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Friday, July 3, 2009

One Pot Wonders - Our Favorite Gumbo

It is a strange thing, to be trapped by a cage you’ve built around yourself. You set out with all these dreams and ambitions and along the way each decision seems like it is the best one to get you to where you want to be, but then all of a sudden you wake up one day and you are suddenly leading a life you never intended to…and there is no easy way out. I admit that is exactly how I felt when I met Jon for the first time two years ago. He was the perfect breath of fresh air; a much needed revelation. Somehow his mere proximity to me served as the perfect balance to the dissonance I was experiencing in my life and I just let myself become completely absorbed in “us” and never looked back.

Since then we’ve barely spent a day apart. We moved in together immediately (literally, within weeks of meeting). We share one car, so every day he drives me to work in the morning before starting his work day, and picks me up on his way home. Then... there is living in such close quarters (sharing a single room in various
apartments with various roommates - with various disgusting behaviors) for the past two years, which has certainly put our relationship to the test, and there have been more than a few moments when we’ve agreed that if we can survive this we can survive anything.

But, no matter how badly our day may go, we always come together at dinner time. Somehow when we sit together on the couch watch
ing Everybody Loves Raymond reruns and start to laugh, we can talk casually about everything and nothing…just seeking comfort in the sound of the other persons’ voice. The tensions of the day ease and we remember why we love each other.

Here I want to share some of our all-time favorite recipes; those soul stirring, mouth watering recipes that give a little extra spice to our life. This particular recipe is one of those great soups to make from a leftover roast chicken the night before. After the roast chicken dinner we usually divide the remnants into three leftover
containers – leftover de-boned meat, leftover fat and gravy, and left over stuffing/vegetables. This will make it convenient to pull out specific components of the leftover chicken at various points in the following gumbo recipe. There are many variations to this recipe, and any trio of meat (e.g., bacon, steak, chicken or shrimp, salmon, sausage and so on) or vegetables (e.g., corn, peppers, celery or squash, zucchini, onion and so on) can be used in exchange of the meats/vegetables suggested here. Whatever the choice(s), the final product will be so full of flavor it is bound to leave everyone wanting more.

Spicy Sausage-Chicken-Shrimp Gumbo
(Serves approximately 8-10 depending on appetites)Soup Base
1 cup leftover chicken fat (We’ve also used leftover bacon fat for a smokier flavor to the finished soup if chicken is not on hand; or butter can be used if no other fat base is available, but butter will not caramelize as well and must be cooked over a low heat for a longer period of time than indicated in the first steps of this recipe).
1 cup flour (I like to use un-bleached all-purpose flour, but whole-wheat flour will also work.)
4-6 cups chicken stock (Adjust to preference, less water will result in a thicker broth and more, a thinner broth. We often us Better than Bouillon Chicken Base to make the stock when we don’t have any homemade on hand)

Vegetable Trinity
1 large red pepper, chopped and deseeded
2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped (we remove most the seeds, but leave the white pulp, which is the main source of heat in the pepper)
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped celery

Meat Trinity
3/4 pound sausage, cut into one-inch pieces (generally this is leftover as well. We’ve used andouille, sweet or spicy Italian and some others for equally yummy results – We also remove the casings before slicing which is a personal preference and not necessary for delicious results.)
3/4 pound leftover chicken, both light and dark meat, coarsely chopped
1/2 pound shrimp, de-shelled, deveined and cooked

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and Pepper to Taste

**NOTE** I use the same pot to cook all the components (shrimp, sausage if none leftover etc.), leaving the flavor to build up in the oil in the bottom of the soup stock.

First, you want to create the roux (a fat and flour combination that is used as a thickening base of most soups). To do this, heat the fat over a medium heat in the bottom of a large soup pot and add the flour. Stirring continuously, continue to heat the flour/fat mixture until it turns the color of peanut butter, which takes approximately 15 minutes. If the roux starts to get too thick or sticky to stir (and to prevent it from burning on the bottom of the soup pot) add a few tablespoons of the chicken broth until it loosens up.

Once the roux has caramelized add about 1 cup of the broth, the vegetable trinity (in this case the onions, peppers and celery), garlic, chili powder, and cayenne. Stir until well mixed and then slowly add the remaining broth, then the sausage and leftover chicken, stirring continuously. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook for at least two hours. The lengthy cooking time allows for the flavors to develop and be very robust in the finished gumbo.

Just before serving, stir in the cooked shrimp and fresh basil leaves. You want the shrimp to be warmed through, but you don’t want them to get stringy (or the broth to get too fishy) so we put them in at the end. Cook for 10 minutes more and then serve over cooked white or brown rice and topped with sour cream to dull the heat. Enjoy!

Per Serving:
450 Calories
24 g Protein
High in Vitamins A & C


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