Thursday, February 23, 2006

Party Gras Food

Don't forget about that Party Gras!

And what would be some better food to serve than gumbo?

What's that? You don't know how to make gumbo? Well, let Jude help you out. Try this on for size:

Jude’s Ass-Kicking Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Pots and shit:

  • 8-quart or larger stockpot or Dutch oven
  • Large skillet
  • 3 quart or larger saucepan for rice
  • Several prep bowls for meat and vegetables
  • Knives and cutting boards
  • Wooden spoons (a fucking must-have)
  • Patience

For the roux:

  • ½ cup canola (or other good vegetable) oil
  • ½ cup flour

The rest:

  • 2 ½ to 3 lbs of chicken (I like boned, skinned breasts and thighs, in equal amounts), cut into bite-sized pieces.
  • 1 lb. andouille or other quality smoked sausage (Klement’s Polish sausage works well), sliced thin (about ¼”) on the bias
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2-3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp dried thyme leaves
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 quarts chicken stock or water (stock makes a much better gumbo), at room temperature
  • Creole seasoning (I like Tony Chachere’s, which you can get at Woodman’s or specialty markets)
  • Salt, Black pepper, Cayenne pepper
  • Olive oil
  • ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
  • ½ bunch scallions, sliced (optional)—just the green parts
  • Filé powder (optional)

Cut the chicken into small, bite-sized chunks. Throw it into a bowl and season generously with salt, pepper, and Creole seasoning, and let stand for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Get a big skillet, add some olive oil, and heat over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the red pepper flakes and sausage, and brown the sausage. Remove with a slotted spoon, keep in a bowl.

In the olive oil/rendered pork fat skillet, brown the chicken pieces on all sides (or a reasonable facsimile thereof). Remove with a slotted spoon and keep in a bowl.

Make a roux. Here’s how:

In the good, heavy Dutch oven or stockpot you’ll be using, heat the ½ cup of oil over medium to medium-high heat. When it’s good and hot, add the flour, a bit at a time, and STIR STIR STIR with a wooden spoon (I have a wooden spoon that I only use for stirring roux). Keep adding the flour until you’ve added the entire half-cup. Keep stirring, and don’t forget about the corners of the container. Stirring prevents the roux from burning. Burnt roux is a sin. If you see black flecks in the roux, it’s burned and ruined. Throw it out and start over. Keep stirring, and watch the roux change color. It will go from white to blonde to caramel to peanut-butter to brick to dark. When it’s good and dark, about the color of milk chocolate, it’s ready. It smells great, too. It takes between 20 and 60 minutes to do this, depending on how high you keep the heat. When you’re new at this, I wouldn’t suggest using any higher of a setting than medium. If you think it’s about to burn, take it off heat and keep stirring. Then put it back on when you think it’s safe. I realize that these instructions are subjective. Deal with it.

Be very fucking careful when stirring roux. It makes a hot oil/flour paste. If you splash some on you, it burns all to be goddamned. So watch it.

Now you got a roux. What to do with it?

Take the pot off heat and throw in the chopped vegetables, and keep fucking stirring. Add the thyme and bay leaves to let them bloom in the hot oil. Keep stirring. Put the pot back on the heat when it’s safe, and keep cooking until the vegetables are soft, between 4 and 8 minutes (depending on the mass of your cooking pot and how hot it was).

Add the chicken and sausage back to the pot.

Add the stock and stir, goddammit, stir. If you don’t, the roux will be all clumpy and shit. You don’t want that. If you add cold stock, you’ll get the same problem. It’s got to be lukewarm.

Add salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste.

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and simmer for at least one hour. Two is better, but me, I can’t ever wait that long. Don’t fully cover; if you want, you can keep a lid tilted. Stir occasionally.

If using scallions and parsley, add 5 minutes before you serve.

Cook up some white rice (if you don’t know how to do this, don’t ever talk to me again); serve the gumbo in bowls over the rice.

You can add filé powder (ground sassafras leaves) to the rice in the bowls right before you pour the gumbo in—just a sprinkle.

I didn’t tell you anything about okra because it’s hard to get it around here. But if you did want to use it, you slice about a pound of that up and add it to the pot when there are about 30 minutes left to go. If you use okra, don’t use filé, and vice-versa.

This is some good goddam food, let me tell you.

It makes enough to feed a big party. If you don’t give a damn about anyone else, it freezes up real good, too.

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