Wednesday, 12 January 2011

My Inner Justin Wilson

OOOh-weeee! How Ya’ll Are?
I’m going Cajun on ya’ll today.  Ahem….Excuse me.  I seem to be channeling Justin Wilson. Give me a sec to shake him off.
*sigh* All better now. So, Cajun – It’s a favorite at my house. Don is a Louisiana native so it’s home cooking for him. For me, well it’s just good stuff. Louisiana is as well known for food as it is for Boudreaux jokes, bayous and crawfish boils.
Imma start taday wit Gumbo an finish wit da jambalaya.  I done shared wit ya’ll my grillades. JUSTIN! I taut  I tole you ta git on outta here!
Ahem…Gumbo.  There’s a story behind this gumbo. It’s a long one and I’ll tell it in another blog post. But, thank you Mr. Neil for giving me the base for a dish that would become a favorite at my house and in many others. It’s a warm your body and soul kind of good. I warn you though – You’re going to dirty every pot and pan in your house and you’re going to spend about ½ a day working on this.
You will need:
1 pound chicken thighs
1 pound andouille or smoked sausage cut into bite sized pieces
1 tube breakfast sausage *any variety is fine*
1 pound peeled shrimp
Large can of low sodium chicken broth
3 stalks celery chopped
1 onion chopped
1 bell pepper chopped
Chopped okra (I use ½ of a 16 oz bag of frozen)
1/3 cup of flour and/or some Tony Chacherez Roux mix (Which one I do depends on how much time I want to spend standing over the stove to make that roux magic happen)
Big can (it’s 28 oz I think) of diced tomatoes
2 ½ to 3 tablespoons of Creole seasoning.

First, place chicken in a large pot and cover with the chicken broth. Allow chicken to cook at a low boil for about 1 ½ hours. Remove chicken to cool and set the pot with the broth on a back burner. At some point during this entire process you will need to find time to allow the chicken to cool enough to debone it and shred it.

Next – sauté your veggies in a couple tablespoons of butter. When tender set them aside. Brown the breakfast sausage, drain and set it aside.

Let’s talk roux. (roo) This is important folks. It’s the base of all quality Cajun gravies, sauces and bases. Cajuns don’t thicken with cornstarch. They use roux. You can’t skimp on it. You can’t rush it. You burn it and you’ve ruined everything.

So, follow closely here. Don’t sully my good kitchen reputation by ruining the roux. I will never speak to you again, I will hereafter refer to you as a jackwagon and you will be forever banned from creating any Cajun dish ever again.  Besides, I still have that handy dandy wooden spoon I mentioned a few recipes ago and I still know how to use it.

Understood? Good. Now let’s get on with the show.

In the bottom of a large stockpot, add your sausage drippings and a few tablespoons of butter. Now, grab your handy dandy wooden spoon, a 1/3 cup of flour and make sure your arms ain’t tired.  Stirring CONSTANTLY (yeah, I just yelled at you for emphasis) with heat on MEDIUM, slowly add the flour to the melted butter. You want to add flour until you are just past paste consistency. You  might not use all the flour. Use good judgment. I’m watching you. It still needs some of its liquidity but still needs to be able to properly thicken your gumbo too.

Stand over that pot and stir until your roux gets really dark brown. I’m not talking khaki brown here. I mean good and brown. Almost like milk chocolate. It’s an art to be able to do this so that your roux is just cooked into brownness and not burnt into brownness. Burnt roux is terrible. So, keep your heat around medium and keep stirring.
NOTE: You’ll be standing there a long time so make sure you pee and wash your hands before you get started on it. Just sayin’.
When your roux finally reaches the right color slowly add (stirring constantly) the broth back to the pot. Increase the heat to medium high.  Now, add the tomatoes and creole/Cajun seasoning and give it a good stir. This is the point to test your seasoning. You may find you like more or less of the seasoning. However, if you choose to use more, keep in mind the salt content of all the items you’re using. This can really mess with the overall flavor of the finished dish.
Next, add your sauted veggies, the sausages, chicken and the okra. Give it another good stir. Just before serving add your shrimp.
Serve over rice.
The thing with gumbo is you don’t have to use all these meats. I always use the sausages and the chicken.  The shrimp is hit or miss depending on whether or not I can find it on sale. Some folks like to add some crawfish. Some folks don’t like sausage. Do what you like. That’s the cool thing about gumbo. It was a dish that was made from using a little of whatever you could find. Gumbo means “mixture or hodgepodge”.
So get out there and get creative. You’ll be a hit. I promise.
Next is Jambalaya.
Now, my jambalaya isn’t traditional by any means. Who cares though. It’s good and it’s easy. The best part? I do it in the crockpot.
You will need:
1 lb of boneless skinless chicken cut into 1” cubes
1 lb of andouille or smoked sausage
28 oz can tomatoes
1 sm can of tomato paste
3 stalks chopped celery
1 onion chopped
1 bell pepper chopped
½ t basil
½ t oregano
½ t thyme
1 bay leaf
3 t. Cajun seasoning
1 can beef broth

Dump it all in the crock pot. Turn the heat to low. Give it a good stir. Go to work. Come home. Make rice. Serve jambalaya over rice. Beg your husband to do dishes.

See, I told you it was easy. Besides, you deserved that after reading the gumbo recipe.  I'm looking out for you. Really! I am! 

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