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.


Buttermilk Chocolate Chip Cookies

October 5, 2011
 
I found the recipe found here.
 
 
2 cups all purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
¾ cup cocoa powder (I used a ghiradelli semi-sweet cocoa powder)
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips (and used ghiradelli semi-sweet choc chips)

Preheat oven to 350F and line baking sheet with wax paper.

Mix flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.  Next, melt butter and combine with cocoa powder until smooth.  Mix in sugar, vanilla and buttermilk.  Gradually stir in the flour mixture. Be careful not to send flour flying all over the kitchen. Trust me, it happens quite easily. Then mix in the chocolate chips.

Drop 1-inch balls of dough onto the baking sheet with the wax paper.  I thought the wax paper step might be a silly step, but turns out this will make or break the final cookie quite literally.

Depending on your oven, bake about 10-12 minutes.  I actually baked closer to 14 minutes.  If the edges (not the middles) are set then the cookies are done. Whatever you do, don’t try and scoop them up now.  They will break and thus the whole purpose of the wax paper comes into play.  Let them cool for 3-4 minutes on the baking sheet.  The bottoms of the cookies will become perfectly settled and when you finally take the spatula to them, they’ll scoop up easily and maintain their shape perfectly.

The final cookie has a little crunch on the edges but gives way to a chewy fudgy center. Delicious.


Vegetarian Sandwich: Sundried Tomato-Pesto Spread, Artichoke Hearts & Other Goodness

August 26, 2011

We had a party last weekend and made a ton of food, as we are wont to do. There was a lot of leftover sundried tomato-pesto dip, so I have been testing out every imaginable way to use it in different meals. This sandwich was the best one I’ve come up with yet.

First, the dip. It’s super easy, uses three ingredients and is delicious. I threw it together from what we had in the house when I needed a last-minute appetizer for a dinner party, and it’s a crowd-pleaser.

Ingredients:

1 8-oz. block cream cheese
1 small jar of pesto (around 8 to 10 oz.)
1 small jar of sundried tomatoes, drained (around 8 to 10 oz.)

Blend all the ingredients together in a food processor and serve.

Now for the sandwich. You can throw in whatever veggies you have in house, but this is what I used:

A few artichoke hearts, pulled into pieces
1 roasted red bell pepper, sliced
Handful of steamed broccoli
Crumbled feta

1. Spread two pieces of bread generously with the tomato-pesto dip. Layer the veggies on the bread and sprinkle with feta. Grill the sandwich in a panini press or on the stovetop, the way you would a grilled cheese sandwich.

2. Devour. (I ate mine with a little balsamic on the side because I can’t get enough balsamic.)


Eggplant Parmesan with Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Sauce

May 25, 2011

I’ve been drooling over this recipe for quite some time.  And last night, I finally tried it.  I started cooking just before 7 and we didn’t eat til about 930.  But it was definitely worth it.  I pulled the recipe from Bobby Flay.

Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Sauce:

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 large jar of roasted red peppers (drained and chopped) or 3 large roasted red peppers (seeded and chopped)
2 (28 ounce) cans of plum tomatoes and juice
1 (28 ounce) can of crushed tomatoes
bunch of fresh basil and oregano finely chopped
salt and pepper
sugar

In a large pot, heat the olive oil.  Add the onions and cook til soft.  Mix in the garlic and red pepper flakes.  Continue cooking a few minutes.  Add the red peppers and cook for another few minutes.  Pour in all those tomatoes but be careful it splashes.  Simmer for about 25 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Take off heat and let it cool for about ten minutes.  Transfer the sauce to a food processor or blender and mix until smooth.  Pour back into the pot and return to heat.  Pour in basil, oregano, salt and pepper.  I added several pinches of sugar to even out the sauce.  Store for later use or just remove from heat until you’re ready to put everything together.

Eggplant:

2 eggplants, cut into 1/2″ rounds (you’ll need 12 or 18 rounds depending on how many layers you want)
Italian breadcrumbs
flour
eggs, beaten
vegetable oil, for frying
salt & pepper
fresh mozzarella thinly sliced
shredded mozzarella
grated pecorino romano, asiago, parmesan (I found a blend that was so tasty)

Preheat the oven to 400.  Now you can start breading and frying the eggplant. Slice the eggplant into 1/2″ rounds.  Salt and pepper the slices.  I had way too much eggplant.  For a 9×13″ dish, I used 12 eggplant rounds and had 2 layers.  You could have more layers or use a different size dish and need different amounts of eggplant.

Take each round and dredge in flour, dip in egg, shaking off excess, then coat in breadcrumbs.  Once you’ve finished all of that you can fry.  Heat about two inches of vegetable oil to 350.  Fry eggplant until golden.

Next step is assembling.  Coat bottom of dish with sauce, then layer fried eggplant with more sauce and plenty of grated and shredded cheese.  Continue til you’ve finished all your layers. Use the fresh mozzarella for the top.  You’ll know that the dish is done cooking when the mozzarella has started to brown.  Takes about 30-35 minutes.  It took much longer than I thought it would, but it was oh so good.  And even Greg loved it.  And he previously claimed that he didn’t like eggplant. (*cough* gillie, you should try this on brian *cough*)


Pork and Pinto Beans

April 7, 2011

We eat a lot of Mexicanish food at my house. A lot. It’s cheap, it’s fresh, it’s easy…and we love it. I like quinoa and black beans more than is normal or healthy, but I decided that I wanted to have a couple more burrito ideas in my arsenal, just in case. I stumbled on this amazing-looking recipe, tweaked it a bit and gave it a shot yesterday. (Seriously, take a look at the photo on that blog. Don’t you want to eat that?)

After a couple of glasses on wine last night, I sampled the finished product and tipsily dubbed it “meaty beans.” This is the best burrito filling/nacho topping/taco meat I have ever had. And those of you who know me know that I take my burritos seriously. Very seriously.

Ingredients:

3 lb. boneless pork butt, trimmed of most of its fat
1 lb. dried pinto beans
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
2 4-oz. cans fire-roasted diced green chiles
4 cups water
2 chopped white onions
2 diced jalapenos (with seeds)
6-8 minced cloves of garlic
3 tbsp. ground cumin
3 tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. Tony’s
2 tsp. ancho chile powder
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne

Place the trimmed pork butt in a large (I used a 7-quart) dutch oven. Pour the dried beans on top of the pork butt. You don’t need to soak the beans before you cook them. They have plenty of time to soften up in the pot.

Dump the rest of the ingredients in the dutch oven. Give them a stir to incorporate all the spices, then put on the lid and place the pot in a 250-degree oven. Cook the pork and pinto beans for eight to nine hours, pulling it out around hour five to add another cup of water if it looks a little dry. Shred up the meat and enjoy!

If you don’t want to run your oven all day, you might be able to use a Crock-Pot set to low, but my biggest slow cooker isn’t large enough to accommodate all the ingredients.

I realize that this recipe makes a lot, but it appears that it would freeze really well. Also, it’s so delicious that you’ll probably eat the whole vat. I can also vouch for the fact that the leftovers are even better than the freshly finished product.


Mardi Gras King Cake Cupcakes

February 21, 2011

Happy Mardi Gras, y’all! During Carnival time, the only thing that comes close to my love of drinking daiquiris on the parade route is my love of eating king cake… lots and lots of king cake. There is something about purple, green and gold sugar that just tastes better.

Since I moved away from New Orleans, it has been impossible to find king cake to satisfy my craving. I wanted to make a traditional cake, but I waited to start baking until 10 p.m,. and apparently you have to let most recipes rise for two hours. Instead, I found a few recipes for king cake cupcakes (from Cupcake Project and Ptit Chef) that I adapted, and they turned out fabulously well.

Notes: If you have never tried king cake before, since the recipe uses yeast, the consistency is less like cake and more like a delicious cinnamon roll. I left out the baby because I didn’t have a creepy plastic baby lying around. You could also use a pecan half if you so desire.

Cupcake Ingredients:

2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Three small prep bowls of sugar, tinted with food coloring to be purple, green and gold

Filling Ingredients:

1 cup chopped sugared pecans (or if you have regular pecans, you could add brown sugar)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup melted butter
Cinnamon to taste

Frosting Ingredients:

4 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. softened butter
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (if you have it; we were out, so I had to skip it)
A little cinnamon to taste

1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the milk and 1/4 cup of sugar. Let sit for 10 minutes until it is frothy.

2. Mix in the butter, eggs, salt and the other 1/4 cup of sugar (you can do this by hand or using a mixer). Add flour and mix until you have a soft ball of dough.

3. Cover with a towel and let the dough sit in a warm place for an hour until it doubles in size (I put the bowl in the slightly warmed oven with the door cracked.)

4. While the dough is rising, make the filling. Mix all the ingredients together and set aside.

5. When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured surface and roll into a large rectangle. Spread the filling in a line down the middle of the rectangle so it is covered evenly.

6. Fill two cupcake pans with cupcake liners. Roll the dough up so it forms a long cylinder. Cut off small pieces (about 1 1/2 to 2 inches) and place each in a cupcake liner. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

7. While the cupcakes are in the oven, make the frosting using a stand-up or handheld mixer. Mix all the ingredients until fluffy and smooth.

8. Cool the cupcakes, then frost and sprinkle with colored sugar.

9. Devour and enjoy!

I was so distracted by my sugar rush that I forgot to take a picture of the finished product. Photo credit goes to Meringue Bake Shop.


Slow Cooker Oatmeal

January 25, 2011

I have a tough time in the morning. I wake up groggy, stiff and starving, and I’m generally greeted by approximately 2 million new e-mails. This inevitably delays the first meal of the day for at least an hour or two. I’ve often thought, “Why is there not a machine that can cook my breakfast while I am attempting to keep from drowning in my own popularity?”

Or something to that effect.

This makes a pretty big batch of oatmeal, about six servings. However, it reheats really well in the microwave, so I usually just refrigerate the leftovers. What’s even better than making breakfast for one day? Making breakfast for the whole week!

Ingredients:


2-3 apples
1/2 cup dried cranberries, raisins or dates (optional)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. apple pie spice
1-1/2 cups old-fashioned or steel-cut oats
1/2 cup granola
Pinch of salt

Chop the apples into bite-sized pieces, removing the core and seeds. You can peel them if you want, but I prefer to leave it as-is. Toss the apples with the dried fruit (if you’re using it), brown sugar, cinnamon and apple pie spice. Layer the apple mixture in the bottom of your slow cooker.

Layer the oats, granola and salt on top of the apples, then pour 3 cups of water over the whole thing. Do not stir it at this point; the moisture from the apples will keep the oats from sticking to the bottom of the crock and burning. Flip the slow cooker onto low and let it go for six to eight hours. Then stir, scoop and serve. I like mine with milk and a sprinkling of almonds.