The gold had better be worth it for the trip into this thrice-damned swamp. It had seemed to you like a simple job when that man approached the party in their customary tavern: head over the western mountains, travel to the river port in the marshlands beyond, and return with the arcane component for the sorceress back home. Of course you had expected predators and you were well-prepared for the crocodiles that flipped your canoe yesterday morning. They were dealt with quickly but it’s the whining, buzzing, biting, hellish flies that are really taking their toll. The wizard thinks they might be daemon-spawn; the paladin is muttering to himself like a madman.
Suddenly ahead there is a light through the trees. Unless your map is totally wrong this is not your destination but it looks inviting all the same. A cheery light shines from the windows and a spicy, savory smell wafts out, drawing in the worn travelers like a spell…
Jambalaya is a fine example of the “embrace the chaos” approach of the cook. This traditional Cajun recipe that comes somewhere between a soup and a casserole is delicious, flexible, and relatively difficult to mess up. In Louisiana (or a swampy province in a D&D setting of your choice) jambalaya is a social event that often involves little more than pouring a bunch of ingredients into a pot and enjoying some beers together while it all stews together. The recipe presented here is more structured than this but it is still a recipe that cooks can freely adapt, as discussed at the end.
1/2 Tb butter
1/2 Tb flour
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 capsicum peppers, chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
1/2 cup okra, chopped (frozen okra is alright)
1 1/2 cups uncooked rice
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 lb sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large can (28 oz) crushed tomato
1/4 cup chopped parsley
3-4 bay leaves
1 tsp cayenne pepper
First add the butter to a pot on medium-high heat until melted, then add flour and stir together until it is a tan-brown paste. This is traditionally called a roux (“roo”) and should come together relatively quickly so keep an eye on it. Next add the onion, garlic, okra, and capsicum peppers to the roux and stir it together so that the vegetables are coated and cook until onions are translucent. Add sausage and stir while covered until sausage is fairly cooked through (if your sausage is pre-cooked, stir until it is somewhat browned). Add remaining ingredients, turn temperature down to medium, cover pot and let cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. This is a great time for a quick game of Magic or Three-Dragon Ante.
After this time, the jambalaya should be ready to eat. Throughout most of the cooking period, the mixture will look like a soup with lots of liquid and ingredients floating about. The rice is cooking, though, and sucking up all the spices so it will eventually turn into a mostly-solid mixture of cooked rice with all the other parts embedded in it. If your jambalaya is still looking pretty soupy with less than ten or five minutes to go you can uncover the mixture and let the water evaporate more easily. Make sure the mixture doesn’t start to burn when the water leaves, though.
A jambalaya recipe is more of a guideline than rules. If you don’t have or like okra, substitute any similar vegetables such as peas, scallions, or asparagus. Adding different sorts of meat can also work and chicken, beef, or seafood (particularly shrimp) jambalayas are all very common in Cajun kitchens. In Athas, crodlu is sometimes used but inix is a bit too tough. Most of the time this involves no more change to the recipe than crossing out the ingredient to be dropped and penciling in the ingredient to be added. If you choose, you can also just add in ingredients to build it up (a shrimp-chicken jambalaya with okra, asparagus, capsicum, and scallions) in which case you may want to increase the rice to accommodate, increasing the broth in equal measure to keep up the liquid side of things.
This recipe can be spicy for some and can be made even spicier by adding more cayenne and other favorite spices. Consider making it a party affair by serving it with some cornbread and, if you have a mixologist friend, some cooling drinks so that people aren’t too wiped out after dinner to take their shift watching for orcs.