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August 28, 2009


"So many gumbo z'herbs (like certain men?) are pretty but bland." Can you elaborate on this inspired but unexpected analogy? And how about a recipe? Thanks, Kathleen.

Hmm, to elaborate on the men/gumbo analogy, I'd have to "go for the branches," as the Spanish say. But I do have an easy (if not quick) gumbo recipe for y'all. See below


This is a recipe designed for people who don't live in New Orleans and can't make groceries with that same ease as a local, e.g., your local supermarket doesn't sell okra, filé powder, creole seasoning, fresh seafood or andouille sausage. Gumbo intimidates people but if you don't fuss over the ingredients, it's actually pretty simple. Just take your time (you'll need at least an hour) and make sure you get your roux right. Do try to find a nice hot sauce to finish the gumbo if you can. Avoid Tabasco, which is weak and vinegary and use Crystal or your local stuff instead. Making groceries, by the way, is old NOLA speak for going grocery shopping, a Franglish translation of the even older faire son marché.

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo For People Who Can't Make Groceries

3/4 cups flour
3/4 cups oil (vegetable or olive oil is fine)
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2-3 stalks of celery, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced (more or less to taste)
generous pinches of the following: salt, oregano, thyme black pepper, cayenne pepper
2 quarts chicken stock
1 lb. sausage, browned and chopped into bite-sized pieces (whatever is fresh and flavorful in your part of the world, living in Spain I use chorizo)
1 lb. chicken, deboned and chopped into bite-sized pieces (whatever parts of the bird you like, ambitious cooks should buy one whole, make a stock with the carcass use the meat for the gumbo, which is less involved than it sounds)
1 bottle good hot sauce, for serving (look for a product without preservatives which doesn't list vinegar as the first ingredient)
2 cups long grain white or basmati rice
1 baguette or other freshly baked bread

serves about 6 as an entrée.

First you make the roux. Heat a large stock pot to medium heat and add the flour and oil and stir constantly. You will have to stay with this, risotto style, for at least the next twenty minutes, so grab your friends and gumbo ya-ya (chit-chat) while you make your gumbo. Stir the mixture with a wire whisk and watch the color darken. It should have a nutty smell and turn the color of peanut butter after ten minutes or fifteen minutes, gradually darkening to a milk chocolate color after thirty. As the color develops turn the heat down and keep stirring, which is the only trick, really, to roux-making. If you have your heat too high or you don't stir every few seconds the roux will splatter and burn, which is bad for the roux and the skin on your hands, so take it easy. I like a dark roux so I usually let it cook for 30-40 minutes but if you want a milder flavor you can stop around minute 20.

To stop the roux from developing, add your trinity (onion, celery, and bell pepper, the mirepoix of Creole cooking) keeping the heat on medium-low. Add the garlic and spices and let cook until the trinity softens and takes on the flavor of the roux, about 8 minutes. Add the stock, chicken, and sausage and let simmer, skimming fat occasionally and adjusting seasoning as needed. Most people simmer their gumbo for an hour but I've found you can cook it for 30-40 minutes to the same effect. While the gumbo is simmering, steam the rice according to package instructions.

To serve, place a generous scoop of rice into a large, wide bowl and serve the gumbo on top.
Have a good hot sauce handy for those who want it and serve with fresh bread.

Thanks for the recipe. Can't wait to try it out.

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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