Jambalaya taco? When’s the last time you heard of a jambalaya taco? My guess is not…anytime recently. My guess is that you’ve heard of a cajun shrimp taco? But that’s not what this is. In this recipe, I have taken two of my favorite dishes and meshed them together into what could be a fun appetizer or afternoon snack! This jambalaya taco recipe is a fusion of savory and crunchy in a completely different way!
Jambalaya is a popular Cajun dish in Louisiana consisting of meats, veggies and rice. Jambalaya is indigenous to New Orleans and blends influences from many of the most beautiful places in the world. Those influences are derivatives of the indigenous people of America (or, Native Americans), Africans, the Spanish and the French.
I personally, have never come across a plate of jambalaya that has tasted as good as it does in New Orleans. It’s by far one of the most amazingly flavored, savory dishes that is sure to satisfy even the pickiest of palates.
Jambalaya has often been compared to paella, likely due to its Spanish influences. Like Paella, Jambalaya consists of seafood and rice, with complimentary flavors. Paella is unique in that it is traditionally is made with duck, saffron and an amazingly flavorful stock. Paella is also not spicy and it has a thin bed of rice with a slightly crispy bottom. The rice in paella is cooked with such perfection and precision, if you ruin your rice – you ruin your paella.
Jambalaya is ..well Jambalaya! Jambalaya is a dish of spices that are rich in flavor and a special heat felt from the andouille sausage and Cajun seasonings. It’s loaded with delicious vegetables like okra and the holy trinity, shrimp, crab and even crawfish. And just like paella, Jambalaya also has one ingredient you cannot mess up. The roux. You ruin your roux, you ruin your jambalaya. Go back to start, do not pass go.
Of course, you can cheat and buy your roux pre-made, but the flavor won’t be the same. I can guarantee it. The catch to that is, the ingredients are so amazing, that small detail won’t really even matter.
I learned to make roux around 10 or 11 years old. I’ve grown so accustomed to making roux, that cooking jambalaya does not feel like such a daunting task. However, if you’re not comfortable browning equal parts fat and flour using high heat – I would suggest opting for this recipe when you have time. When there’s no pressure to cook well and it’s just fun!
Anyhoo – this recipe came out of a desire for tacos. But not just any tacos, I wanted shrimp tacos and I wanted them to taste like jambalaya. I wanted the thick roux over rice. I really wanted to flavor my rice, but feared it may take away from the jambalaya.
All hail, the jambalaya taco. And no, no not in a soft shell. Thinking back to an experience I had in Amsterdam, I figured the best way to enjoy this taco was in a thin, flaky and super crunchy shell. Wonton wrappers. I cooked the jambalaya, boiled the rice and rolled out wonton wrappers into larger, thin pieces to make taco shells. I threw the three together and made one of the best, most enjoyable jambalaya tacos… ever. Ridiculous!
The good news is, once you make your roux, it’s all easy-peasy from there. Making roux takes patience. You have to balance when you’re cooking too quickly and need to remove from the heat, when to whisk faster – when you can slow down and allow it to brown.
If you have a cast iron skillet, you must use it to make your roux. If you don’t own one, using a nonstick skillet will help you achieve your goals without easily burning the roux.
When mixing a roux, you can exceed 20 minutes of nonstop whisking. Much less than when making a gumbo. You will be mixing equal parts fat and flour. Depending on how your stove distributes heat, your roux may brown quicker on the outsides (edges of the skillet) – it helps to be mindful of that when cooking.
I like to keep two burners available to me at all times. One above the other. There are times when my roux appears to be cooking quickly. To keep from burning, I will quickly slide the cast iron off the first burner onto the second burner with no heat source. This will allow me to whisk the roux at once without burning or losing heat. (Cast irons don’t lose heat quickly).
In an effort to explain the pace and consistency of stirring my roux. I would compare it to the time it takes you to naturally (and completely)say “1 – chicken, 2 – chicken” with each number beginning at the time you complete one full whisk. Fast, but not toofast.
When the roux begins to bubble – stir faster. When you notice solidified flour sitting in the corners of your cast iron or nonstick skillet, remove from heat and carefully whisk all flour together. Once you are confident you have fully integrated any flour settling – return to heat.
If you are cooking with seafood, peel the shells from your shellfish prior to cooking and throw them in a pot with seasonings, water, onions, the butt of the celery, green peppers and onions to make the stock you will use in your jambalaya.
When making your tacos, it all happens really fast. First you see bubbles, then the shell turns white and its like – whoa. You pull them out too fast, you’ve got a raw taco shell that has no crunch, is oily and ..gross. Pull them out too late, you get a burnt crunchy taco shell that falls apart too fast. My suggestion is, drop the taco shell in the oil, let it bubble for a second until the shell turns white. When the peanut oil turns the shell white in color, start shaping your taco shell by focusing the wooden spatula towards the center of the shell rotating it on both sides of the taco shell cook evenly. Once you no longer have to hold the bottom of the shell to keep its shape — its ready to be removed from the oil.
Cook your rice before hand — rice can easily be reheated. No one likes to wait for rice to finish cooking to start eating 🙂 — in my experience at least
2 large crab legs / 2 clusters of regular crab legs
3 Cups of seafood stock
Andouille Sausage, cut into slices
1 cup Onion, chopped
1 cup Celery, chopped
1 cup Green Pepper, chopped
1 cup Okra, cut into 1" slices
2 tablespoons Garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon of paprika
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
salt to taste
-- For the stock
Shell of all shellfish
Scraps from chopped celery, onions and bell peppers
3 ½ cups of water
1 teaspoon of salt
-For the tacos
1 pack of wonton wrappers
-- Serve with rice. 🙂
1. Place all items for stock in a medium saucepan and heat on medium-low heat, covered.
2. In a cast iron skillet, or nonstick pan, add 1 teaspoon of olive oil on medium heat. Once hot, add in your sliced andouille sausage and cook until beautiful sear marks are on both sides of the sausage. Once complete, remove from heat.
3. In the same skillet, add onions, celery and green peppers. Cooking only until translucent / slightly tender, remove from heat and set aside.
4. Begin cooking your roux by combining ½ cup of flour and ½ cup of butter, shortening or bacon fat. slowly mixing together until it has become a rich, brown roux. For more details on how to make your roux, review the notes provided. Once complete, remove from heat and strain your seafood stock using a strainer.
5. Bring your roux back to heat, on medium and slowly whisk in your stock. Careful not to add stock in all at once, slowly add your stock in it will be easier to integrate into the roux. Once completely integrated, begin to add in your seasonings. 2 tablespoons of minced garlic, 2 tablespoons of cajun seasoning, 1 teaspoon of paprika and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder. Stir in for about two to three minutes to allow the heat to integrate the flavors.
6. Once the seasonings have been stirred in, begin adding your remaining ingredients starting with the holy trinity (onions, peppers and celery) and andouille sausage. Allow to simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend together in harmony.
7. Reducing your heat to medium-low, add in crab meat by loosely chopping or shredding into the mixture. Shredding into the mixture gives you chunks of crab meat, rather than allowing the pieces to get lost into the dish. Last, mix in shrimp and allowing the heat to cook the shrimp slowly without overcooking them.
-- FOR THE TACO SHELLS
1. Lightly sprinkle flour between the dough of the wonton wrappers. Taking three to four at a time, take a rolling pin and slowly roll out the dough until thin Working from the center, outwards. Once they have been rolled thin, separate them.
2. Heat peanut oil in a sauce pan on medium heat. When hot, start making your taco shells.
3. Drop the wonton dough in the hot oil flat and allow to bubble up until the dough turns white. When it turns white, take a tool (wooden spoon or spatula) and create the shape of your taco, allowing the oil to fry the dough into its shape.