Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Gumbo


Hey look, I'm still alive! Unfortunately I haven't been near a reliable internet connection for much of the past couple of weeks. Nor have I been cooking much, as my mother usually whisks something amazing off the grill before I even have time to ask what's for dinner. Tonight, however, we managed the intricate process of cooking a meal together without crashing into each other other with knives or hot pans, and made gumbo. (Hopefully there's a better photo coming when I have some leftovers.)

I had a cup of very nice gumbo yesterday at the fantastic Salmon Dave's in River, but it's not really a dish best served in a small cup. Additionally, they add their rice on top instead of underneath the soup and don't chop up their meats and vegetables very thoroughly, so it's more like eating a stir-fry in a mildly spicy sauce. I prefer my mother's version, which has a more homogenous texture and a lot more spice. I should add that the salmon and risotto with peanut sauce that I had for my entrée was delicious and you should go eat there pronto.

Anyway, here's the recipe. No idea where it came from originally, our version is one my mom copied down from some cooking magazine she couldn't tear the page out of. It's somewhere between a Cajun and a Creole gumbo... not as dark as the former, but not as simple as the latter. We made a rather enormous amount, because it's going to feed us for a couple of days as well as my brother's prodigious appetite over the weekend. This recipe makes a more reasonable amount, but probably still enough for four or five people as a main course.

1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup flour
1 lb spicy sausage (andouille or other)
1 1/2 cups onion
1/2 cup red pepper
1 cup celery
3 tbsp butter + 1 more for the chicken
14.5 oz canned diced tomatoes
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp crushed pepper
2-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tsp creole seasoning
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp thyme
2 quarts chicken broth
2 cups chicken
white rice and water to cook it in

Dice the vegetables and put into a large pan with the butter. Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot and stir in the flour, whisking constantly for 4-5 minutes to make a roux (this site tells you how to make a proper Creole-style roux... which is not what I've just done here).

Turn the heat up to medium on the vegetable pan and stir occasionally until the butter is melted. Meanwhile, squeeze the sausage out of its casings. Add to the pan and saute for 10 to 15 minutes, breaking up the sausage into the smallest pieces you can (Trying to stir the vegetables evenly through it, watching out for stubborn clumps, will accomplish this. I also recommend using a smallish wooden spoon, though my mother swears by a big spatula). 

When the sausage is browned and the vegetables are softened, (carefully) transfer them to the big pot with the roux. Add the tomatoes, garlic, herbs, and spices and simmer for about ten minutes. Slowly stir in the chicken broth and let it simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. At some point during this time, put some rice on to cook, about 1/2 a cup for each person who is eating. More if they're going to need it to cut the spice of the gumbo.

Chop up the chicken and sear it for a few minutes in the last tablespoon of butter, until the outsides of the pieces are white. Add to the gumbo for the last fifteen minutes of cooking. Serve over the rice. Lasts five or six days in the fridge, and freezes quite well.

There are plenty of ways to change this up based on your preferences. I'd really like to make a version of this with shrimp, either instead of or in addition to the chicken. Unfortunately not everyone on the homestead likes seafood as much as I do, so it'll have to wait until I get a chance to make it in Ann Arbor. I once had gumbo with a fried egg on top at a Cajun brunch, and it was pretty much the best thing ever. Will definitely try that again. If you're a vegetarian or vegan, substitute margarine and vegetable broth and whatever meat substitute you're into (maybe seitan or tempeh? something that holds up). You might have to add a little extra margarine to the saute pan to make up for the juices from the sausage. If you avoid carbs or unhealthy things like butter, double the vegetables and increase the meat as much as you like for a thicker stew. Or pour it over a healthy grain like quinoa.

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