and tourist town, NOLA gets metric butt-tons of visitors yearly and after those visitors leave they want to re-visit their eating experience closer to home. Hence, NOLA style restaurants nationwide.) If the restaurant you eat in has anything with tomatoes (I once ate a jambalaya that tasted like marinara with rice) or, for example, blackened chicken alfredo (come on, that’s burnt Italian food) it’s safe to say that restaurant is probably Creole, not Cajun. Which is fine, both styles of cuisine are good, but when I want cajun food, I want cajun food. So I made some alterations to the Traeger recipe to fit what I’m used to. Stick to the Traeger recipe if you want, but here was my take on it.
For me, cooking dishes like this always starts with the large Weber drip pans. I’ve done chili, steak n gravy, candied nuts, etc in these pans as well. They are perfect. If you can’t find them near you any large, deep pan will work.
The Traeger recipe called for shrimp, but the jambalaya I grew up on was a smoked pork jambalaya, so I smoked up some thin pork chops and some chicken breast (from the Traeger recipe) while I prepared my vegetables.
Next thing I did was whip out my Poor Man’s Rice Cookbook. I remember this cookbook from when I was just a kid, and I’m sure my family had been cooking out of it before that. It contains a genuine cajun chicken jambalaya recipe which I wanted to Frankenstein with Traeger’s recipe into something more pleasing to my biased taste.
The recipes had some similiarities, mainly the Holy Trinity (bell pepper, onion, celery), rice, chicken… but the Poor Man’s recipe had some essentials that were missing from Traeger’s recipe. Namely garlic, green onions and thyme. I integrated these into my recipe.
So I set to work chopping my vegetables; onion, pepper, celery, garlic and green onions. For everything but the green onions I let the chopper do all the hard work. Green onions you’ve got to chop by hand.
Next I cut the sausage. Traeger’s recipe recommends Andouille, but I don’t really care for andouille. I prefer Coleman’s sausage. Coleman’s is a local Louisiana business that produces sausage, boudin and other specialty meats. It’s what my family has been using for decades and is actually located just a few doors down from my father’s childhood home. Their sausage is a smoked pork sausage and once you’ve had it andouille tastes like a hot dog.
After I sliced my sausage I pulled the chicken and pork off the grill and sliced it. I used one chicken breast and 3 pork chops. You can see how well the thin chops took in that sweet Traeger smoke.
Once all my meats and veggies were chopped I put them all in a mixing bowl with the chicken broth, thyme and seasoning. Traeger’s recipe calls for their Cajun Seasoning, but I grew up with Tony Chachere’s
on the table, so that’s what I used. You can find it in just about any grocery store in America.
I also used instant white rice instead of brown, simply for the reason that I had some already.
Once everything was mixed I sprayed 2 Weber pans with cooking spray and separated the mixture into 2 equal batches, as instructed in the Traeger recipe.
I then covered the pans with foil and put them in the Traeger, which I had preheated to 375. (the recipe says 400 but my Traeger goes from 375 to high, which reaches 450, so I set it to 375).
25 minutes later I had a tasty jambalaya comparable to what I grew up with.
It wasn’t exactly the same, but very close. What I grew up with is a little different, the taste of the vegetables is a little mellower as they get fried in oil. That’s another big difference, the recipe I grew up with utilizes bacon grease and/or vegetable oil, which creates a more savory dish. But this was still very good, and easier to make. Making traditional jambalaya is a little more time and labor intensive.
In hindsight, splitting the batch into 2 was unnecessary when using the Weber pans, it would have been fine as one batch, that’s the only change I will make next time.
Once again, while there are differences between Cajun and Creole cuisine, one in not better than the other. Find out what you prefer and cater to that.