Chicken & Sausage Gumbo

October 5, 2011

When I’m experimenting with a new recipe, I always get nervous.  Especially when I’m cooking for a crowd… and it happens to be gumbo… and everyone expects me to naturally know how to make it.  Before this, I had never made a gumbo from scratch.  I made it once before, but I used the Savoie’s Roux sold in grocery stores back in Louisiana.  And even then, it didn’t turn out that great. And while I’d made a roux before, it was always a light roux for etouffees and such, never a dark one.

My mother shared a horror story from her first attempt at making gumbo from scratch.  She messed up on the roux and the whole thing turned to such a mess that she wouldn’t even let my dad taste it. From that point on, she only used Savoie’s premade roux.

A couple of weekends ago, I took a swing at a homemade gumbo to rally support for the Saints game.  I went to Emeril for advice and basically used this recipe. Below is what I did.

½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup all purpose flour
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped green bell peppers
1 bunch green onions
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tblsp Emeril’s Seasoning (recipe below)
3 bay leaves
9 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 pounds smoked sausage, cut into bite size pieces
2-3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
Hot sauce
Steamed white rice

Emeril’s Seasoning (you’ll end up with much more than you need, but it will leave you with seasoning for the future):

2 ½ Tblsp paprika
2 Tblsp salt
2 Tblsp garlic powder
1 Tblsp black pepper
1 Tblsp onion powder
1 Tblsp cayenne pepper
1 Tblsp dried oregano
1 Tblsp dried thyme

Now if you read Emeril’s recipe, he does a lot more work with the meat.  I took my mom’s advice and skipped that whole process.  Too much work and our way turned out fantastic with a lot less effort.  You’ll see below.

First off, chop up all the veggies.  I used 2 large white onions, 1 bunch of celery, 2 green bell peppers and 1 bunch of green onions.  When chopping up the green onions, take the bottom half and add to the veggie mixture, the top half (aka the green part), you can chop and place to the side in a small bowl for garnishing later.

Making the roux: combine vegetable oil and flour in a very large pot.  Cook over medium heat, constantly stirring until the roux is the color of a dark chocolate.  Emeril said about 20-25 minutes.  I stirred for a good 35-40 minutes.

Now you’ll add the veggie mixture you’ve previously chopped.  Stir for about 5 minutes, until they start to soften. Add in Emeril’s Seasoning, salt, cayenne, and bay leaves.  Stir for about 2 minutes and then slowly start to add the chicken stock.  Bring up to a boil.  Once the mixture is mostly combined, drop in the chopped, uncooked chicken and sausage, reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking, uncovered, for at least an hour.

Note: this is when I got super nervous. The liquid appeared to just be chicken stock soup with flecks of roux stirring around.  It was not appetizing in the least.  But after you let the gumbo simmer for a good long while, it all comes together and looks and tastes the way it should.  Like heaven.

Somewhere in the simmering time, sprinkle in a few hefty shakes of hot sauce.

Serve up over rice, with a sprinkling of those reserved green onions and perhaps a tasty side of garlic bread.  I’ll be honest.  I am very picky in the world of Cajun food outside of Louisiana.  And this was so much more than satisfactory.  It was crazy delicious. I was proud to serve this to several people who’d never actually tasted gumbo.  Success.  Try it. Do it. Now.  The weather is perfect.

Advertisements

Mayo-Free Spinach & Artichoke Dip

August 6, 2010

I’m going to a potluck tonight and need to bring a crowd-pleasing appetizer that is maybe one or two steps classier than tots and pizza rolls (if this is even possible).

While looking through recipes for spinach-artichoke dip, I was horrified to find most of them used mayonnaise in them! Why would you do that? Gross! I’m sure I’ve been unwittingly eating mayo-laced dips for years, but it’s different when I’m making it. I know, and I just can’t do it.

I adapted the basic ideas I found in different recipes and came up with this variation that takes very little time to prepare and is downright delicious. In fact, I am eating a small bowl with tortilla chips for lunch RIGHT NOW.

Ingredients:

2 cans of artichoke hearts, drained
1 box frozen spinach, thawed
8 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. sour cream
8 oz. Italian blend shredded cheese
1/2 to 1 cup parmesan cheese
5 to 10 garlic cloves, roughly chopped or pressed
Splash of lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Add all of the ingredients to a food processor or blender and pulse lightly a few times until everything is mixed but not too finely blended.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until the dip is bubbly and melty and irresistible. Serve with bread or crackers.


Introducing the Pizzilla

June 24, 2009
The Pizzilla

The Pizzilla

In all of history, maybe someone has put sauce and cheese on top of a tortilla, maybe they haven’t. I ain’t a food historian. I do know that I haven’t seen it happen before, so I get to name this creation The Pizzilla. (It’s up to you whether you’d like to pronounce the ll sound as Spanish speakers pronounce tortilla, like a y, or as in Napoleon Dynamite, pronouncing the ll like armadillo.)

This is a meal that’s been rattling around my brain for awhile, borne from the age-old problem of wanting homemade pizza but not wanting to spend all that time making the dough. At any point in time, I’ve got a freezer full of tortillas, which are round, doughy objects similar to a pizza. There has to be a way, I’d think to myself.

The base of The Pizzilla is as follows:

  • Tortilla (we use spelt tortillas.)
  • Mixture of Ricotta cheese and one minced clove of garlic, seasoned with Italian seasoning (we use a seasoning mix created by our local organic co-op). On top of that I added a little dab of olive oil, for flavor and to help the tortilla get crispy.
  • Tortilla

This gave the base of The Pizzilla a nice weight and texture. Build the tortilla on a cookie sheet so it’ll be ready to pop into the oven. On top of that I poured some spaghetti sauce, spread it around with a spoon, and then added mixed vegetables. I added the cheese on top to hold everything together, because there’s not the bowl shape of the crust. I also covered the vegetables in olive oil before putting them on the pizza, just to ensure they’d cook well.

The Pizzilla close-up

The Pizzilla close-up

After preheating the oven to 350 degrees, I slid The Pizzillas into the oven for 15 minutes, which turned out to be a good time as the veggies were cooked thoroughly and the cheese had fully melted.

The beauty of The Pizzilla, and even a pizza, is that you can put anything you want on top. Make one for an appetizer, or three for an entrée for two. Mix and match toppings, sauces, etc.


Crack Biscuits

April 8, 2009

Grandma’s name for these little bits of heaven was always Sausage Cookies, but who are we kidding? When sausage, cheese and biscuit dough combine, the resulting compound is as addictive as crack. And probably better for you, too.

crack

Ingredients:
1 pound breakfast sausage (I always buy the tube of Bob Evans original recipe.)
3 cups baking mix (I use Bisquick.)
1 cup milk
1 pound shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Cook the breakfast sausage in a skillet and drain it on paper towels. Allow it to cool. Mix the baking mix and milk in a large bowl. Add the sausage and cheese and combine thoroughly. I always use my hands to blend in the sausage and cheese. It’ll look like too much cheese, but it’ll all merge eventually.

Form the dough into teaspoonful-sized balls. Place the balls on greased cookie sheets at bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly on racks, then serve while still warm