Saturday, October 30, 2010

Gumbo Ya Ya...aka Chicken and Sausage Gumbo!!

A strange thing happens about this time every fall...the first big cool snap comes to Texas, and my internal gumbo meter goes off! That means that the long, hot summer is in my rear-view mirror, and it's officially time to make my inaugural pot of gumbo for the season!! The weatherman predicted temps in the upper 30s this morning, so I was ready to cook some gumbo for dinner last night!!

My family isn't from Louisiana, and I didn't grow up eating gumbo. But, my husband's family is from a town on the Texas-Louisiana border, so they all love gumbo. His mother makes a mean pot of gumbo, so I learned to love it while we were dating. For the longest time, I was afraid to cook gumbo for one reason: I was intimidated by the idea of making roux! Two measly ingredients, flour and oil cooked until it's a dark-brown, filled me with trepidation. Then I found out a secret! 

There are several companies in Louisiana that make roux that comes in a jar. So...that's what I do. It saves me time, and the end result is perfect pot of gumbo every time. The brand that I use is Kary's Roux. I buy it at Super Walmart here in Texas, but Cajun Food Mart sells it over the internet.

I usually make seafood gumbo with andouille (spicy Cajun sausage), shrimp, crawfish, and crab. But this time we were hungry for Gumbo Ya Ya, which has andouille and chicken. I bought all the ingredients after work, came home, and got cooking. Two hours later, we had enough gumbo for last night's dinner...and plenty of leftovers for tonight! A quick word about okra...there are two schools of thought about it: either you love it in your gumbo, or you don't! I fall firmly in the NO OKRA camp! I don't like the flavor or the texture. Oh, and I never, ever put tomatoes in my gumbo either. There are a gazillion ways to make gumbo, so feel free to add tomatoes or okra if you want. My recipe is pretty flexible...a very basic pot of gumbo.

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo aka Gumbo Ya Ya

Step 1:  Add a bit of vegetable oil to a 5-quart Dutch oven or large soup pot and turn heat to med-high. Add 1 medium diced onion, 3 stalks sliced celery, and 1 diced medium bell pepper. Sprinkle liberally with Cajun seasoning of your choice - I used Paul Prudhomme's Poultry Magic last night. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the veggies start to wilt.

Step 2:  Add 5-6 shakes of Tabasco to the veggies...add more or less, depending on how spicy you want your gumbo. Slice two links of andouille sausage in half, then cut each piece into half-moons. If you can't find andouille, any good-quality smoked sausage will work. Add the sausage to the veggies and stir. Cook for another 5 minutes.

Step 3:  Add 8 cups chicken stock to the pot and stir well to get all the browned bits off the bottom of the pot. Now it's time to add the roux. Open the jar and pour out the oil that's on top to prevent an oily gumbo. The roux is a bit like clay, so use a sturdy spoon to scoop it. If you want a thinner gumbo, add about 1/3 of the jar. We like a hearty gumbo, so I add about half the jar. Add the roux and stir continuously for 10-15 minutes to dissolve the roux. The color will darken a bit, and the gumbo will begin to thicken.

After you've incorporated the roux into the gumbo, add 2-4 bay leaves and 1 tbs. dried minced garlic to the pot.

Step 4: Add 3 bone-in chicken breasts, removing any skin. The package of chicken I bought was 2.5 lbs. You can use half breasts and half thighs if you want, but we prefer all white meat. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1.5 hours.

Step 5:  After the gumbo has simmered for 1.5 hours, remove the chicken breasts and set aside on a cutting board to cool for a few minutes. Put a pot of white rice on to cook. While the rice cooks, remove the chicken from the bones and cut into cubes. 

Step 6:  Chop 3-4 green onions. Add half of the green onions and the cubed chicken back into the gumbo and give it a stir. You can see how much darker the gumbo has become while it simmered.

When the rice is finished cooking, scoop some into a bowl. Top with two ladles of gumbo, and sprinkle with a bit more chopped green onion...or chopped parsley.

This is truly one of our favorite comfort food meals. I like to use a lot of roux in my gumbo, so it's very substantial and hardy. I serve it with garlic bread. There are few meals that I love more than a bowl of gumbo on a cool fall night. The best part? It tastes even better the next day after it rests in the fridge!!

Before I leave, I want to take a few moments to answer a few Tag, Your're It questions that my friend Kim at Liv Life asked me in her blog earlier this week. Be sure to check out her blog...she always has fantastic recipes and photographs!!

1.  What is your favorite restaurant? many! I've been lucky enough to eat at some of the best restaurants in the country the past couple of years. I'll name three that stand out: (1) Gary Danko, San Francisco...excellent food, attentive service, and a great price for the quality of the food. (2) ad hoc, Napa Valley...Thomas Keller's casual eatery. You sit down and they tell you the menu for the night. Yep, everyone eats the same four-course menu. (3) Frontera Grill, Chicago. Had a wonderful Mexican meal there in good that I forgive Rick Bayless for the 2-hour wait for a table. Oh! One more runner up: BLT Prime in popovers EVER!!

2.  When dining out do you prefer a fancy, dress up affair or casual with flip flops?
Depends on my mood. Sometimes I like to get dressed up and have a fancy multi-course gourmet meal. Other times I just want to wear jeans and have a good 'ol burger or BBQ! I'm a food lover, but I'm not a food least not most of the time!

3.  Do you do fast food?  If so, what is your favorite? favorites are Chick-fil-a and Whataburger. Whataburger is Texas-only and so good for burgers and fries. My uncle lives in the Bay Area, and it's the FIRST place he hits whenever he visits Texas!

4.  Do you remember one of the first recipes that you ever made?  If so, do you still make it?
I remember making no-bake cookies with orange juice and vanilla wafer crumbs at my Grandma Texene's house when I was in grade school. They tasted good, but don't recall making them again after that one time. And grandmother wasn't born in Texas. Everyone asks me that. 

5.  The world is open to you.  A personal private jet with pilot is waiting for your direction...  Where will you go? 
Since I went to Paris the last set of questions I answered, I'll go with Rome and Tuscany this time. I'd love to see The Vatican and eat some amazing Italian food!!!

6.  How close do you now live to where you were born?
I grew up in the Houston area and now live in San Antonio, about 4 hours away. We're close enough to drive home for a weekend visit whenever the mood strikes us to see the family!

7.  Wine... red, white or bubbly?
Ummm....all of the above?!?!? I love all wine, but I do have a soft spot for the bubbles. I LOVE Petalo Sparkling Moscato, but my favorite for special occasions is Krug Grande Cuvee or Veuve Clicquot.

8.  Why did you start blogging? 
I have a journalism degree and have always loved writing. So, it seemed like a good match to write about cooking and food. My husband actually encouraged me to start this blog as a way to encourage myself to cook from all the cookbooks in my huge collection!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Oh, Baby! Dutch Baby Pancake with Apple-Currant Compote

A Dutch baby pancake is one of our favorite breakfast-for-dinner or weekend brunch dishes. It's basically a pancake that you bake in the oven until it's golden and puffy. I love pancakes, but standing at the stove flapping jacks isn't something I do that often! With this recipe, the oven does the work for you...after it's baked, you top it with fruit and cut into wedges to serve.

Now that the weather's a bit cooler -- by Texas standards, anyway -- I love to top my Dutch baby pancake with a compote of apples and currants that are cooked in brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon. This recipe is a great taste of fall! Until now, I've always used a mix from Williams-Sonoma to make my Dutch baby pancakes. This time, I decided to try making one from scratch. It was so simple, and the results were delicious...I'll likely use this recipe from now on!! 

Dutch Baby Pancake 
with Apple-Currant Compote
Pancake adapted from The Culinary Institute of America Breakfasts & Brunches Cookbook

Step 1: Preheat oven to 400. Put 2 tbs. butter in an oven-proof skillet and heat in the oven until the butter is melted and bubbly.

Step 2:  While the butter is melting: add 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, 2 large eggs (room temperature), 1/2 cup milk, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and a dash of nutmeg to a blender or food processor. Blend until combined.

Step 3:  Pour the batter into the hot skillet. The batter is VERY thin, but don't fret over will cook up puffy and a lovely shade of golden-brown!

Do not stir!! Cook the Dutch baby pancake for 20-25 minutes, until puffed and golden. Do not open the door during this time...otherwise, the pancake may not properly puff up!

Step 4: While the pancake is baking, make the apple-currant compote.  Add 2 tbs. butter, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1 tbs. honey, 1.5 tsp. cinnamon, and a dash of nutmeg to a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Stir to combine and cook until bubbly.

Step 5:  When the sugar-butter mixture is bubbly, add 2 Macintosh apples that have been peeled, cored, and sliced. Stir to coat with with the sauce. Cook for about 3 minutes, then add 1/2 cup currants and 1/4 slivered almonds that have been roughly chopped.

Step 6: Reduce heat to low to keep the apples warm while the pancake finishes baking. When the pancake comes out of the oven, slide it onto a serving plate. The pancake will begin to deflate pretty quickly, but no worries. You'll still have a lovely little rim for your pancake wedges. Pour the apple-currant compote on top of the Dutch baby. 

Cut into wedges and serve. I like to serve with scrambled eggs and bacon or sausage links. 

This is such a yummy, comforting meal. I like to call this pancakes on steroids because there are so many wonderful flavors going on. The pancake is very fluffy...almost souffle-like...and the apple-currant topping tastes a lot like apple pie!