Sunday, July 31, 2016

Eating Cajun

When I moved out of Louisiana, there were three things I missed the most: the music, the Joie de vivre, and the food. When I think of crawfish etoufee, gumbo, jambalaya, fricassee, or red beans and rice, my mouth waters. My Uncle Moise could cook up the best duck gumbo you ever had. It was a little greasy, yes, but once you got past that, it was all good eating. My aunt made a fantastic gumbo also, but she had a unique twist to it. She would crack a couple of eggs into it, so it turned out sort of like an egg-drop gumbo. However, the gumbo I most remember and enjoyed was my mother's. She would make the roux dark, dark--actually black. My Lord, it was good. When I cook gumbo now, I combine my aunt's egg-drop and my mother's dark roux. If there's anything better in this world, I'm not aware of it. 

The recipe follows:

Jude’s Gumbo Recipe

First, you make a roux.

½ cup oil (a good vegetable oil will do)
1 ½ cup flour 

Making a roux takes time, and you are tied to the stove, so make sure you have all your necessities at hand: TV remote, snacks, beer. (My Uncle Moise Brasseaux used to say that any good roux takes two beers time to make. I usually go through three.) Heat the oil over a medium heat. Add flour and stir until the roux turns a dark brown or black, but be careful not to burn your roux or you’ll get these tiny little black flakes in your gumbo. It takes a lot of stirring and a watchful eye to get a perfect roux, so don't drink that beer too fast. After it is done to your satisfaction, set it aside.

Then you make the soup.

1 ½ lb. chicken (More or less as you wish. By the way, you can use duck or any other wild game in your gumbo.)
1 lb. sausage (More or less as you wish. Andouille is best but difficult to find outside of Louisiana, so any good smoked sausage will do.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion
2 stalks celery
1 large bell pepper (seeded)
2 cloves garlic (This is optional. Most Cajuns would not put garlic in their gumbo; however, I like the extra flavor.)
1 can Rotel Tomatoes (This too is optional. It really depends on my mood whether I will add Rotel. I like the one with habanera peppers.) 
5 cups chicken broth, water, or mixture of both (More if you desire a thinner gumbo)
Several fresh hot peppers (Cayenne is good for this, but if you don’t have it, you can use Serrano, habanera, or any other hot pepper available. You can use fewer peppers or eliminate them altogether, but in my humble opinion that would be a mistake.)
2 or three chopped okras (Not everybody likes okra, so sometimes I will omit it)
About a teaspoon of salt.
About a teaspoon or more of ground cayenne (Again, you can eliminate the pepper.)
A pinch of black pepper and other seasonings you might like.

Heat the oil. Dump in the chicken and sausage. While the meat is cooking, chop up vegetables. When chicken and sausage are nearly done, dump in chopped vegetables (except for the okra). Cook until onions are clear. Dump in can of Rotel Tomatoes and chicken broth and/or water and turn up the heat until soup comes to a rolling boil. (Let it boil for a while until the chicken cooks thoroughly. Scoop off the oil that floats to the top.) Add the roux one spoonful at a time. The soup will turn brown and thicken. (How thick you want your gumbo is up to you. Some people like it the consistency of stew; others like it like soup. The more roux you dump into it, the thicker it will become. If you over-thicken it, add more water and/or broth.) Add the seasonings. Cook at a slow boil for about 15 or 20 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Scoop off oil that floats to the top.) Add the okra if you so desire. Cook until okra is done (about 10 minutes). Add fresh onion tops and parsley. Serve over rice and eat. C’est bon, cher. Tres bon.

It takes a while to master the art of making the roux, but once you've mastered it, you're all set to make a good gumbo. Good luck.

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