The 25 Days of Holiday Goodies Day 22: Gumbo

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Guess what I used to take that picture?  My shadow photobombed it!

After someone passes away, it is customary to offer food. My sister, when we visited her after Josh’s passing, asked what I wanted her to fix. I knew instantly what I wanted: her gumbo.

To tell you the truth, I think she was a bit taken aback. I think she expected me to say her chicken and dumplins, which I love, but all I could think of was losing myself in the depth of flavor her gumbo brings.

Now, I should note, even though we were both born and raised in Louisiana, neither of us has a Cajun bone in our bodies—nor a Creole one. But my sister knows gumbo. ‘Nuff said.

Recently, for the sake of this blog, I tackled one of those cooking fears I had: this time, making a roux. Being able to produce an unburned roux is a matter of pride in many Cajun households. That seemingly simple mix of flour browned in an equal measure of oil is simply maddening. It must be carefully babied.

Some households down South eat gumbo for Christmas Eve, but I think it is good any good cold evening.

With that in mind, my sister created fail-proof instructions, so much so that when I asked her how long it takes her to make her roux dark brown (but not burnt) after attempting it myself (and it taking an hour and a half and two phone conversations with friends), she said around forty-five minutes. Having taken twice that time, I asked her what gives. Her response: she doesn’t start it out at the low to medium temperature that she recommends in the recipe. She starts the oil at high, adds the flour and mixes it, drops it down a notch, and continues to drop it down notches as it browns so that, at the end, it is on low to medium when that chocolatey brown is achieved. But she wanted to make sure I didn’t burn it. So my perfect roux took 90 minutes of babying.

How did she tell me to make it? I am sending the instructions part as she sent it to me…merely adding in the ingredients portion.

Also to note: gumbo is often served with a scoop of potato salad. Try it (provided you like potato salad)! It completely works! The more mustardy the potato salad, the better. And yes, mustardy is a technical term!

Gumbo

Source: my sister

1 whole chicken, cut up

2 cups vegetable oil

2 cups flour

1 cup onion

1 cup celery

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon bacon grease

14 ounces smoked sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 tablespoon parsley

4 bay leaves

salt, pepper, and Tony’s to taste (Tony’s being Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning—find it or substitute another Creole seasoning or even make your own!)

extra chicken stock, as necessary

Cook whole chicken with whole big pot of water. Take chicken out to cool when done. Keep broth it made for gumbo.

Start by making a roux. I do this with 2 cups vegetable oil to 2 cups all purpose flour. Cook on a medium to low temp till chocolate colored. Stir constantly to avoid burning. Take off of stove and add to big pot with chicken stock after it cools. If you do it before it cools, it is likely to blow up on you. I have had this happen. Not fun.

Now you need to saute 1 cup onion, 1 cup celery, and 1 cup bell pepper (I do not use bell pepper in mine), and one tablespoon minced garlic. Saute in bacon grease. (I keep all my bacon grease frozen. Do you know they sell just bacon grease at Rouse’s? Too funny!)

After saute, put veggies in pot. Now, brown your sausage. I cut my sausage before browning in bite size pieces. When browned, add to pot. By the way, I add all the drippings while cooking veggies and sausage to the pot as well. Add parsley, about 1 tablespoon, 4 bay leaves, salt, pepper, and Tony’s to taste. Add deboned chicken you cooked, as well.

Cook till flavors meld. What I usually do is cook or 30-45 minutes, then turn off and keep on stove for the rest of the day to meld till ready to serve. If your gumbo is too thick, then you can add some chicken stock to the pot. I have not found a need for this, at all, though. Keep tasting and alter seasoning as you see fit.

This recipe is completely Muffin Approved.

Muffin Approved

What is your favorite soup or stew?

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Tip Tuesday: How a Component of a Recipe Can be Used for Other Things

Tip Tuesday

My sister has taught me many things throughout my life.  For the purposes of this blog, we will focus on all that she has ever taught me about food.  Even then this was a copious amount of things.

Her first official “paycheck” job in high school was at a now-defunct local hamburger chain, Short Stop.  While at Short Stop, she learned many, many things.  The one that I am most grateful for is learning how to make one of their most unusual burgers:  the Diablo Burger.

The Diablo Burger uses cheese singles, mayonnaise, a patty, and a yummy melange that is the purpose of this article:  onions and bell peppers sauteed in onions and seasoned with Creole seasoning (referred to down here as “Tony’s” or Tony Chachere seasoning).

My sister uses that same pepper-onion mixture (that I call Diablo veggies) when she has a hot dog bar when we visit.  This mixture is AWESOME on hot dogs!  I have a feeling it would be awesome on pretty much anything (grilled chicken or steak) including ice cream.  Okay, maybe not on ice cream, but having visited the Tabasco factory and tasted the raspberry chipotle ice cream, it might be good on the ice cream.

So, how is it made?  The amounts are purely up to you, so it’s more of a process than anything.

Diablo Burgers

Adapted from Short Stop Restaurant by my sister

Diablo Burger

For each serving:

one hamburger patty, seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked on a griddle or in a skillet

one hamburger bun

mayonnaise

cheese single

“Diablo veggies” (see below

I tend to mayo both sides of the bun (not necessarily a very thick coat, unless that is your thing, chicken wing).  I then place the cheese single on the bottom mayo’d bun.  Top the cheese single with a patty (still hot hopefully) and then the Diablo veggies.  I think more is more on the Diablo veggies, as you can tell from the picture above.  Top with the other bun and consume with fries or chips.

Diablo Veggies

A 1:1 ratio of onion (large) to bell pepper (equally large)

butter or margarine (eyeball it…usually around 1-2 tablespoons)

Creole seasoning, to taste (as mentioned above, we tend to use Tony’s)

Render the onion and bell pepper into strips.  Melt butter or margarine in a skillet over medium heat until melted and just starting to bubble.  Add the bell peppers and cook until soft and showing color.  Stir in Tony’s to taste.  And I mean, to taste.  You don’t want to make this too spicy for any spice phobes in your house.

Use in any variety of recipes.  (If you try it on ice cream and it’s awesome, please let me know!).

What is your favorite recipe component that you like to reuse?

Family Heirloom Recipes: Chicken and Dumplins

Family Heirloom Recipes There are dishes in my family that have been created (at least) through three generations:  my great-grandmother, grandmother, mom, sister, and me (and sometimes my eldest nephew).  One of those recipes is my grandmother’s chicken and dumplins.  Yes.  Dumplins.  There is a recipe written on lined paper in my grandmother’s hand that says dumplins.  Unfortunately, she left off the recipe for the first half of the equation (as well as the all-important “juice” or soup). My late uncle Billy also had a chicken and dumplins recipe that was so close to my grandmother’s that eventually they melded.  My sister has spent the last several years perfecting the recipe.  My nephew even makes the recipe, and he’s 11. This is not a veggie broth chicken and dumplins.  This is chicken…and dumplins. And the “juice”/soup is what makes it.  At least in my opinion.  For some in our family, it’s the dumplins.  For me and a few others, it’s the juice.  I would be happy with a bowl of juice with one lone dumplin and one square inch of chicken.  I’m weird that way, I know. A few years ago, my sister invited me over to learn how to make chicken and dumplins.  I wrote down what she did, and I’m ready to share that with you now.

Chicken and Dumplins

1 whole chicken, cut up (do not think to get by with boneless, skinless chicken breasts–you need the big kahuna)

3 cups flour

1/2 cup shortening (Crisco)

1 teaspoon salt

water to make the dough

1 can evaporated milk + 2 tablespoons/pats worth of butter or an equal amount of half-and-half (My sister insists the half and half is closest to our grandmother’s recipe)

1 can cream of chicken soup

2-3 cans chicken broth, if necessary

Boil chicken.  Take out of broth to cool.  (My sister recommends cooking the chicken the night before and separating the chicken from the broth.)  Add broth if necessary to “boiled chicken water.”

In a big bowl, place dry ingredients and shortening.  Use whisk (my sister does not use a pastry knife) to cut shortening into the flour.  Add water and work with hands until workable (as a dry biscuit dough).  Roll, a “snowball size” at a time on a floured surface until “pie crust” thickness.  Cut into dumplins (strips 1″x2 1/2″) with a butter knife.

Heat the broth to a rolling boil.  Drop dumplins in one at a time.  Boil at “high” until there is a crackling noise, then reduce to about medium-high (“7” on your stove settings, if you have it).  While boiling, scrape the bottom of the pan, adding broth to ensure that nothing “sticks.”

Cook 15 minutes.  Whisk together cream of chicken soup and evaporated milk/butter (or half-and-half) mixture.  Add this and the chicken to the pot and stir gently.  Turn off heat and tightly cover with a lid.

When ready to serve, reheat over medium until hot.