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.

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Potato Broccoli Soup

November 10, 2009

soup

With winter coming, I’ve been getting a craving for soup. Tonight I wanted something thick and hearty but not too heavy, so I made Potato Broccoli Soup. It was delicious — filling, but not too rich. If you do want rich, add cream or whole milk as a final step. I adapted the recipe from Cooks.com.

I’d recommend conserving the potato peels, assuming you buy organic, and baking them with this recipe.

Ingredients:

1 med. white or yellow onion, chopped
2-3 tsp. butter
3 cups broth
2 large potatoes (around 3 1/2 to 4 cups diced potatoes)
4 cups broccoli florets, chopped
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
Salt to taste
1 1/4 cup whole milk (optional)
1 to 2 tsp. finely chopped chives for garnish (optional)

In a Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Add the onions and 1/2 cup of broth and cook, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes until onions are tender but not browned. If liquid begins to evaporate, lower heat slightly and add more broth. Add remaining broth, potatoes, broccoli, and pepper.

Lower heat, cover, and simmer about 11 to 14 minutes or until potatoes and broccoli are tender. Remove pot from heat and let cool slightly. In batches, puree mixture in a blender on low speed for 10 seconds, or use a hand blender. Raise speed to high and puree until completely smooth. Return puree to the pot. Add milk, if desired, and stir to mix well. Simmer an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Add salt to taste and stir well.

Garnish individual servings with sprinkling of chopped chives, if desired. (Chives make the soup prettier and give it a little kick.) Makes 6 to 8 servings and keeps 2-3 days when refrigerated.


Tortellini Soup

October 9, 2009

This soup is perfect for chilly days. It’s spicy, rich and savory. It’s also inexpensive to make and very customizable. I’ve made it vegetarian-style by leaving out the sausage and using vegetable stock, and sometimes I skip the mirepoix altogether (especially in the winter, when I’m using up odds and ends and it can be sort of difficult to get to the store). You can throw in any filled pasta; I’ve tried it with ravioli and that worked fairly well. I usually use a small bag of frozen mixed vegetables in this soup, but fresh vegetables of almost any variety are also great if you can get them.

Ingredients:
1 package of hot Italian sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped carrot
1/4 cup chopped celery
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
12 to 16 ounces of mixed vegetables, fresh or frozen
Small pack of fresh or frozen tortellini (9 or 12 ounces)

Remove the sausage from its casing by slitting it up the side with a sharp knife and squeezing it into a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Discard the sausage casings. Cook the meat over medium heat, chopping it into small bits as it cooks, until no pink remains. Drain at least 75 percent of the grease from the pan, but leave a bit behind to cook the mirepoix and flavor the soup.

Add the chopped onion, carrot and celery to the pot and saute until soft and translucent. Pour in the stock and diced tomatoes (in the juice) and bring the mixture to a simmer.

Add the vegetables to the pot. If using frozen vegetables, allow the broth to reach at least a simmer again before adding the tortellini. Cook until the pasta is al dente. Season with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and/or Tony Chachere’s seasoning to taste.


Butternut Squash Soup

October 4, 2009

Fall has firmly arrived here in Chicago, and that means that the offerings at the farmers market have radically changed in the past couple weeks. Right now, the choices pretty much consist of apples, winter squash, root vegetables and leafy greens. Luckily, all these fruits and veggies are pretty solid soup ingredients. I made a big pot of butternut squash soup today. I love this recipe because it freezes so well; if anything, the flavors get better. I try to double (or even triple) the ingredients, then divide it into one- or two-serving containers and have it on hand into the winter months.

Ingredients:
1 small butternut squash
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon of butter or 2 strips of bacon, diced
2-4 tablespoons chopped shallots
1 clove minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Directions:
Peel the butternut squash and scrape the seeds from the center with a spoon. Cut it into 1-inch cubes. (You need anywhere from four to six cups of butternut squash for the soup.) Grease a glass baking dish with cooking spray and arrange the cubed squash in a single layer in the bottom. Spray the top of the squash with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 to 45 minutes (or until the squash is fork-tender).

Melt the butter or cook the diced bacon over medium heat in a Dutch oven or stockpot. Add the shallots, garlic and ginger and saute for about three minutes. If you’re using bacon, add these ingredients before the bacon is totally cooked so that it won’t burn.

Pour in the vegetable stock and the roasted butternut squash. Bring the mixture to a boil; let it boil for two to three minutes. Drop the heat to low and pour the buttermilk into the soup. Cook the soup, stirring constantly, for about two minutes, then remove it from the heat.

Use a food processor to puree the soup in three or four batches. Make sure to remove the spout cover from the hole in the lid so steam can escape. Cover the hole with a dish towel while the processor is on.


Broccoli-Cheese Soup

October 3, 2009

I’ve been working on my broccoli-cheese soup recipe off and on for a few years, and I finally figured it out today. This is a pretty solid recipe, and the flavor reminds me of my favorite version from St. Louis Bread Co. (Panera Bread to all you outsiders). It’s creamy, a little tangy and very filling.

A note about the broth: I used fat-free half-and-half to cut back on the calories and fat in this soup, and it worked out perfectly. I suspect you could also use one cup of half-and-half and one cup of milk, if you were concerned about these things.

soup

Ingredients:
Cooking spray
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups half-and-half
2 cups chicken stock
8 to 12 ounces of fresh broccoli, cut into florets
1 cup carrots, sliced into matchsticks
Nutmeg
8 ounces grated cheddar cheese
salt and pepper

Directions:

Spray a skillet with nonstick cooking spray and saute the onions until they’re soft. Set them aside.

In a medium-sized stock pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour, and whisk the roux constantly for three to five minutes, or until it turns a light golden brown. Pour in the half-and-half and chicken stock and bring it to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer the mixture over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes.

Add the broccoli, onions and carrots to the liquid and simmer over low heat for about 25 minutes. Stir in a pinch of ground nutmeg and the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with crusty bread.


Simple Gourmet Carrot Soup

April 14, 2009
Darren would like it noted that he took this gorgeous photo.

I’ve been making this soup for years, a variation on a recipe from The Healthy College Cookbook. It’s super easy and a crowd pleaser. It takes only about an hour to cook, including prep time, and it lends well to experimentation. You can serve it hot or cold, with a variety of spices, garnishes, and breads.

Every time I make this soup, I find myself singing “Carrot Stew,” a song from a tape that Gill and I had as kids. It’s the song that Gill used in a round of Encore, one that Nay Nay challenged. Gill called Lil’ Laverne, who sang the song to Nay Nay over the phone, thus confirming its legitimacy.

2 tablespoons (30 ml) butter or olive oil
1/2 large onion, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons (23 ml) tomato paste
1/4 (60 ml) uncooked rice, brown or white
4 cups (1 quart) low sodium broth, chicken or veggie
1 pound bag of carrots, peeled & chopped (or whole baby carrots)
Salt & pepper
Optional: Herbs to taste: add fresh chopped cilantro, rosemary, or basil to the simmering pot; a dollop of yogurt or sour cream to top it off.

Makes 4 servings. Easy to double if you want leftovers.

1. Melt the butter or oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute the onion until transparent.

2. Add the tomato paste, rice, chicken broth, and carrots to the sauteed onion. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until carrots are soft (about 45 minutes; brown rice takes longer than white).

3. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor, most likely in a couple of batches. Season further if desired. Serve hot or cold with fresh bread or toast.