Thursday, December 24, 2009

From Joyce's Kitchen

Joyce is my husband's mother.

You don't find too many people like Joyce any more.

She grew up on a cotton farm in the heart of Acadiana. She's what's known as a Cajun--the people who came to Louisiana from Nova Scotia in the 1750s. They are a unique ethnic group with their own language and cuisine.

Joyce is a true Cajun mama--she cooks and cooks and cooks and barely glances at a recipe. Tonight I pegged her down and squeezed some information out of her as she sipped a glass of blueberry wine. Tonight I'll share her gumbo recipe, which is the real deal so it won't read exactly like a normal recipe. Joyce said that growing up they always had gumbo and a "fry" at family gatherings. A fry was pretty much any large piece of cooked meat--turkey, chicken, or roast.

  • One whole chicken
  • 1 pound andouille sausage, sliced. (If they don't have andouille in your area I recommend substituting some kind of spicy pork sausage). You can buy some really killer sausage online, though, if you've got a hankering.
  • 2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 5-6 toes of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper chopped (optional)
  • 4-5 bouillon cubes
  • 3 Tbs oil
  • 3 Tbs flour
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  1. The first step in making a gumbo is making what's known as a roux. Roux is a mixture of browned flour that gives gumbo its earthy flavor and helps thicken the broth. To make a roux, you start with equal parts flour and oil in a pan over medium heat.

  2. Stir the flour/oil combination continuously until it turns the color of chocolate--about 20 minutes. You can add a little more oil if needed. Note from Joyce: never take your roux for granted. If you burn it, you'll have to throw it out and start all over again.

  3. Once it reaches a good color, remove it from the heat to cool.

  4. In an 8 quart stock pot, bring three quarts of water to a boil.

  5. Add sausage and the chicken to the pot.

  6. Slowly add your roux to the pot. Note from Joyce: never add your roux all at once--it can have an explosive effect.

  7. Stir the pot well to make sure the roux is evenly distributed.

  8. Add the onion, green onions, garlic, celery, and bell pepper. Note from Joyce: you don't have to add the bell pepper, but if I have one, I like to use it.

  9. Add 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of black pepper, and a 1/4 tsp of cayenne. You can add more to taste, but this is a good starting point. Note from Joyce: Sausage adds a lot of flavor to the broth so you want to go slowly with the seasoning.

  10. Add enough water to the pot until it's two inches from the top.

  11. Add bouillon cubes.

  12. Within 45 minutes everything will be cooked through and you can tweak your seasoning.

  13. At this point you can pull the chicken out, pull the meat off and put it back in the pot. Throw the bones away or save them for a stock. Note from Joyce: You can remove the chicken at this point if you're serving it right away. If you're cooking it for later then keep the chicken in longer. I like to cook my gumbos the day before and pull the bones out right before serving.

Gumbos can be frozen for a good long while in your freezer.

We had a lovely Christmas Eve dinner complete with gumbo. Charlie really seemed to understand the opening of gifts, examining them, etc. His favorite present was the ten dollar cheap-o keyboard I bought him from Hellmart at the last minute. His uncle got him this tricycle and I have a feeling we're going to get a lot of wear out of it although he's a little obsessed with chewing on the handle bars. A little Christmas napkin took care of that!

I hope you have a lovely Christmas if that's your thing and if not, well, enjoy the time off of work. Merry Christmas.