Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Gumbo! Is it Football Season yet?

I love it when a friend, anyone for that matter, asks for a recipe. The Horn Player has a daughter who loves to cook. She's a poet and an exceptional one at that. The Poet wants my gumbo recipe. How wonderful!

For me, there's a couple or three reasons to be thrilled.
One, I love sharing what I know; what I learned fundamentally as a child and have enjoyed perfecting all my life. Next, I miss the comforting, wrap-you-up-in-a-hug winter dishes that I cook so often during our chilly season. Lastly, I love cooking Louisiana fare; it's a pride thing I guess.  Nothing better than to be at the table of a good Louisiana cook, I say.  And even though the summer is not typically gumbo season; this is not the first time I've jumped the gun during our very long summer to pretend cool weather is on the way with a delicious steamy bowl of chili or gumbo over rice.  

There are virtually as many versions of gumbo as there are cooks. But everyone may adjust the basic recipe to suit their own taste and make it their own. For example, my brother loves Seafood Gumbo and I must say he is one of the very best at making it memorable. He's, in fact, a great cook, period. One of my personal favorite's is Wild Duck and Andouille. Same process as the one featured here, except using duck. The dark meat of the duck lends a unique and delicious flavor to the stock.

I had a great time doing this; The Horn Player assisted me in the the roux making process and we had a blast being in the kitchen, around the old butcher block cooking up a memory.


Chicken & Andouille Gumbo

I make my stock in advance, maybe the day before, store it in the fridge and take off the excess fat when it's cold. Roux has enough fat in it and I think this step helps the taste a bunch. The ingredients I use for my stock are those I use for anything that requires this kind of flavor base.

1 whole chicken (cut into eight pieces)
1 or 2 carrots (coarsely chopped)
1 large onion (coarsely chopped)
1 or 2 bay leaves
Water (add enough water to cover the ingredients)
Chicken base or bouillon cubes (optional)

Into a large stock pot add the ingredients for the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the chicken is almost fall-off-the-bone tender, almost. Add more water as needed during the cooking process. Remove from heat and cool. De-bone the chicken, place in a container and refrigerate. Strain the stock, discarding the vegetables, and place in the fridge for preparation the next day.

Note: This homemade stock is the best to use for so many things, not just gumbo, like soup and such.

1 cup canola oil
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Add the oil and flour to a heavy pan, such as cast iron. Cook and stir constantly on a medium steady heat until the mixture is a light chocolate color.

Aromatic Veggies & Flavor Stuff:

1 large or 2 medium onions (diced)
2 or 3 ribs celery w/leaves (diced)
1 large or 2 medium bell peppers (diced)
Several garlic cloves (to taste(minced))
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce (or to taste)
1-1/2 tablespoons LA hot sauce (or to taste)
Black pepper
Cayenne pepper
De-boned chicken (cut into bite size pieces)
1/2 to 2/3 pkg Andouille sausage (sliced)
Fresh parsley (chopped)
File' (don't add file' to the pot but to individual servings)
4-5 green onions (sliced(green & white))

 When the roux almost reaches the desired color, add the Louisiana Trinity (onions, celery and bell pepper) to the pot and cook until they begin to soften. This will not be very long at all. Add the garlic and cook another minute or so. Do not allow the roux to darken too much.

Add the reserved stock to the pot and stir well with a whisk to incorporate the roux into the stock. Bring the heat back up to almost a boil and add the de-boned chicken, Worcestershire sauce, LA Hot sauce, salt, black and cayenne pepper and sausage. Simmer for about 30 to 45 minutes, add the fresh parsley, most of the green onions and adjust the seasoning to your taste. Ladle into bowls filled with rice and serve with a sprinkle of file' over the top and garnish with the remaining green onions.

A matter of taste:

Some folks like to add other ingredients to the basic recipe. And frankly I am one of them if my mood dictates. Two ingredients that you can find in many recipes are okra and tomatoes. And truthfully, some feel if you don't add okra, you're not making gumbo. I do not agree totally with this, but it is nice to add. Tomatoes in a small quantity are a favorite of mine too. If you add these ingredients use:
2 cups sliced fresh or frozen okra and 1 cup canned diced tomatoes. Be sure to saute the okra a bit before adding to the pot. This takes the rawness out that can add a slick texture to the gumbo.

In our family we serve our gumbo with Breadies (an entry to
The Red Plate for another time) and Potato Salad perched on the side of the gumbo dish. It's a wonderful combination. Gumbo is not a quickie thing...but it's a very good thing, especially during football season.

Any way you choose to create your pot of personality will be impressive, so invite a few friends over and if they happen to live as far away as The Poet, greet them with, "Bonjour mon ami, bienvenue en Louisiane".

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