Thursday, June 9, 2011

"Who’s Your Mama….?

.....Are You Catholic and Can You Make A Roux?" That’s what greeted me every time Fred opened his front door. All brazen as can be. Daring me, my Yankee self, to try my hand at roux.

Not that lovely French roux of unsweetened butter and flour cooked to a shiny off white paste. No. This was a mix of plain old vegetable oil (and/or bacon fat or grease) mixed with equal parts plain flour and slowly cooked (seemingly for hours) until it turned almost the deep color of reddish brown mahogany. 

I put off that challenge as long as I could until one day---years later---I screwed up my courage and made a gumbo which of course, has to start with that roux.

Here’s Gumbo y’all…my way

Transplanted Yankee Gumbo
Serves 8-10
  • ½ lb unsliced bacon, cut into *lardons
  • About ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1 whole chicken cut into 10 pieces (cut each breast in ½ and separate thighs from legs)
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 medium bell pepper (red, green or yellow), diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 qt fish stock
  • 1 qt chicken stock
  • 1 (14-oz) can whole  peeled tomatoes drained and roughly chopped
  • 1 lb frozen cut okra (not thawed)
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 rounded tsp cayenne and additional for seasoning the chicken
  • Salt to taste, approximately 2 tsps
  • 1 pound Andouille sausage sliced approx ½" thick, or another smoked sausage such as Kielbasa
  • 1 ½ lb shrimp peeled and deveined (Use the shells to make fish stock)
  • ½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup sliced scallions (including green)
  • Season chicken pieces with salt, cayenne pepper and garlic powder. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Measure flour into a large plastic or heavy duty paper bag. Add chicken pieces and shake until well-coated. Remove chicken and set remaining flour aside for the roux.
  • Cook bacon in a 10-12 inch heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron ) over medium heat until browned but not crisp. Transfer bacon to a bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Transfer rendered fat to a heat proof liquid measure, then add enough vegetable oil to the bacon fat to bring the total to ¾ cup.
  • Add 3 TBS of oil-bacon fat mix back to pan and brown chicken pieces over medium high heat. Set aside.
  • Pour remaining oil into skillet and stir in flour. Stir fat and flour together with a wooden spoon, picking up any browned chicken bits from the bottom of the pan. Then continue to cook the roux over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until well browned to almost a shiny light brown mahogany color. Keep the heat low, be careful not to burn it. (Pour yourself some wine and sip while you makes the time---it seems---go pleasantly faster)
  • Add celery, pepper and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer everything to a deep 6-7 quart pot.
  • Stir in stocks, tomatoes, okra, thyme, bay leaf, cayenne and salt to taste (about 2 tsps) and stirring, bring everything to a boil.
  • Add garlic, chicken and sausage and continue cooking---covered and at a gentle boil---until the chicken is tender and cooked through. About 1 hour.
  • Add shrimp and cook, stirring, until seafood is just cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in parsley, scallions and reserved bacon bits and cook just until everything is heated through, about 1 minute. Check and adjust seasonings. Discard bay leaf.
  • Serve over white rice with *file powder and your favorite hot sauce.
 *lardons---narrow strips of bacon cut into  ½” x 2” pieces
*file powder---a spice. Dried ground sassafras leaves. The flavor reminds me of root beer

Transplanted Yankee Gumbo

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