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Termite’s Tugboat Jambalaya

As they used to say in the “old” days, there’s not been much to write home about, unless we talk about the horrible weather or the scouting trip I made with my friend, D.R., this past Monday on a slightly warmer day.  We headed south and encountered fog thick as pea soup, and that is no exaggeration. There was zero visibility, and if I had been alone, I would have turned back and gone home. But D.R. The Fearless forged ahead armed with his trusty Garmin GPS. WARNING: GPS not to be used for navigation. My only consolation, and the only thought that kept me from begging him to pull over and wait it out, was that no one else would be as crazy as us and be out trying to fish in these less-than-ideal conditions.

We covered a lot of marsh looking for a speckled trout or red drum that were willing to brave the cooler water temps and come out for a snack of swim bait or gold spoon.  We did lots of boat riding, found lots of shallow water caused by the prior days of hard north winds, which blew the water south. Often the depth finder showed 0.0 water beneath the boat, mud spewing out behind the engine as we idled along.  We got stuck a couple of times and had to use the push pole, but nothing as bad as the adventure he and I had a few years back on a cold December day, thank goodness.

Our tenacity paid off just as the fog burned off, and we found a dead-end canal full of old cypress stumps and logs on which the trolling motor got hung up multiple times. Fortunately, the reds woke up when the water temps reached about 55 degrees. They had been hunkered down in the mud for days waiting out the cold, so I guess they were pretty hungry.  In a matter of about a couple hours, we caught two limits of red fish and two speckled trout.  Not too shabby.

January RedfishThe other news on the bayou is that Termite has returned home. Not that I’ve kept you up on all our personal stuff, but he opted not to go to college and left home to spread his wings of independence a little prematurely. Well, everyone deserves a second chance, and I allowed my older three to each come back home once after they had left the nest, so now he’s cashing in his come-back-home-chip. 

I guess it comes as no surprise that Termite is following in his father’s and older brothers’ footsteps working as a deckhand on a tugboat–for the same company as his oldest brother, who has been a tugboat “tankerman” for ten years now, since he was 19. His next oldest brother, at 27, is now a full-fledged, licensed tugboat captain. And of course, The Captain was a captain of offshore supply boats his entire adult career.  Oh, and wait, I’m a captain, too.  Yep, I guess it’s in their blood.

Termite is very proud that he is already working his way up and at the halfway point of becoming a tankerman.  He’ll be 19 in March, so if he performs the required number of barge loads and discharges before then, he will be neck and neck with his oldest brother.  He informed me a few weeks ago that he is “headed for the wheelhouse”, which means he aims to be a tugboat captain by the time he is 24, and then he will be following in son number two’s footsteps. It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway–I’m very proud of them all.

It’s no secret that lots of men in south Louisiana know how to cook.  A friend not familiar with the culture asked me why there were so many men down here that cook, and cook well.  It really is the boat culture.  Often oil industry captains start out as commercial fishermen. As commercial fishermen, they must learn to cook because they are sometimes gone for weeks at a time.  Even smaller skiffs can stay out on the water for several days, necessitating that they learn to cook.

Tugboat crews are no different.  Working schedules from one to four weeks at at a time on their vessels requires that at least one person in the crew knows how to do more than make sandwiches. My two oldest sons often text me asking how to cook something, or they refer to the recipes here on the blog. They have spoiled the other crew members with their culinary skills, and again, I am very proud of them. 

Termite is also following in their footsteps in this regard.  As a younger teen, he spent a lot of time watching Food Network and helping me in the kitchen.  He had aspirations of becoming a chef until one of my tour customers who is in the business discouraged him by saying that very few ever make it as top chefs in famous restaurants and that he would probably never make enough money to live on. He slowly gave up the idea but continues to develop his culinary gifts.

Everybody seems to love food posts, and nothing else brings us altogether like food.  Heck, even reader Foamheart proudly admits that he spends his time smoking meats, making marmalade, and concocting new cordial and liqueur recipes. Termite was only home two days when he offered to prepare a version of jambalaya he learned from his captain.  

 Termite Cooking JambalayaTermite invited me into the kitchen to watch him make his jambalaya. Of course, there were no measurements, so the attached recipe is my closest guesstimate of amounts he used in this delicious dish.  And yes, it was very, very good.

tugboat-jambalaya (9)Not to be confused with a jambalaya with a “red” base, this recipe is what we call a “brown jambalaya” and contains no tomato sauce or Ro-tel tomatoes. You could probably use any combination of the listed meats and seafood or delete any you don’t care for. But I have to admit, it was really very well balanced in flavor, color, and texture.  Here’s the recipe, and I hope if you try it, you will let us know how you liked it and whether the measurements were accurate.

Termite's Tugboat Jambalaya

Print Recipe
A one-pot meal with a rice base and meats.
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time50 minutes
Total Time1 hour 20 minutes
Course: Main Course
Servings: 8
Author: Seth "Termite" Billiot


  • 1 Lb Bacon
  • 1 Lb smoked or Andouille sausage cut into rounds, half-rounds or quarters
  • 1 Lb small shrimp peeled
  • 4 pieces Chicken breasts cut into bite-sized
  • 4 Cups rice
  • 3 Medium onions chopped fine
  • Water amount varies
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Kitchen Bouquet
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 3 tsp Tony Chachere's Cajun Seasoning
  • 1 tsp salt if needed
  • 1 t quarter cap liquid crab boil optional if you don't have it
  • 1 Tbsp bunch fresh parsley chopped fine, or 1 dried parsley


  • Preheat oven to 350
  • In large cast iron or Magnalite dutch oven with lid
  • Fry bacon crispy and set aside on paper towel
  • Into bacon drippings pour 1/2 cup water and deglaze the pot
  • Add onions and saute` until clear
  • Add sausage and lightly brown
  • Add chicken and shrimp and simmer about 5 minutes
  • Add a little water if all the water has cooked out at this point
  • Fold paper towel over bacon, crumble bacon and add to pot
  • Add all of the above seasonings, cover and simmer together about 10 minutes, stirring often
  • Add 4 cups of rice and 6 cups of water if you have some liquid already in the pot or 7 cups if you don't.
  • Stir thoroughly, taste the water for seasoning level. If too bland, add more seasonings to taste. You want the water a little over-seasoned for final flavor
  • Bring to a boil and stir one last time
  • Cover and put into 350 degree oven
  • Bake covered for 30 minutes and DO NOT OPEN lid during the baking time.
  • Check at end of baking time for water absorption. If too wet, bake another 5 minutes
  • Remove from oven, set on top of stove, crack the lid and let sit for 5-10 minutes for final absorption.
  • Gently stir with large spoon, mixing rice with meats before serving
  • Serve with salad and French bread


This recipe is being added to our family repertoire of bayou recipes as a definite keeper! It is very filling and great on a cold day.

I share this recipe with Termite’s permission, and when I asked if I could use this in a blog post, I’m pretty sure I saw a little smile of pride on his face!  Oh, and he insisted on taking the photo of his dish that is posted on the recipe card.

To drier days ahead,



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  1. Good for Termite! I am so happy he has found a calling that fits in with the legacy his parents have set before him. His older brothers have paved a path for him and I’m glad he is following it. I know how proud you are of all of the “kids” and rightly so! I will have to try this out, I am sure Bryce will love it.

      1. Mrs. Coach cooked up a big pot of this last week and posted photos on Facebook. Hers looked fantastic! Anybody else cook this yet with great success?

  2. WooT! All that hard work and the women are all lining up for Termite.

    I didn’t know or remember if I did, that he was Seth.

    Good looking meal.

    1. Well, I don’t know about all the women lining up, but he does have a serious girlfriend! No, I never used his real name before because he was a minor, but now that he’s 18, I decided it was okay to use his real name. He goes by his name . . . as I doubt he has told anyone of the nickname he earned for being such a, how shall I put this, such a tenacious child!

  3. Glad he’s happy with his career choice and he can also observe and learn more about cooking at the same time. EVERYONE should learn how to cook! I had a brother that was a cook offshore and another brother who said he wouldn’t get married till he could find someone who could cook and clean as well as he did.
    BTW, what name does he use on the boat? Seth or Termite?

    1. Steffi, it’s not so much a career choice, as his older brothers told him he needed to get with the program and do something to pull his weight, and the money is pretty good for a kid starting out. At least he has stuck with this so far and has his sights set on a goal. That is a good thing! He goes by his given name, and as I said to Foamheart, I’m sure he hasn’t revealed his well-deserved nickname of Termite!

  4. I was sold on the recipe as soon as I saw the first ingredient!! BACON!!! If it has bacon, it is good. 🙂 And I believe every family member should know how to cook. I taught my kids the best I could and my son is a great cook and so is his daughter. My daughter sort of winged it and married a great guy who not only cooks but also cans and makes the best fudge around. She finally learned to cook pretty good too and one of her sons is a fantastic chef who goes thru my cookbooks. My problem is my husband can only cook pinto beans to mouth watering perfection. And if I put all the needed ingredients out along with a nonstick pan, he can hard fry an egg. 🙂 I had to cook after every one of my surgeries on the day I came home. No fun.

    Great recipe Termite and keep striving for that “wheel house” job. You’ll make it.

    1. Ha! Yep. That’s what they say–everything is better with bacon! I was impressed that this is a method of making jambalaya I had never learned. Someone balked at the “bacon grease” in this recipe, but what they don’t realize is that the onions would have made the base using some sort of vegetable oil anyway! I do know that some bayou cooks start with salt meat instead of bacon, but it’s a different flavor and still requires an additional fat for the browning process. I’m sorry you had to cook after surgery . . if we were neighbors, I would have cooked for you!!!

  5. Awesome looking Jamba. All my major food groups. Chicken, Bacon, Andouille and Shrimp. And nice catch too Wendy! Brian

    1. Great to hear from you, Ronnie! I hope the recipe turns out great for you! We really enjoyed it and ate all the leftovers next day–even better!

      1. I have it all done except for the baking,had to triple the recipe as I am cooking for two APA 8 ball teams tonite for league pool and it tastes awesome. Tell termite thank you for me.

        1. So, Ronnie, how did it turn out “tripled”. WOW! That had to be a super big post, and how did it fit in the oven. Oh, wait, did you do this in 3 different batches? My only fear in tripling in one post is that the rice wouldn’t cook evenly throughout!

          1. It was awesome,I did it in one big dutch oven and when I put the rice in and brought it back to a boil I cut it off and let it set for a few hours before baking then baked 40 minutes at 400 to heat back up and finish cooking.

            1. Wow! You sound like you know a thing or two about cooking! Are you a fireman? I’m not sure this is the Ronnie who has been following this blog for several years, is it? Well, regardless, you gave us a new tip on how to make this great recipe! So glad your crew liked it as much as we did! This week I made a huge pot of vegetable beef soup for these cold wait days . . . .

          2. It is the same Ronnie,yes I am a Vol firefighter and Chief of our cite fire dept. In Nov it will be 40 years since my first call.A commercial fisherman by trade though and since the net ban in Fla mostly blue crabs and shedding softshells.

  6. My ex was a jack up boat captain and he did most of the cooking so I understand what you are saying! My mom never let my sister or I in the kitchen so we had to do what your sons are doing. When I cooked something new, I had to call her. But now I can cook as good as she does.
    Good job Termite!!! I’ll have to try this version.

    1. Well, at least you learned, and I’m sure your mother was honored, right? Food is such a cultural and family bonding agent, that it really does carry on our heritage when we cook what our grandmothers and mothers cooked. I appreciate stories like yours, so thanks for taking the time to share!!! Hope you enjoy it!

  7. This looks fabulous. The nice thing is that its easily halved for a “smaller household.” And I’m interested in the absence of tomato — that’s a good thing, in my book. It’s not that I don’t like tomato based sauces, it’s just that they all can taste a good bit alike. (I know, I know. Chili and lasagne are pretty different. But still…)

    I used to know a women who gave up varnishing boats to go cook on a rig. After a while at that, she came back to Kemah and ran a cafe here for a few years. Now she’s sold it and moved on to other things, but her daughter and daughter-in-law still work there. The new owner is Greek, and they have some of the best Greek food in the area.

    I hope you’re having the same sunshine now that we are. It finally turned sunny yesterday, and it’s supposed to stay so until maybe Wednesday. Go out and look for the comet if it’s clear — Lovejoy. It’s just to the SE of Orion’s belt now.

    1. It rained all day Thursday, so we got our crisp cold air and sunshine today. It was fabulous. Even the turtles were out on the logs today! Oh, and you can settle for using bacon grease (which all good southern cooks keep in a jar in the frig.) instead of bacon, and only add shrimp if you desire, or any or none of the meats. You can even use brown rice and just add more water based on the number of cups you use. Good bayou cooking, mmmmm good!

      1. This Southern cook has been using the same bacon grease jar (3 different fridges though) for the last 44 years.

        1. I love that! Mama had one, too, but I’ve got about 5 jars, LOL!! Everybody close to me knows if they need any, just come get a jar!!!

          1. I keep my extra jars of bacon grease in the freezer until needed. Can’t cook good beans or cornbread without good bacon grease. Saving the grease from bacon is one reason I love to use the George Foreman grill. It lets all the grease drain down into the little catch pans that come with it. I slide one over when it fills and slide the 2nd in. I usually get about 2 of the pans per pounds of bacon. I have the large grill with all sorts of extras and I love it.

          2. I could use some of that grease. We don’t cook bacon very often so my jar is EMPTY! However, I do have some “ends and pieces” wrapped in small portion sizes to season with in my freezer.

    1. Louise, I answered you that day, but it didn’t post for some odd reason. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and the recipe is very good. Mrs. Coach made it and posted on FB how much she likes it. Termite is doing well, and thank you for thinking of him.

  8. I’ve been lurking a bit the past few weeks but just haven’t posted.

    I was truly saddened to hear that Blu lost his battle with the Big C. He will be missed.

    This jambalaya sounds really good. If we didn’t have bacon and onion, how would we cook anything?

    You’re lucky; most of the men around here haven’t a clue in the kitchen, my Hubby included. I’ve told him that he’ll be knee deep in trouble if something happened to me and all the fast food places shut down.

    Now, my Dad knew how to cook and both of his brothers do, too. Even to putting up jams, jellies and pickles and baking.