Rice Dressing vs. Jambalaya

I can’t claim that there is controversy over the superiority of one over the other.  I cannot speak for all of Acadiana, but perhaps my take of the aforenamed match up may be similar to most. I purport that most people regard Jambalaya as the more exalted dish in a deeply respected but lowly caste of Louisiana rice dishes.  Paella, the ancestor of both dishes, cannot honestly be considered a louisiana dish. Paella, the provencal/spanish seafood heavy, saffron infused, rice dish is cooked in a very similar fashion to Jambalaya, the main difference being a more shallow pan for paella versus the deep concave jambalaya. Pot.  

The similarities of Jambalaya to paella are obvious.  They both start with cooking vegetables and meat or seafood first in a pan or pot, then adding rice and liquid, allowing the dish to beautifully transform with a little hopeful anticipation.  Both require either an experienced chef or a meticulous recipe follower to get it right.   Rice dressing may draw less reverence because it is truly much easier to cook, the savory equivalent to a dump cake with pie filling.  

Allow me to suspend with prose and list out some key differences

Jambalaya Rice Dressing
roux rarely yes
Meat  Chunks of sausage/chicken/seafood Ground beef/pork
Rice introduction Raw rice added and cooked with meats and vegetables Cooked rice added to meat and vegetable mix
Course Often main, sometimes side Almost always side dish
Skill level difficult easy
Tomato inclusion Acadiana:NO

New Orleans: yes

Basically never
Name interesting boring
Liver  no usually


Jambalaya is in a class of cajun dishes that enjoys wide ranging recognition and strong opinions about its best method of preparation.  Gonzales Louisiana has a festival in honor of this dish, rice dressing does not.  Jambalaya will be prepared by someone in possession of a huge pot and be used to feed hundreds of people for tailgates and scouting fundraisers.  Rice dressing does not usually command the same enthusiasm.  Is this fair?  I think not.  In my restaurant, I make more rice dressing than I make jambalaya.  I serve it often with my barbecue. I am becoming a huge fan of this rice genre because It takes in all my best ingredients and its preparation embodies all that is critical to development of flavor.  I use the trinity of bellpeppers, onions, and celery and ground beef for my rice dressing.  I also use ground pork, ground sausage, ground bacon and roux.  As with any dish, browning all of these ingredients is essential for good results.  Once all of these ingredients are browned well and some liquid is added, I dump in the rice and mix it up.  I am not stingy with the meat.  A rice dressing lacking in non rice ingredients gives the dish a bad name and can only be understood, but not excused,  as a price cutting measure for a fundraiser.  

I hope the consideration of this question stimulates critical thought about what you like about each dish.  Sometimes the task of picking a winner forces one to consider all of the beautiful things about each contestant.  I hope it is hard for you to decide which you like best, this would mean you are acquainted with both of these Cajun treasures and that is a dressing, I mean blessing.

AFTERTHOUGHTS:  Some people use the term “dirty rice” instead of rice dressing.  This is not to say that all agree on the interchangeability of the terms.  Some claim that that dirty rice is distinct from rice dressing and I am in this camp.  In order to keep this a head to head match up, I’ll leave this quasi contender out of the fight….for today!