Soul food Category

Meals from the Pantry: Sunday Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

One pot meals that get better over time are all the rage in our house lately. I’ve gotten in the habit of leisurely cooking a bit pot o’ something in my trusty Le Creuset dutch oven on Sundays, and it’s made dinners during the week (and lunches for the hubby) so convenient and stress-free.

Here’s a recipe I adapted from the iconic Uglesich’s Restaurant Cookbook for a Chicken and Sausage Gumbo. Their version takes two days, so I created my own version that still delivers the lusciousness and comfort of a traditional gumbo, while staying user- and pantry-friendly. If you want to kick it up for an occasion, use rabbit instead of chicken!

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Sunday Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
Adapted from The Uglesich’s Restaurant Cookbook

Ingredients
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup flour
1 medium white onion
2 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch of scallions, chopped (white part mostly)
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tbsp of parsley, chopped
1 dry bay leaf
3/4 tsp dry thyme
1/2 tsp dry marjoram
1/2 tsp dry basil
2 tbsp file powder
1 tbsp cayenne
1 tbsp Cajun spice powder (no salt version)
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cartons (32 oz each) low sodium chicken broth
1/2 lb andouille sausage, sliced into about 1/2″ thick pieces
1/2 lb (half pkg) Hilshire Farm beef smoked sausage, sliced into about 1/2″ thick pieces
2 lbs chicken breast (boneless, skinless)
Worcestershire Sauce
Salt
Black pepper
Hot sauce

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The hardest part of this gumbo is the prep. And the hardest part about the prep is poaching the chicken. And the hardest part of poaching chicken is being patient and trusting it’s getting cooked in the pot even though the water is barely simmering!

Poached Chicken
Recipe adapted from About.com

Ingredients
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
4-5 cups water
1 bay leaf
5 whole black peppercorns
Pinch of salt

Cut each chicken breast in half so they are all about the same size. Place chicken breasts snugly in ideally one layer in the bottom of a heavy-bottomed pot. If you have some pieces on a second layer, I wouldn’t sweat it but just try to layer evenly. Cover chicken with water (make sure all is covered). Add bay leaf, salt, and whole black peppercorns. Stir water just to stop the herbs from floating.

Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to low so that the water is barely at a simmer. Partly covered, simmer for 10-15 minutes. Turn off heat completely, and allow chicken to remain in hot water for 15-20 minutes.

Remove chicken to a bowl until it is lukewarm. Shred the chicken and set aside.

This can be prepared a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate over night.

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Now that you’ve got your chicken done, it’s time to gumbo! I highly recommend that you prep and assemble all the ingredients in a mise en place fashion so that you don’t get bogged down in chopping here and measuring there. Especially for something like a gumbo where a lot goes into a pot, not having to worry about prep while you’re cooking allows you to really focus on the flavor and seasoning which is where it’s all at anyway!

In a large pot or dutch oven, add the oil and set on medium heat.

When the oil is hot, add the flour. Try to sprinkle it evenly over the oil. You’re about to make a roux which is as traditional as traditional gets in Creole Cajun cooking! By using a whisk or a wooden spoon (I like to use both based on how things are progressing), stir the flour into the oil for about 20 to 30 minutes. You’ll see a lovely transformation take place where the flour and oil mixture transforms into a creamy base the color of peanut butter.

Add the onions, celery, green pepper, scallions, garlic and parsley. Saute until veggies soften and are mixed well with the roux.

Add the thyme, basil, bay leaf, cayenne, and about a teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of black pepper. Stir into veggie and roux mixture, then pour in can of crushed tomatoes.

Again continue to incorporate all ingredients well, then add the chicken broth.

Give everything a good stir and then add the shredded chicken, andouille, smoked sausage, file powder, Cajun spice powder, and some healthy dashes of both the Worcestershire sauce, and your favorite Louisiana pepper sauce or Cajun hot sauce.

Jordan being a hot sauce fanatic ensures we always have a good variety, but use what you like and how spicy you make it is up to you!

Bring the gumbo up to a boil, then turn down the heat until you have a gentle simmer.

Simmer on low partially covered for 2 to 2.5 hours, stirring occasionally.

Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper and cayenne and/or hot sauce (as desired).

Serve over cooked rice.

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This is definitely one of those dishes that gets better and better the longer it sits, but you’re going to want to treat yourself to a least a little bowl! Don’t forget you can garnish with a little chopped scallion on top too, and maybe a couple dashes of your favorite hot sauce.

Woo-eee!

Spring in NOLA: Roadfood Fest 2011

The day finally arrived for one of the key reasons we decided on March for our visit to NOLA.

New Orleans Roadfood Festival!

I felt like Adam Richman from Man Vs. Food by the end of it, but it was worth it!

Here are some of this year’s highlights!

The Court of Two Sisters
Buttery, homey, and packed with crawfish flavor, Crawfish Louise is a truly unique dish!

Turtle Soup – slightly tart, deep and intense

Creole Delicacies Catering

Andouille Jambalaya

Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant

Flaky, savory, delicious Crawfish Pie

Johnson’s Boucaniere

Traditional Boudin Sandwich

Royal House Oyster Bar

Outstanding, smoky, meaty oysters!

Central BBQ

Although not a New Orleans spot, still a must-eat treat! The bark in and of itself was enough to travel to Memphis to scarf down!

Louis Mueller Barbeque

All the way from Texas, the brisket was smoked overnight in this bad boy.

And last but not least…

Dessert!

Plum St. Snoballs
The one and only Southern ice treat with flavors that this girl had never even heard of! Nectar cream, anyone?

My very first Snoball! Spearmint, Nectar Cream, and Condensed Milk (as per the nice man behind the counter’s reco)!

Sweet cherry and grape icy sugary bomb. I felt like Bart and Milhouse after the infamous Squishy “episode” they had together.

In my book, Roadfood Fest was a tasty success and some of these first-time flavors still linger with me to this day. Now, where to find nectar cream in Chicago…

Spring in NOLA: Swamps, Shells, and a Dream Come True

We started bright and early the next day and went on the Honey Island Swamp Tour. It was like we were in some untouched fantasy land full of creatures, strange plants, and adventure! These guys do a great job by the way and I highly recommend them for a small group tour.

The Original Honey Island Swamp Tour

Afterwards what better to fill our swamp bellies but with some incredibly addictive Johnny’s Po Boys. Despite how famous and touristy this place is, it’s still legit eats! Soft-shell crab for me, oyster for Jordan, and a side of their sweet jambalaya to share!

Soft-shell Crab Po’ Boy

Fried Oyster Po’ Boy

Sweet Jambalaya

The only thing more killer than these po’ boys was the mega-nap Jordan and I took after…zzz…the….zzzzzz…

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One word: Middendorf’s! Waaaay back when Jordan and I started dating, one of our first conversations about food was about his days as a child in Mississippi. He spoke with such passion and affection for a place in Manshac, Louisiana that he and his family would go to on special occasions. It lies on the isthmus between Lake Maurepas and Lake Ponchatrain, and he’d spin yarns about sucking crawfish heads and tails over cajun spice-soaked newspaper table cloths. He’d also talk of the fried platters with such gusto that the memory became a food goal for me. And guess what, check off one ticker box for this girl!

“We’re with you through Thick and Thin!” – Middendorf’s

All manner of crustacean in this gumbo!

Fresh big boiled critters!

Middendorf’s Special Fried Thin Catfish

Old School Deviled Crab

Shrimp and Catfish

This was a dream come true, and Middendorf’s remains a living legend.

If you ever get to New Orleans and want a quick fun road trip around local parts, Middendorf’s is truly worth it!

Trust me on this! Git! Git!

An EDD-ter’s Tour of Italy – Florence

“You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” – Giuseppe Verdi

Beautiful quote. Beautiful city. Florence!

I had this sense of calm walking the streets of Florence. I’m not sure if it was the beauty of the Cattedrale de Santa Maria del Fiore, the Battistero, or Michaelangelo’s David, which in person seems to slow time down to one’s own heartbeat – a feeling only something truly beautiful can evoke.

My soul felt alive and palpable as it absorbed one magnificent sight after the other.

I was drunk on watercolor and oil and marble by the time lunchtime arrived, so our effervescent guide Sandra tipped us off to a wet market nearby and better yet, a place right next door for lunch that was a favorite of hers and other locals.

Sounded perfect.

Mushrooms were in season this time of year and these beauties seemed to sing to me as I walked by.

I could have spent hours at this patch trying to memorize the funky Italian names for the fungi until I heard an embarrassingly loud “waaooorr!”. I looked over at Jordan. He looked down at my tummy.

Time for lunch!


Papa di pomodoro

Unlike any kind of soup I’ve ever had. Imagine ripe sweet tomatoes thickened with bread, giving the thick soup a a light airy texture. Little soft gnocchi-like dumplings naturally formed in the soup from bread that didn’t dissolve completely. Heavenly.

Ribollita
Sandra absolutely insisted we order this here. And considering how traditional ribollita is to Florence, I thought coming from her it must have been extra special. And it was. Imagine a soup thickened with layers upon layers of fresh garden vegetables, cannellini beans, and love from your Italian grandmother (even if you’re not Italian!). Comfy cozy, robust yet gentle, it was one of the best things I ate in all of Italy!

Pizza del forno a legna
After getting up close and personal with those super fresh funghi, I had to have some on a piping hot pizza from the brick oven. It was even better with a healthy sprinkle of spicy peperoncino on top!

Lasagne
The best lasagne I’ve ever had. No foolin’.

Although I could barely move after our late lunch, I couldn’t have been happier with the day or the meal we just had. I still dream of the papa di pomodoro and ribollita.

I’ll be taking a stab at recreating these dishes at home soon (stay tuned for recipes!), and maybe with each bite, that same calm I experienced in Florence will descend on me and I’ll fall in love all over again.

Next up: Hiking in Cinque Terre and feasting on the fruits of the sea!