Monday, November 10, 2014

Rockin' the Cajun- Making Gumbo

Funny thing happened in our little small town grocery store- they had andouille sausage. I don't know about you guys but andouille to me means Creole, and you don't get much more Creole than a good ol' gumbo. The classic New Orleans favorite has influences from French, Spanish, native tribes, and African cooking. Canary Islanders bring the hot and spicy flavors to Creole cooking. Gumbo has been around since the early 1800s, if not earlier. Many old cookbooks from around 1800 have versions of gumbo with different meats- seafood to waterfowl to alligator- and seafood, okra and all kinds of spices. File powder is an option ingredient, which surprised me. I thought that was a must have, and amazingly enough is not part of my bookshelf of spice collection.

I have a game plan worked out for this dish already. Brown the sausage ahead of time. Cook the chicken breast and cut it up, also ahead of time. Get that Holy Trinity sauteed and softened and ready to add to the roux. 

I like to prep as much as I can ahead of time. Vegetables all
chopped and waiting, meats cut up and ready to brown.
I don't have any okra, so we'll be skipping that. I'm not a big fan anyway. It's a little slimy for my taste. I don't think I could find it around here right now anyway. I'm going to wing it a little bit- borrow some bits and pieces from friends' advice and recipes and make my own version, so bear with me and let's make some gumbo!

You could also use kielbasa but andouille has a spicier bite
To make this spicy gumbo, you will need-
  • 1 package (1 lb) boneless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1 lb andouille sausage
  • salt, pepper and Cajun seasoning
  • cooking oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
  • pinch of cayenne pepper or dash or two of pepper sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 pound shrimp
  • hot cooked rice
Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces. Sprinkle with Cajun seasoning (I just use a store bought blend). Brown in a little cooking oil. Just brown the chicken well, and remove to a bowl. Cut the Andouille into slices or half slices. Brown in the Dutch oven until it gets a nice golden crust. Remove to bowl with chicken. 

Add a little more oil to pot, add onion, pepper and celery. Cook, stirring often, until softened but not browned. Add garlic. Cook and stir a couple more minutes. Melt the butter and add the flour. Cook and whisk until the roux is nice and brown, about 15 minutes.  

Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, pepper or pepper sauce and meat. Simmer for 15 minutes or so, until chicken is cooked through. Add the fresh herbs and shrimp. Cook until shrimp are cooked, just a few minutes. Serve over hot cooked rice in shallow bowls.

That cute little mound didn't last long- mix it up and eat!
I didn't waste time with the pretty, perfect bowl. I mixed it all together and hit it with a couple of dashes of Marie Sharp's Comatose Heat hot sauce, which is NOT for the faint of heart. The vegetables still had the teeniest bit of crunch to them- which I love- and the chicken was tender and perfect. The shrimp would have been better off saved for another dish. I honestly thought they were a little lost in there with all the big flavors. I would make it without shrimp the next time. The andouille was so so good- spicy but not overly so. 

I have a feeling this is going to be one of those dishes that improves when you reheat it- as the flavors have a chance to hang out in the pot for a while, kind of like chili. It's always better the next day. 

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