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LSU-Alabama: Jambalaya We Can All Agree On

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This jambalaya is perfect for a crowd during football tailgates (or anytime).

I recently wrote about college football tailgating in One Giant Party, October 2018. Not being super sporty, I had to do a little extra research on the subject, and when I did, I learned a few things: 1) tradition is real; 2) chandeliers in tailgate tents are not out of the question; and 3) LSU was ranked both first and second in the country as “best football atmosphere.”

Let me repeat – and clarify – that last point: the host of ESPN’s morning show “Get UP” ranked LSU as the second-best college football atmosphere, then went on to say, “The only thing that beats LSU during the day is…LSU at night.”

So there you have it. There apparently is no rival to LSU when it comes to the Great American Tailgate Party. Which makes my trip to Baton Rouge this coming weekend both very exciting and…very scary.

LSU, ranked number three, will host Alabama, ranked number one, this Saturday night in a game that sportscasters have called “colossal.” LSU is directing fans: “Plan to enter Tiger Stadium at least an hour early…the school is expecting one of the largest crowds ever on campus.” ESPN’s College GameDay will be broadcast from The Quad on campus. The game is completely sold out.

I’m not sure if I’ve willingly put myself in a crowd like this since Mardi Gras in my New Orleans days. I was much younger then.

Whatever happens at the game (and however claustrophobic some of us might feel), there’s bound to be some really good jambalaya at that biggest-of-the-big and best-of-the-best tailgate. Because after coaches and touchdowns and final scores, this is something we can all enjoy.

Jambalaya We Can All Agree On


1 tablespoon butter
2/3 cup chopped tasso or other smoked ham
1 ½ cups chopped andouille sausage
½ pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 ½ cups chopped onion
¾ cup chopped celery
¾ cup chopped bell pepper
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne (more or less depending on how hot you like it)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon black pepper
¾ teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups white rice
1 14 ½-ounce can crushed tomatoes
3  cups chicken stock
1 ½ pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ cup chopped green onions, plus more for garnish

Recipe directions: 

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large, heavy saucepan. Add the tasso and andouille, stirring with a wooden spoon, until both are just crisped around the edges, about 5 minutes. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add it to the mix and cook until it browns a bit, about 5 – 7 minutes. Add the onions, celery and bell peppers. Sauté until the vegetables are tender but not soft, about 5 – 7 minutes. Stir occasionally to scrape the bottom of the pan.

Add the bay leaves, salt, cayenne, paprika, oregano, black pepper, thyme and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock. Stir, scraping the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Fold in the shrimp and green onions, then cover the pot again and remove it from the heat. Let the jambalaya stand for about 15 minutes, covered, until the shrimp is pink and the rice has absorbed the stock and is cooked but still firm. Remove the bay leaves. Serve in bowls, garnished with a sprinkle of chopped green onions.

Jambalaya tastes the best and is the most fun to make while listening to The Neville Brothers or Dr. John or the Radiators, whether there’s a football game or not.

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