Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo… with Crab Leftovers

I was on a roll this morning and quickly decided half way through chopping up the vegetables for the red beans and rice that I would also make a pot of gumbo. Gumbo is so painless for me now I could make it with my eyes closed. Well, maybe everything but the roux.

The roux came up in a hurry because I cooked it at a higher heat. You have to be so careful not to burn the roux. If you do, you might as well throw it out and start over because it will make your pot of gumbo taste bitter.

Learning to make roux is an essential skill. Roux adds so much flavor and depth to recipes I seldom make a one-pot dish without it.

For a long time, I cooked roux on low heat until I felt comfortable with the process. I made my roux today to the color of peanut butter. Depending on what I put into it, I take the formula anywhere from peanut butter (New Orlean’s style) to almost black (Cajun).

The best way to learn how to make roux is to go on YouTube and watch the videos. Wish they had been around when I was first making roux. Once you have mastered the art of the roux, you can make anything New Orleans. Remember: the darker the roux, the more intense the flavor.

Dark roux is usually favored for gumbo, while light, blond roux is ideal for dishes like etouffee. It’s all a matter of taste…and more importantly, what you are in the mood for.

It is true that there is some guesswork in roux, and a fair amount of eyeballing. A chef with some experience will have a sense for how the roux is progressing and can fine-tune accordingly. Like anything, it just takes practice.

To make low fat roux – without the oil - simply brown flour in a hot skillet, stirring until the flour is caramel colored. Although the flavor is not quite as intense, it has a lot less calories and fat.

I have an old cookbook from back in the early 90’s called A Trim and Terrific Louisiana Kitchen by Holly Berkowitz Clegg that has remarkable low fat Louisiana recipes. Holly actually browns the flour on a cooking sheet in a 400 degree oven for 20-30 minutes. This also works well when craving a great pot of gumbo and looking to shave some calories from the recipe.

I say that gumbo is a religious experience. Maybe that’s why I always cook it on Sunday and the combination of green pepper, celery and onion is called the “holy trinity.” Either way, if you don’t mess with the roux and the holy trinity, you’ll make a great pot of soup no matter what else you put into the pot.

I tried making it with chicken broth instead of just water to see if it gave it a richer flavor. You be the judge. I like both. I also used a half a cup of oil with a half a cup of flour for the roux and slightly less broth. The soup really thickened up perfectly. As a general rule, you can use about 1/3 cup flour for every gallon of gumbo.

I added a little crab meat and claws that was leftover from the party last night. Crab in anything tastes good to me, especially in rich gumbo broth.

Bon Appetit To Soup Weather – Three months and counting!

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

1/2 large chicken (young hen preferred), cut into pieces

1 pounds andouille or smoked sausage, cut into 1/2" pieces

2 tsp Creole seasoning

Salt and pepper to taste

Season the chicken with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning and brown quickly in oil. Brown the sausage, pour off fat and reserve meats.

½ cup oil and ½ cup flour

In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil and cook the flour in the oil over medium to high heat stirring constantly, until the roux reaches almost the color of milk chocolate or coffee. If you want to save some time, or prefer New Orleans-style roux, cook it to a medium, peanut-butter color over lower heat, especially if you're nervous about burning it.

1 large onions, chopped

1 bell peppers, chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

2 - 6 cloves garlic, minced

1 ½ - 2 quarts chicken stock

1 bay leaves

½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves

½ bunch scallions (green onions), tops only, chopped

1/3 cup fresh chopped parsley

Filé powder to taste

Add the vegetables and stir quickly. Cook for about 4 minutes.

Add the stock, seasonings, chicken and sausage. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Lower heat and cook for about one hour, skimming fat off the top as you need to.

Add chopped scallions and parsley and file powder to taste.

Serve over rice with a cold beer, lots of hot, crusty French bread and a bottle of hot sauce.