Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Recipe: All on a Mardi Gras Day Gumbo

As regulars know, I love all things New Orleans (except that nasty baby jesus king cake -- yech) and recently returned from a blissed out week of food, drink and music in the Crescent City. Today, to a soundtrack featuring Dr. John, Big Chief Bo Dollis, Ingrid Lucia, Trombone Shorty, Kermit Ruffins and others, Geargirl embarked on some serious gumbo research. (I fiddled around with said soundtrack on iTunes -- because I'm helpful that way.)

If you're expecting seafood in this gumbo, move on. Seafood gumbo is not in season in NOLA, so this is the winter version, with andouille sausage and chicken. There is a third variety of gumbo -- a green gumbo which I do intend to try to make when summer's bounty is available -- and I'll be using the recipe of the incomparable Leah Chase. At any rate, this is a gumbo based on that at Liuzza's by the Track. And if you happen to be in NOLA, do go to Liuzza's and eat some gumbo for me. (If it's a Monday, do get the red beans and rice.)

You will need:
4 chicken thighs
4 T creole seasoning
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced in 1/2 inch discs
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 green pepper, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
3 celery ribs, diced
2 qts. chicken stock
1 t. onion powder
1 t. celery salt
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. white pepper
1 t. black pepper
1/2 - 1 t. cayenne pepper (this is the real heat -- so you can adjust this up or down to taste, but gumbo shouldn't flame your face off. Just saying.)
1 t. thyme
5 large bay leaves
4 scallion tops, chopped
1/2/ c. italian parsley, chopped
2 cups of rice (get good rice -- none of that Minute rice shit)

The Prep:
This part is important. First, load your stereo, computer, docking station or some such music playing instrument with a full dose of the above mentioned artists (plus any Louis Armstrong or Rebirth Brass Band you happen to have on hand) and then get to work.

This is equally important -- once you start your roux, you cannot step away from the stove, so it is vital that all of your mise-en-place is done. [For those of you who aren't cooking dorks, your mise-en-place is just your choppy, choppy.] All of that is to say, the order of these instructions is important.

First, sprinkle the chicken with the creole seasoning and bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. [Note, you will be making a different spice mix momentarily, but for this step, I purchased a creole seasoning at Penzy's Spices.]

Then slice up the andouille, sautee it in a non-stick pan until it's good and brown. Set aside.

Turn your attention to the veg -- get all your onion, peppers, celery, neatly diced. Then prepare your spice mix:  blend the onion powder, celery salt, garlic powder, white pepper, black pepper, cayenne pepper and thyme in a bowl and set that aside.

Put a stock pot on the stove. This sounds stupid, but it's important. Put it there and leave it there -- no heat.

Now comes the roux, which is the key element to gumbo. In a large sautee pan, heat up the oil until it starts to boil. Add the flour, keep the heat at medium high, and WISK IT GENTLY AND CONSTANTLY WITHOUT STOPPING.

With most French rouxs (is that the plural of roux -- rouxs? who the hell knows) you simply want to cook the pasty 'flour' taste out of the flour, but with this, you want to really, really brown it. Your roux will turn taupe, then light brown, then milk chocolate colored. Don't stop yet, but do spray the stock pot with non-stick cooking spray and turn the heat on the soup pot to about medium. KEEP WHISKING the roux. It will turn the color of dark chocolate. (From start to finish, this should take about 10-12 minutes.)

If you've gotten this far, congratulations. You have achieved perfect roux-ness.

Pour the dark chocolate colored roux from your sautee pan into the heated stock pot, keeping the heat on medium. Now, add your vegetables and stir for another four minutes. Then add the chicken stock, three of your bay leaves, the browned sausage and the seasoning mixture you whipped up. When the chicken has cooked and cooled enough to handle, take the meat off the bones and add it to the pot, as well.

From here, the soup needs to cook for about an hour. Test it at about 45 minutes -- you want the veg to be soft, but not to disintegrate. So somewhere between 50 minutes and 70 minutes should do it. Just before serving, salt to taste and add the scallions and the parsley.

You should ladle hot gumbo over white rice. New Orleanians feel strongly about the prep of the rice, so I went with their instructions as follows:

Boil 8 to 10 cups of water. Then add a healthy pinch of salt and 2 bay leaves. Add 2 cups of rice. Stir it ONCE. Partially cover it and cook it at a rolling boil for 11 minutes -- not 10 minutes, not 12 minutes, but 11 minutes precisely. (As in, this one goes to eleven.)

Drain the rice in a colander and remove the bay leaves. Put the rice into a covered dish and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

Put a healthy spoonful of the rice into your bowl and ladle the soup over the rice. Enjoy. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a date with Mac Rebennack.

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