Saturday, October 27, 2018

Chicken & Sausage Gumbo

So up to this point (yes, 10 years into this blog) I have only ever shared recipes for "shortcut" gumbos--i.e, gumbo using an instant roux.  Because honestly, that's what my life demands most of the time.  Real, true, made from scratch gumbo starts with a roux, and takes about 2-3 hours to make.  And when you're a working mom, that's a time commitment most of us don't have on a weekday.  And making a roux means standing by the stove, stirring for about 40-45 minutes, so if you've got a busy weekend, it can be hard to fit then as well.

BUT...I did it.  With the help of my friend Amy.
Amy & I met through a friend, who basically said, "hey--you used to live in Louisiana, and Amy's from Louisiana.  You should meet."  So we did, and thank goodness.  Amy is one of the sweetest people on the planet, full of Southern hospitality and a big, beautiful laugh.  Her family hails from Napoleonville (aka "up da bayou"), and Amy was gracious enough to let me help her make her mama's gumbo recipe.  (She was also gracious enough to let me borrow her camera, after I left mine at my house.)  

1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup flour
1.5 cups chopped onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced bell pepper
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
4 bay leaves
1 lb andouille or smoked sausage (Johnsonville New Orleans style sausage works well if you can't find andouille)
1 lb raw chicken, cubed
1 Tbsp cajun seasoning (or to taste)

To accompany:
cooked rice (white or brown, about 1/2-1 cup per person)
potato salad
French bread
green onions

First up--clear your schedule for about 2 hours.  Amy says her mama would always say, "if you need something from me you better ask now, because I'm gettin' ready to start the gumbo."

Step 1 - ROUX
Many recipes vary on ratios, but ours calls for a 1:1 ratio of oil to flour.  In a large cast iron pot, heat the oil over medium heat, until shiny but not smoking.  Then stir in the flour.  Some folks use a whisk, but depending on your whisk it can be really hard to get the corners of the pot.  So Amy recommends a flat bottomed wooden spoon.  There is such a thing as a "roux spoon", but really, any spoon or spatula with a flat edge will work (or a flat whisk would probably be perfect). (Note: if you're using a cast iron pot, don't use a metal spoon.) 

And most importantly: KEEP STIRRING.  YES. THE WHOLE TIME.  (Amy & I tag-teamed this stage.)
Set a timer, counting up from the time you add the flour.  This is just a reference, because in general, it's going to take about 40-45 minutes to get from white to the beautiful chocolate brown you want for gumbo base.  You'll go through stages:  blonde (which would be a perfect place to start for a alfredo or bechamel sauce), cafe au lait... 
Which is why it's handy to have a cup of coffee while cooking.

...peanut butter, and then finally to dark chocolate.  

Amy has this article in her recipe binder that makes a good reference (particularly the "bless your heart" on the last one).  
This was really helpful for me because I tend to get nervous and jump off around the "peanut butter stage"--which won't ruin your gumbo, but it also won't have the same depth of flavor you get from a chocolate roux.

Step 1a - Heat the other things
You're going to need hot water and hot chicken stock later.  These need to be hot or they'll cause the roux to break when you add them to the main pot.  So go ahead and get these going on your other burners so they're ready to rock when you are.

Step 1b - Cook Sausage
In a small skillet, while the roux is going, brown your sausage.  Once cooked, transfer it to a bowl to wait. 
Step 2 - Add Veggies
Amy had prepped all the veggies before I got there, so we piled them in together and dumped 'em all in once we hit our chocolate roux stage. 
These will need to soften with periodic stirring for about 10-12 minutes (so this is a good time to sit with a cup of coffee and flip through old issues of "Louisiana Cooking" or coffee table books with tasty sounding recipes).
Note:  Amy's recipe didn't call for okra, but you can add it if you like.  You would cook about 1 cup of sliced okra in a separate pan (called "stringing", it removes much of the sliminess from the okra), stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes. Though, Amy told me she's always been told not to use okra if you're cooking in cast iron because the okra will turn black.  So...there you go. You've been warned.

Step 3 - Add Sausage (okra if using), Chicken Stock, Hot Water, and Bay Leaves
So ideally, here you want your main pot, water, and chicken stock to be as close to the same temp as possible.  If your roux is hot and you add a bunch of cold liquid, the roux will break.  Conversely, if your roux mixture is starting to cool down and you add stuff that's too hot your roux will also break (but should come back together as it simmers).

Once that's all in the pot, simmer for about 30 min - 1 hour.

Step 4 - Add Chicken & Cajun Seasoning
Seems pretty self-explanatory.
Then cover and simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  You can let it simmer longer than this--the flavors will only get more rich and delicious.
Serve with rice, green onions, potato salad, sweet tea, and French bread...and plenty of good friends!
The beautiful Amy!

Her mama's recipe is even kiddo-approved!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Hush Puppy Muffins

The Hubs whipped these up the other night to accompany some fish tacos (is it still a taco if you use a lettuce leaf)?  They're a nice healthier alternative to fried hush puppies, but still with that yummy hush puppy flavor.

1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 egg
1/3 cup skim milk
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped ( suggest half white onion, half green onion)
2 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp parsley
olive oil in a mister (or olive oil spray)

Heat the oven to 350F.
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, mixing well. 
Line a muffin tin with paper wrappers (because we are all about easy cleanup), and then lightly spritz the muffin papers with olive oil (this helps prevent sticking to the muffin wrapper, and also seemed to help the part inside the wrapper get crispy as well).
Divide the batter equally among 12 muffin cups,and then lightly spritz the tops of the batter with olive oil as well. 
Bake for about 12 minutes or until brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  

Serve warm with fish....tacos? Lettuce wraps?  Whatever. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Blackberry Chipotle Freezer Jam

My cousin sometimes lets us come raid the blackberry bush at their farm when they've got a surplus.  I was itching to make some freezer jam, but didn't want to make plain ol' regular boring blackberry jam.  No...I wanted to do something INTERESTING. retrospect, I really should have split the batch, and been boring with half and then played with the other half, because now I have 6 pints of INTERESTING jam when I would occasionally really like some regular ol' blackberry freezer jam.  But not to worry. I'll share the recipe for both, so you can learn from my mistakes.
INGREDIENTS (makes 4 jars):
4 cups crushed blackberries (you can use a potato masher or pastry cutter, but I'd shy away from a food processor, otherwise you'll end up with puree. A few pulses with a stick blender might work well.)
4 Tbsp Instant (no cook) pectin (or one 1.35 oz packet)
1.5 cups  Sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice


Combine the pectin and the sugar and mix well, then add the lemon juice and the blackberries, and stir well until fully incorporated.  At this point, if you're making straight up regular blackberry jam, you can go ahead and divvy these into half-pint jars.  Let sit at room temp for 30 minutes, at which point it should be soft-set. Then you can put one in the fridge and the rest in the freezer for later.

However, if you want to ramp things up a bit, then add the following to the mix:

1/4 tsp Chipotle powder (per jar)
1/4 tsp Cumin (per jar)
1/4 tsp Cinnamon (per jar)
1/4 tsp Tabasco Chipotle Sauce
a pinch of smoked salt (per jar)

I'm providing these as "per jar" ratios so that if you want, you can make a full batch of the base, and then make the Chipotle version in one or two of the jars.  Just make sure you label them appropriately! 
The Chipotle version is pretty versatile. It makes a great grilled cheese (like this one), or you can put it in a Crockpot with a pork tenderloin for a delicious dinner. And of course it goes great on a biscuit.