Half Hour Gumbo

by claire: 

Half Hour Gumbo

Serves 8

Growing up in Louisiana, I ate gumbo often. My grandmother would make it, my mom would make it, my dad would would make it and, eventually, I learned to make it too. I never wrote down the exact recipe that my parents taught me but I remember flashes of the lessons: the constant attention to the slow stirring of the roux; my mom pointing out that the roux was ready when it was the same color as our brown floral kitchen wallpaper; adding the "holy trinity" of bell peppers, onions and celery.

The first gumbo I made completely on my own was a disaster. I was a freshman in college at Denison University in Ohio. I decided to make gumbo as an extra credit assignment for my French class. Getting the ingredients proved difficult without a car. When I finally made it to a grocery store, I didn’t buy enough chicken or sausage. In addition to the challenges around ingredients, my only option to cook the gumbo was in the dorm room electric stove top - the level of heat was so unpredictable. As you might guess, it didn't taste great. I used an absurd amount of Tony Chachere's to obscure the flavor.

Chicken sausage okra gumbo

Chicken sausage okra gumbo

In anticipation of attempting traditional Louisiana recipes after I left home, I packed up a small mason jar of Filé (ground sassafras) that my grandfather Belizaire had prepared. 19 years later I still have this jar of Filé. It's a tangible connection to my grandfather. I don't actually cook with it but it has a nostalgic home amongst other strange culinary relics of my southern past.  

There are countless regional variations of gumbo (variables include thickness, use of tomatoes, and many other ingredients). The recipe I am sharing with you today integrates my favorite ingredients and techniques from across several different sources…specifically the chicken/ andouille/ okra gumbo I grew up eating at home with the spices as recommended in a cookbook called The Gumbo Shop. I came up with my own modifications to cut the prep time to only 30 minutes.

1 cooked rotisserie chicken
3 tbsp flour
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 pound Andouille sausage
3 stalks of celery
1 medium green bell pepper
1.5 large yellow onion
1 bay leaf
1 tsp basil
½ tsp sage
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp white pepper
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
1 ½ tsp salt

Pull all of the meat off of the cooked chicken, set aside the meat. Crush carcass and boil in 3 quarts of water with ½  of an onion, 1 stalk of celery, and salt to make the broth. Cook on med/high heat for 20 minutes, strain. While broth is cooking, chop the onion, celery, and bell pepper to have ready to add to roux later.  Start the roux by adding equal parts oil and flour to heavy bottomed pot. Stir as close to continuously as you can until the roux is a caramel color. Do not burn. Stir in the chopped onion, celery, bell pepper and let them simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the broth, sage, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne, salt, sliced sausage and chopped chicken meat. Let everything simmer for a bit.  
Serve with white rice and french bread.

Pickled Beets

When visiting my parents earlier this year, I inherited two shoeboxes of my maternal grandmother's recipes. Her name was Sarah Fletcher Bordelon. Sarah was raised in Ruston Louisiana, but spent her whole adult life in Kaplan, 40 miles southwest of Lafayette. She and my grandfather (who was from Bordelonville) loved to cook. Some of these recipes reflect the Cajun culture they were immersed in, and some reflect the era that she collected and developed recipes. I feel close to her when holding these recipes- the contours and rhythm of her handwriting, the food stains on the notecards. Cooking these recipes is an act of cultural transmission. I will periodically share her recipes on Parallel Coasts.

Pickled Beets with Onion and Peppercorn

Pickled Beets with Onion and Peppercorn

Pickled Beets

3.5 pounds of fresh beets
2 cups of white vinegar
1 cup granulated sugar
2T salt
6 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
½ lb. onion- sliced

Cook beets in boiling water until tender. Drain, retaining 1 cup liquid. Peel and slice beets. In saucepan combine 1 cup beet liquid, vinegar, sugar, salt and spices tied in cheesecloth bag. Heat to boiling add beets and onions; simmer 5 minutes. Remove spice bag, continue simmering while quickly packing jar. 

I cut down the proportions by ⅓. Based on what I already had in my spice cabinet, I substituted the cloves for peppercorn.

Recipe as written by Sarah Bordelon in Kaplan Louisiana. 

Recipe as written by Sarah Bordelon in Kaplan Louisiana. 

I am curious to hear variations of this recipe....