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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Nothin' Like a Bowl of Gumbo, Ya'll! (Except Two Bowls of Gumbo!)

Writing about the upcoming Wizard New Orleans show has made me hungry.

I mean REALLY hungry... my mind goes to Shrimp Etouffee, Jambalaya, Red Beans and Rice, breakfast at Cafe du Monde, oyster po-boys... and yes.... GUMBO!

My Aunt Margaret--my Dad's older sister--lived in New Orleans by the time I was born. My Mom and Dad went to visit her shortly after they were married, long before the advent of me.

(Mom and Dad on their Wedding Day.)

My Mom recounts how she was rather shocked by the goings on down on Bourbon Street. But they still went to The Court of Two Sisters, Pat O'Brien's and the same places that are still in the French Quarter today. (And yes, ya gotta check the side streets for the most awesome places! The hole in the wall places frequented by locals.)

Of course, when you were visiting Aunt Margaret, good food was never far away. As soon as you walked in the door, there was a pot of Gumbo in the works, etouffee planned for the next day, huge piles of crayfish on newspaper--bright red and inviting, and the thought of picking up some po-boys on French bread to take on a road trip to see the plantations was never out of mind.

Yes, we went there almost every summer--loaded into my Dad's truck and driving more than 8 hours, on an old 2 lane highway from Texarkana through Louisiana-- and every summer I gained five pounds.

It was worth it.

I have a clear vision of Aunt Margaret in one of her brightly colored dresses, multi-tasking the kitchen into a frenzy, her two little chichuas, waiting patently for their baked chicken breast to be cut up (no canned food for them), the giant Great Dane trying to desperatly get under foot with much lovable success, and my dear Uncle Al--the real Cajun, looking at the whole scene bemused.

(With Aunt Margaret at the New Orleans house.)

I so loved going to their house.

I loved New Orleans.

To Aunt Margaret, much like me, she cooked for the people she loved. I think she must have loved us a bunch...

So, you can bet your boots that when Wizard New Orleans rolls around, you'll find me frequenting my favorite haunts, sampling some fantastic food, and dancing a little Zydeco.

That's the way it's gotta be, ya'll. Aunt Margaret would say so.


Here's a little bit of New Orleans for all of you. A wonderful Gumbo recipe. It takes some time, but soooo worth it.

New Orleans Gumbo

Recipe Yields 10 servings

• 2 tablespoons butter
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 cups chopped onion
• 3/4 cup chopped celery
• 1 pound okra, chopped
• 1/4 cup butter
• 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/2 pound cubed beef stew meat (optional, I don't use it)
• 8 cups water
• 1 (16 ounce) can whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped
• 1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
• 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
• 1 sprig fresh thyme
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 pinch salt
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
• 1 pinch ground black pepper
• 1 pound Andouille sausage, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
• 1/2 pound crabmeat, flaked
• 1 pound medium shrimp - peeled and deveined
• 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
• 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
• 1/2 lemon
• file gumbo powder

1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook garlic, onions, celery and okra, stirring constantly until golden brown. Set aside.

2. In a large heavy bottomed stock pot over medium-high heat, combine 1/4 cup of butter and flour. Cook, stirring constantly, until the roux becomes chocolate brown. (Be careful here, I still have the scars on my leg from when I was 10 and the bubbling roux decided to take leap.) Stir in the vegetable mixture, and stew meat. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are tender, and meat is evenly brown. Stir in water, tomatoes and sugar. Season with parsley, thyme, bay leaves, salt, cayenne pepper and black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
3. Add shrimp, crabmeat and andouille to stock pot. Stir in hot pepper sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Remove seeds from lemon and squeeze juice into stock pot. Simmer an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaves, sprinkle with file powder, and serve.
4. Serve over rice or alone.

Note: File Gumbo Powder can be added off the heat to thicken the gumbo. If added while the gumbo is still cooking, it may become stringy and unpleasant. File powder is ground sassafras leaves. It is available in many supermarkets, or you can find it on line.

Enjoy! ANDdon't forget the hot sauce, ya'll!

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