Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen – Pasta Jambalaya
Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen
Downtown Disney District
1590 South Disneyland Drive · Anaheim, CA 92802
One of the definitive staples of New Orleans cuisine, Jambalaya is a classic rice and meat dish that perfectly exemplifies the colonial European influence on the Big Easy. The dish takes elements from both Spanish and French cuisines (the initial colonists) and adapts them to the local ingredients available – a core characteristic of Creole cuisine. Jambalaya is essentially the Creole version of Spanish paella, incorporating French andouille sausage along with seafood from the Gulf Coast bordering Louisiana.
Traditional red jambalaya is cooked like paella, with chicken, andouille, rice, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and seasonings. Jazz Kitchen’s version adheres to this list of ingredients, with the exception of replacing spinach fettuccine with rice. As recommended by our server, substituting white rice or even dirty rice for the pasta is entirely feasible and yields a more authentic, original Jambalaya experience.
Jazz Kitchen’s jambalaya includes Gulf shrimp, andouille sausage, roasted chicken, and a Creole seasoning blend. The holy trinity basis of bell peppers, onions, and garlic along with a profusion of ripe tomatoes produces incredibly appetizing dish that dances with flavor. With a variety of vegetables mixed in with the rice, there is a good balance to go together with the trio of meats. A simple, fresh green onion garnish jazzes up the bowl, brightening up the presentation of the dish with complementary green and red colors.
The heavy use of tomatoes, characteristic of Creole cooking (as opposed to a Cajun jambalaya, which is more likely to use a dark roux), results in a dominantly vibrant red color that is as appetizing as appealing. The thick liquid remaining at the bottom of the bowl serves as a key binder in the dish. The starch slowly absorbs the rich, hearty tomato sauce brightening up the grains with the tomato lycopene. A first timer may find this red jambalaya akin to eating either rice or pasta with spaghetti tomato sauce. It is a fairly accurate comparison, considering that the tomato practically dictates the flavors of the dish.
The meat surf and turf protein combination gives a unique assortment of textures and flavor profiles in the dish. The tender, light, succulent shrimp are the standout stars of the plate. Bursting with juiciness, the prized prawns easily absorb a lot of the sauce, seasonings and flavorings resulting in tasty bites of seafood. Diced chicken is quite flavorful and tender. The poultry pairs nicely with both the shrimp and rice. Smoked andouille sausage is rather ho-hum standard fare, arguably the least impressive of all the proteins in the dish. Its smokiness is more important to the jambalaya than its flavor, though its substantial salty and peppery nature is noticeable.
Rice is the ideal starch to go along with jambalaya, with each grain beautifully adopting the aromas and tastes of the sauce. For the pasta jambalaya, the tomato sauce adheres to the al dente fettucine quite well, but the pale green hue of the spinach is off-putting and the dish on this visit is simply too oily.
All in all, your taste buds will be jamming with this hearty jambalaya. Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen successfully executes this classic New Orleans meal to perfection. The mix of delicate, juicy crustacean, tender, meaty poultry, and smoky, spicy pork sausage together with all the vegetables and seasonings creates a Mardi Gras in your mouth. Flavors are spot-on and refined. The rice version holds true to the classic jambalaya dish; forgo the inventive pasta adaptation for the traditional one. For a lunch entrée, 18 dollars is in line with the moderate prices at Downtown Disney. Jazz up your life with a taste of New Orleans jambalaya at the Jazz Kitchen!