Monday, February 27, 2006

Balancing Act Gumbo Part II

Well, Saturday's Pre-Mardi Gras party was a lot of fun. We ended up having 8 guests plus us and all together we made a tiny dent in the giant vat-o-gumbo that I ended up making. I'd say this dish would be great for a big party of about 15-20 people , especially if you intend to serve anything else. We didn't even get to the Cajun Caesar salad. (Yeah, there actually IS such a thing.) One friend, Amalia (here's one of her recipes) who writes the cookbooks every Christmas, brought a big lasagna which was delicious. The cumulative effect of lasagne, gumbo and a yummy-enough-to-eat-even-when-you're-stuffed chocolate cake from Paola was kinda coma-inducing. I couldn't really move comfortably toward the end. With all that food, another guest said I should have been born in Southern Italy. I suppose the quantities are more normal there but at least I didn't force feed anybody or tell them they're too skinny.

So, my Balancing Act Gumbo which is halfway between David Rosengarten's Herby Green Gumbo and his Andouille Sausage Red Gumbo was predictably brown. And I'd say not as delicious as the Andouille sausage one (so if you can find some Andouille, replace the chicken with it!) but everybody said it was great. Maybe they were being nice but they said they liked it. Here's the rest of the recipe:

3 lbs shrimp with its seasonings (see yesterday’s post for details)
2 lbs chicken breast cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tsp chipotle chile en adobo, finely chopped
1 tsp mild paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground thyme
1 tsp ground oregano (I put the thyme and oregano in a coffee/spice grinder)
1 lb pancetta affumicata or bacon, cubed
¼-1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup flour
3 quarts of shrimp stock from the shrimp shells or chicken stock
3 cups minced onion
2 cups minced celery
1 ½ cups minced green pepper
1 can chopped tomatoes, 15 ozs
1 red bell pepper in a 1 inch dice
4 celery ribs in a 1 inch dice
2 tbsp gumbo file powder
3 cups of raw medium grain rice cooked according to package instructions.

**So, the day before you start the following recipe, you took all day to peel 3 lbs of shrimp and then made 3 quarts of shrimp stock out of the shells like I did, right? You’ve got shrimp marinating in spices in the fridge and stock chilling on the balcony? No? If you’re too lazy or not crazy enough for that, you can buy 3 lbs of peeled shrimp and 3 quarts of ready-made chicken stock and this’ll turn out just fine.
Place the cubed chicken in a bowl and coat with the seasonings, refrigerate until ready to use. Slowly brown the bacon on a large frying pan. Remove the rendered fat to a 1 cup measuring cup. Once the bacon is brown and crispy, remove it and reserve. You should have a total of ½ cup –3/4 cup of bacon fat. Add as much vegetable oil as you need to make 1 cup total of oil/fat. Pour into the frying pan and heat over medium. Add 1 cup of flour and mix to remove lumps. Continue cooking and stirring periodically until the mixture (called a roux) turns a blonde-light brown color, about 10 minutes. In the meantime, heat the shrimp or chicken stock on the stove and the chop the onion, celery and green pepper in a food processor to reach a fine mince. Once the roux is ready, add the vegetables and mix thoroughly with the roux. Cook for another 5 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Once the stock begins to boil, add the roux-vegetable mixture to it by wooden spoonfuls. Mix each spoonful into the broth thoroughly before adding another spoonful. Add the seasoned chicken, red bell pepper, celery and the can of tomatoes. Cook for 20 minutes. Add the shrimp mixture and cook another 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Finally sprinkle on the file powder and mix thoroughly. Stir until the stew has thickened to your satisfaction. It should be as thick as a pureed bean soup. To serve, place a coffee-cup's-worth of rice in the middle of each of your wide, shallow bowls and ladle the gumbo around the rice. Make sure to provide Tabasco sauce on the side since this gumbo isn't all that hot.


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