Grandmother Schexnayder's GumboI call this recipe my grandmothers because it began as a quick guideline on how to cook this classic South Louisiana dish jotted down on a piece of notebook paper talking to her on the phone. It took me years to understand how to truly cook the dish and, when I did, I went back to that hastily jotted note and it was all there in front of me.
Because it wasn't until I worked for a year as a reporter in Opelousas, Louisiana that I figured out exactly what it was I was cooking. I had a bowl of gumbo one chilly afternoon at Ray's Diner on Highway 182 just out of town and the scales fell from my eyes. No frills, just a perfect roux and keep everything else simple as possible. Almost Zen in it's perfection.
But cooking it was another matter. It called for a very dark roux and every time I tried I burned it. I was covering the punishment phase of a capitol murder trial being heard by Judge Robert Brinkman who told me the trick to it waiting for the jury to come back. (They did 20 minutes later and sent the guy to the chair).
This is a proper Cajun gumbo not a Creole gumbo because it follows that classic yardstick for telling the difference between the two:
"A Creole cook can take three chickens and fix a meal for a large family. A Cajun cook can take one chicken and fix a meal for three families."
Beyond that, it's hard to say exactly where this fits in the extended family of gumbos since the dish is notoriously difficult to pin down. There are dozens of types of gumbos that vary by ingredients, type of roux, time of cooking - everything. In the end, it was an 80-year-old Creole woman living in Riverside County, California that told me the secret for making a "real" gumbo.
"Honey," she said. "It ain't a real gumbo unless you cook it without a recipe."
And they all start out the same way. To cook gumbo you first, you have to make a roux.
Then you make a stock...
Halve the onions and throw them in the bottom of the pot. Add a few celery stalks, a dozen or so peppercorns and the bay leaf. Fill with water so it just covers the top of the chicken.
I always add a few chicken feet and a cup or so of white wine but it's not necessary. Use a medium high heat until the stock heats up and turn down to low before it boils. The rules for this are the same as for cooking any chicken stock. Just remember to follow the basic rules 1) do not use salt 2) do not let it boil 3) do not stir.
Let it slowly cook, skimming the gray "scum" off the top as it forms. Cook it for at least two hours but as long as it takes for the chicken meat to easily pull off of the bone. Pull the bird out and strain the stock through cheesecloth until as much of the particulate matter is removed.
Then you make the gumbo...
Slowly heat the stock back up and add about half a cup of roux. Stir until mixed. Remove the skin and bones from the chicken and put in the stock. Add the sausage and the onion then the spices to taste. Cover and let cook, stirring occasionally. Don't let it boil and cook it for at least one hour. When the chicken meat breaks down into strings it is done. Dice up the rest of the parsley and add it with the green onion.
Serve over rice spicing with filé (ground sassafras leaves) and Tabasco Sauce to taste.
|comment posted by: Gary Hoffman on february 24, 2010 @ 10:00 pm|
How can it be gumbo without okra?
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