It’s no secret that Cajun cooks love their black iron skillets, Magnalite dutch ovens, and propane crawfish cookers. Those are standard-issued items in any Acadiana family’s arsenal of kitchen equipment. But, there’s one more that is essential: the electric rice cooker.
In rural Cajun kitchens, most every Cajun recipe has rice as a centerpiece of the dinner table, and this portable appliance has become indispensable. Even today, when a young Cajun girl plans her wedding, an electric rice cooker is at the top of the gift registry list. It’s not unusual to see two rice cookers steaming away during a Sunday dinner. But this wasn’t always the case, and it took the foresight of an industrious Cajun in Ville Platte, Louisiana to introduce the rice cooker to Acadiana.
According to my friend Ross Lafleur, who heads up Cajun foods company Kary’s Roux, rice cookers became all the rage in the early 1960s because of the efforts of one man, legendary music pioneer Floyd Soileau. Realizing the enormous consumption of rice in Cajun homes, he introduced the Hitachi rice cooker for sale in his Floyd’s Record Shop in Ville Platte. It soon caught on, and every Cajun cook made the trek to his store to buy one of the newfangled cookers. In fact, tens of thousands were sold, so many that the president of Hitachi Corporation flew from Tokyo, Japan to the tiny town of Ville Platte just to find out why more if his products were being sold there than any other single location in the world.
It didn’t take long for cooks to embrace this new appliance and begin creating one-pot Cajun recipes to cook in their rice cookers. Many of those recipes have stood the test of time and have become family treasures. One of them—Black-Eyed Pea Jambalaya—is a handwritten recipe I recently discovered tucked away in the fold of an old cookbook. Like many Cajun family cooks, my mother-in-law Rosalie Fontenot Waldrop has collected Cajun recipes all her life, and this one for Black-Eyed Pea Jambalaya, with its torn edges and ink-smudged words, brings special memories to her.
Intrigued by this old-school Cajun recipe for Black-Eyed Pea Jambalaya, it spurred me to pull out my rice cooker to see just how easy this dish could be. I was pleasantly surprised at not only the convenience of the cooking method but the ease of the prep. And it turned out to be a well-balanced dish—flavorful and hearty, with just enough spice to tickle my Cajun taste buds.
With a few changes, I’ve remained true to the simplicity of this homespun Cajun recipe, and I urge you to fire up your rice cooker and give Black-Eyed Pea Jambalaya a try as either a main dish or a side dish for your next family gathering.
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1½ pounds raw Cajun green onion pork sausage (casings removed) or any raw pork sausage
- 2 (15.5-ounce) cans Trappey’s jalapeño black eye peas (flavored with slab bacon) or any brand of canned black eye peas
- 1 (10-ounce) can mild diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained, such as Ro-Tel
- 1 teaspoon Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2½ cups raw long-grain white rice, such as Supreme
- ½ cup chopped green onion tops, for garnish
- Hot sauce, if needed
- In the container of an electric rice cooker, add all the ingredients except the green onions and hot sauce, which will be used to garnish and season the finished dish. Stir to combine all the ingredients and be sure the rice and sausage are distributed throughout. Set the timer following the rice cooker instructions, and let cook. When the timer signals that the rice is ready, do not open the lid. Let the cooker continue to steam on warm for another 30 minutes to bring all the flavors of the dish together.
- Open the lid and gently stir the jambalaya. Serve in bowls and garnish with a sprinkle of chopped green onion tops. Serve hot sauce on the side.
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