Tomorrow is Mardi Gras.
For the second year in a row, we’re not having a party but we’ll celebrate anyway. Got some beads hanging around the house. The zydeco music is in the CD player, ready to play. I'll spend tomorrow making gumbo for our Cajun pleasure. Gumbo takes a while to brew properly and I usually prefer to make it at least a day ahead of time. However, I don't have a car here today and I'm missing some of the basic ingredients so I'll need to make a grocery run in the morning and then get my "mess a brewin'.
Wanna make some, too?
Here’s my recipe:
Gumbo, a Cajun specialty, can be many things. There are almost as many variations out there as there are cooks.. I pretty much took all the things we liked in many different versions and put them together to come up with this one. It makes a ton, freezes great and keeps our crowd happy ! The downside: it will take you the better part of a whole day to make the pot. (Remember, you can eat this for a long time, it does make a lot !)
1 ½ cups canola oil (It has better flavor if you use butter, instead!)
1 ½ cups flour
3 cups chopped sweet onions
2 cups chopped celery
3 cups chopped bell peppers
1 lb. smoked spicy hot sausage - cut cross-wise into ¼” slices
(I use andouille, but chorizo or kielbasa also works.)
3 tsps. salt
2 tsp. cayenne
6 cups of beef broth (I use low sodium)
1 medium-sized chicken, cut up (I use about 1 ½ lbs. of boneless breast cut into large bite-size pieces.)
3 cups chopped okra (fresh or frozen)
3-4 Tbsp. of parsley flakes
2-3 Tbsp. file powder
1-1 ½ lbs. peeled shrimp
2-3 sliced jalapeno peppers (partially de-seeded)
Making the Roux -
(The roux is the most important part. Get this right and the rest simply falls together.)
First, make a chocolate brown roux. Heat oil in heavy -bottomed pot (or cast iron skillet) over medium heat. (I found my club-ware pot - although heavy - did not work real well. I use a cast iron Dutch oven bottom for this and it is perfect. I do, however, need to switch to the bigger pot once the roux is working. This makes a big pot full!) Gradually add flour (about a ¼ cup at a time), mixing with a whisk or wooden spoon until each addition is well integrated.
When all flour has been added, constantly stir over medium heat (lower heat slightly as necessary). Roux will gradually change from light caramel color to peanut butter color to a rich brown. This process should take about 20-25 minutes.
If black, burned specks appear in the roux, throw it out and start over. Be careful, this substance can splash easily and does stick and burn any skin it touches.
Now that you have a good roux, add the onions, celery and bell peppers and continue to stir for several minutes until wilted. Add the sausage. Add about 4 cups of beef broth. Stir until the roux and broth are well combined. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.
Season the chicken with Cajun seasoning, being sure to coat it well. (I put this in a plastic bag and shake it well, then let it sit in the bag soaking up the seasoning until the gumbo has cooked with the sausage for that hour.) Add the uncooked chicken pieces at the end of that hour. Add the okra, parsley and file at that time, too. Let simmer for 2 hours. Stir occasionally.
Taste test occasionally during that time to determine if you need to add more of the spices to suit your own taste. (Remember, the spices “expand” and get a little richer while the gumbo sits in the fridge overnight or the next day!)
Finally, add the shrimp. Simmer for 8-10 minutes. Turn heat off. Shrimp will finish cooking in the residual heat.
To serve: Prepare a bowl of white rice. Fill a soup bowl about 2/3 full with the gumbo and top with a spoonful or two of rice in the center of the bowl. Add a good fresh crusty bread will for a complete meal.