(See, Leatherhead is a Half Alligator Half Cajun from the deep South who is frequently trying to turn the Ninja Turtles into Gumbo or something and… Look, ladies I’m single. Clearly. )
Ladies and gentlemen If I call myself a soup and sauce man I think you’ll agree… (That’s modified line from There Will Be Blood, and that’s how you start out a good blog post.)
Gumbo, A cajun stew that’s uniquely southern in its origin. Like Lousiana circa the 18th century southern. I pride myself on gumbo making. It’s one of my strongest skills next to 80’s cartoon trivia and passionate love making.
My roots may be Italian, Greek and central European but i’m no stranger to Southern cooking. Southern food is very unique, it has a set of ingredients that don’t see the light of day north of the Mason Dixon line (I can’t back that up entirely but I’ve always wanted to use that phrase. Go with me on this.) and that most people are unfamiliar with.
For example, Roux. Basically fat and flour that dances on the razor’s edge between smokey and falling into a volcano level of burnt. It’s delicate. You can’t step away from a Roux. One second it’s almost perfect and the next your kitchen smells like a neglected Pop Tart set on high.
Mirepoix, you know that thing that I always suggest women should smell like, not part of their common cuisine either. Gasp! GASP! But they have their own equipment sometimes called the Holy Trinity. For them it’s Onion, Celery and Bell Pepper. It produces a pretty decent aroma too but anyone that says it smells better than a Mirepoix is likely just a fake human suit with a hideous squealing alien inside. Use that as a test and anyone that picks Holy Trinity over Mirepoix should not be trusted.
(Once upon a time at a dinner party
Dinner Guest: I do really like the smell of a Mirepoix but say, have you ever smelled a Cajun Holy Trinity, now that’s aromatic!
(Me: I’m on to your games! Show yourself!
Dinner Guest: <Screaming and snarling follows.>)
Now, a gumbo is about as mutable as a Marinara sauce. It’s pretty much whatever you really like or what you have on hand. I don’t put shellfish in mine because I’m not a huge fan and most of the people I know aren’t either. We’re from Chicago. So my gumbo consists of Hotdogs, Deep Dish Pizza and PBR.
Ok, here’s what I used for my Gumbo.
Chicken– You don’t need anything fancy. The best quality meat is going to be overshadowed by the flavor of the stock. I went with the cheapest option and something I had leftovers of. Legs. Deboned, chopped up and with skin removed.
Sausage– Andouille is the authentic choice. It’s a sausage ground up pretty course and mixed with bell pepper, wine, onion and garlic. Very tasty. One of my favorites actually. But I used what I had on had, which was the leftover Italian sausage from a Giambotta I made the day before. (Yeah, that’s right. You can leave your numbers and face shots in the comments.)
Holy Trinity– I’m resisting the urge to put up more alien pictures right now. Please respect the staggering amount of willpower that takes. Onions, Bell Pepper and Celery. Get it. Chop it up.
Chicken Stock– I suggest just having a container of Chicken base around because one of those will give you like a year’s supply of chicken stock. Which frees up all that money you spend on pre-made stock so now you can afford just a little extra heroine every month. Weeeeeeeee!
Cajun Seasoning– Just buy a jar of this. It’s sold everywhere and it goes really well with all kinds of dishes, especially Slavic dishes. Otherwise go buy all this: paprika, salt, celery, sugar, garlic, black pepper, onion, oregano, red pepper, caraway, dill, turmeric, cumin, bay, mace, cardamom, basil, marjoram, rosemary, and thyme. Then grind it up. Bet you thought Marjoram was like, a butter or something. Well it’s not! It’s real! And it hates you not even knowing it exists!
Gumbo File’– Getting exotic now! Unless you happen to be from Louisiana. In which case you’ve no doubt gotten board and went off to read something awesome on Cracked. I miss you, come back! Anyway, This is pretty much just some Thyme and Sassafras. Whoaaaaa! Sassafras is a thing and not just some weird jargon that Longhorn Foghorn Leghorn babbles about while inflicting psychological torture on Chicken Hawks. Pay attention here though, this gets added at the end. Another weird southern thing. Typically you’re used to adding all the ingredients during the cooking process because you need heat to bring out the flavor. Sassafras hates that shit. You add this at the end otherwise Sassafras get’s stringy when it’s left to simmer.
Pepper- Black or white, whatever really just make sure it’s from a grinder. You get a better, stronger kick. You need that for a Gumbo. Pepper is the centerpiece for this thing.
Chili Powder- I prefer Ancho. The taste and color is perfect. Again, whatever you use make sure it’s strong. Doesn’t mean overwhelmingly spicy. Cajun, to me, isn’t about spicy it’s about flavor. You want to taste everything.
And that’s about it.
Now, first thing’s first. Make your Roux. This is the foundation for the whole dish. If you screw this up there is no saving the Gumbo. Start over. Or kill yourself for bringing dishonor upon your house/clan/frat or whatever.
You’ll need about a cup of vegetable oil and a few tablespoons of flour. Get the oil hot. Whisk in the flour and watch it. WATCH IT! Now, I can’t stress this enough, do not walk away unless your life is on the line and only if you know FOR A FACT that you have a destiny or something and that walking away from your Roux is more important. It will burn. Even if it was no where near burning Fate will intervien and she will take a brulee torch to your Roux. Cause she’s a bitch.
(Fate: My greatest joy in life is seeing you fail
Me: Why! I’ve done nothing to you!
Fate: You looked away. Your Roux’s burnt.)
Once your Roux is the color of Chocolate Milk you’re good to go. Add in all the meat and vegetables and mix it all together. Don’t lose your shit when the pot instantly erupts into a loud simmer. That happens. Just keep adding it all in and mixing. Let it all stand for a few moments and then add your stock and seasonings. NOT THE FILE’!
(This is where Tuco would have stopped with his Roux)
(And this is where Blondie would have stopped. Don’t understand these references? Then I don’t like you. Unless you happen to a pretty girl, in which case I’d like you to come over and watch The Good, The Bad and The Ugly with me.)
So, Roux’s done and the meat and vegies are in. You should be about here now.
And then with the stock added AND NOT THE FILE’ you should be about ready to make the rice. I’ll spare you a rice making photo and instead give you this:
(Knowing your target audiences is the key to successful blogging)
Now you can put the damn Gumbo File’ in.
And now you’re ready to eat! Add rice to the Gumbo and put it in your face!
And now you’re done, you’ve made a Gumbo. Er, well, I have. You read about it but hopefully you’re going to try one now. It helps clear out the fridge of the unwanted leftovers and gives you a chance to play around with spices that you rarely touch otherwise. That’s my approach to a simple Gumbo. I’d love to hear yours.