What feeds the soul? In my experience many different things. Maybe it’s poetry or music or chocolate. Maybe it’s eating Huevos Rancheros on the beach in the early morning after a great surf session in Mexico. Looking forward to lounging in the hammock with a good book, a full belly and the drowsy contentment of water, sun sand, waves and camaraderie that all that brings.
Those are all good and all of those do it for me. But…. and there’s always that but coming…sometimes when I am in need of good soul food nothing does it for me like a little down home southern food. Not fancy. Just slow cooking and good. The act of prepping all the ingredients, the layering of the flavors, concentrating but not ferociously just more like paying attention to what I am doing. Stopping and tasting after each new layer. Not religiously following a recipe but most often using a guide. Has my mom made this? My grandmother? What did they use and how did they do it? The answer is most often…not the same ingredients I am using. Florida in the 70’s when I was a child was a very different place than the California of the millennium in which I now reside. So…I use local organic ingredients from farms and producers that I know. I substitute and use what I am able to get. Here’s the thing, once the aromas of an old favorite dish start wafting out of my kitchen I am instantly transported back to where I need to be with people and places I love and have loved and who are all right there in the kitchen talking to me as I prepare that food.
So yesterday we had winter in summer which is typical in this area where I live, but I was cold and sad and I needed some comfort. I needed gumbo.
My beautiful girlfriends just came out to visit me from Fl. and they had just been in Charleston, SC (where I used to live and which I love desperately) and they very thoughtfully brought me a new publication called The Local Palate. Food Culture Of The South. Needless to say I loved this magazine. I read it from cover to cover. I will probably make almost everything featured at least once as it is written (as near as I can ) before twisting it up in my own way.
Yesterday I made Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo by Chef Tory McPhail of Commander’s Palace in New Orleans.
Now, I am not going to go and mess with a chef at Commander’s Palace’ Gumbo. At least without making it her way the first time. I figure this person knows what she’s doing and so I’m going to do my best to do it the way she says. If I can.
So with that said, I put on some music, you need music when you are making Soul Food, it’s a rule. My personal choice yesterday was “Dusty in Memphis” but go ahead and put on whatever you need…Dr. John The Nevilles, The radiators, Aretha, Gospel, Lyle…whatever I’m not going to tell you what to listen to!
Here’s Chef Tory’s recipe exactly as it was published. Do your best but work with what you’ve got. It worked for me.
CHICKEN AND ANDOUILLE SAUSAGE GUMBO
3/4 cups vegetable oil, divided
1 1/2 pound chicken, cut into medium size pieces
1 TBS Creole seasoning
1/2- 3/4 lbs andouille sausage, cut into 1/4 inch discs
3/4 cup flour
1/2 lb onion, medium dice
1/4 lb celery, medium dice
1/4 lb green bell pepper, medium dice
1/4 cup garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 TBS salt
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 QTS chicken stock
1-2 green onions, cut thin, on bias
Louisiana hot sauce, as needed
Worcestshire, as needed
1/2 TBS File powder
- Place a large, heavy soup pot over medium high heat for 4 minutes. Pour in a 1/4 cup vegetable, swirling to coat pan.
- Season chicken on all sides with Creole seasoning and brown in pot in small branches to ensure even browning on all sides. Let batches of browned chicken rest on a serving platter to catch any juices.
- When chicken is done browning, brown the sausage, rendering from 3-4 minutes to release all smoky fats into pan. Remove sausage and let rest with chicken. Add the remaining 1/2 cup oil to pot and shake in flour to start making the roux. Using a heavy, square-nosed wooden spoon, continually scrape all the brown pan drippings into the roux to begin the gumbo. Constantly stir over medium-high heat until roux becomes the shade of peanut butter.
- 5.At this point, carefully stir in onion, celery, and bell pepper. Continually mix as vegetables start to release their steam and caramelize into the roux. When vegetables are wilted and slightly brown, stir in garlic, cayenne, salt & bay leaves. Continue to cook for one minute until flavor is released and pungent.
- 6. Slowly add stock, stirring constantly, so gumbo starts to thicken without forming into roux balls. When stock is added and sauce is smooth and shiny, add chicken back to pot and simmer.
- 7. Skim pot free of fats and foam and reduce heat to low. Continue cooking, stirring and skimming as needed, for 50 minutes.
- 8. Add sausage, green onions, and additional desired seasonings-such as Louisiana Hot Sauce and Worcestshire Sauce. Remove pot from heat and shake in the file powder to finish. Serve over rice or with thick crusty bread.
Yield 6-8 servings