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Monday, February 1, 2010

Cajun Gumbo


We love New Orleans! In fact, through Bill’s work we were there so many times he became a converted Southerner and called it “Nawlins” just like he was an authentic Southerner. If you’ve been to “Nawlins,” you’ve probably enjoyed beignets (hmm, another post?) and the strong French Roast Coffee at Café Du Monde or Café Beignet, sipped on a Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s and you’ve most likely eaten a bowl of savory gumbo at one of the great restaurants. 




Speaking of gumbo, look at the lengthy list of ingredients below and don’t let it put you off!  It’s fairly simple and except for the roux can be cooked at an easy pace.  What it takes is time and patience.  But, the result is well worth it.

Roux!  It is the key ingredient!  Respect it, treat it gently, don’t rush it and all will be right with the gumbo!  It takes patience and a lot of arm-numbing stirring.  When the oil is so hot it is almost smoking, add the flour, a bit at a time and stir.  Turn the heat down to low or medium-low and be ready for roughly 50 minutes of constant stirring.  Oh, my aching arm!

But, be sure to be a good Cajun cook and don’t burn the roux!  If it burns, you have to throw it out and start over.  We’re talking about maybe a half-hour wasted and then starting over again.  The first time cooking gumbo, I made the roux three times; burning it on the first two attempts.  I was ready to give up but, sometimes I’m obstinate and want to win.  The third time was a charm, perfect!  Just don’t try to rush the process!  

 

While I’m stirring the roux, pesky Bill (those of you who know him, understand just what I mean!) keeps tossing a heap of beads around my neck while I swerve and try to dodge them, hoping they don’t end up in the pot.  I just keep playing music, singing, playing mind games, avoid looking at the clock and keep on stirring, minding my own business.  At first the roux will be tan, then it gradually starts to darken, then it is cocoa colored, then it turns to a beautiful dark mahogany and then you have mastered it.  It is an amazing thing to watch as the color changes. 

Now you can start adding the remaining ingredients and only stirring frequently.  Finally, the last ingredient to add is the gumbo file' powder and there you have such a delicious meal.  It is so good and bound to make everyone happy and feeling a little like “Nawlins,” as Bill says! 

By the way, this is Cajun gumbo, not Creole!  Creole gumbo has a lighter, medium brown roux and includes tomatoes.  Cajun gumbo has a very dark roux and never contains tomatoes.

Cajun Gumbo

Ingredients:

3 ½ pounds whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
6 teaspoons McCormick Cajun Seasoning
2-4 tablespoons oil
1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
1 cup vegetable oil
1½  cups diced onion
1½ cups diced celery
1½ cups green bell pepper, diced
8 cups chicken stock, or more
2 pounds Andouille sausage, coarsely chopped
1 pound shrimp
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 pound medium fresh or frozen shrimp
½ teaspoon gumbo file' powder*
5 cups cooked rice

Method:

Coat cut-up chicken with flour and Cajun seasoning.  Sauté in 2-4 tablespoons of oil until cooked.  Once cooled, remove the skin and bone from the meat, chop coarsely.  Set aside.

Pour the chicken stock in a large kettle.
Add parsley, lemon juice, sugar, oregano, thyme, Old Bay seasoning, salt and pepper and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. 

For the roux:
In a large heavy pan or Dutch oven, heat 1 cup oil on high until almost smoking hot. Add 1 cup flour and stir constantly until the flour browns from tan to a dark mahogany color, being careful not to let it burn.  Stir constantly for 45 to 55 minutes.

Stir into the roux the onion, celery, green pepper and cook until vegetables are soft, about 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove the roux to a bowl so that it doesn’t keep cooking in the hot pan.

Add the hot roux to the stock very carefully a little at a time so as to not let it boil over.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  You should have just enough roux to properly thicken the stock.  If it becomes a little too thick, just add a little more stock.  It should coat the back of a spoon nicely when done.

Add cooked chicken and Andouille sausage to the pot and cook for about 45 minutes over medium heat stirring quite often.  This is a thick soup and you want to be careful that it doesn’t stick or burn to the bottom. 

Stir in the shrimp and cook until the shrimp is cooked through about 10-15 minutes.

Remove from heat.
Add file' powder.  Stir well.

To serve, spoon some rice into a soup bowl and ladle gumbo over the top.

8 servings


*Filé (say fee-lay) powder is a seasoning made from the ground, dried leaves of the sassafras tree.  It’s an integral part of Cajun cooking, and is used to thicken and add unique flavors to Gumbos and stews.  File' powder should be stirred into the gumbo after it is removed from the heat.  Undue cooking will make file' powder tough and stringy.  In other words, do not let gumbo boil after the file' powder has been added.


A bowl of gumbo served over rice is just about as good as you can get! 

Bon Appetite!!!



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"It's the onions. They're only supposed to sweat, but they fell down exhausted."

~~~ Mrs. Patmore, Downton Abbey (about a failed broth)

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