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“Gumbo?... I love spicy!”

May 3, 2011
By Wendy Monro - Food Writer

A few nights ago, Claud and I invited some friends over for an early dinner.

We decided to ask everyone to bring something to cook on the grill.

Now that it is getting so warm and sunny outside, we love to grill our food. We were to supply the vegetables, which we would also cook on the grill, beer and wine, and some dessert.

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The finished gumbo for the guests is pictured here.

As everyone entered our house, we looked at what we were going to put on the grill. We were excited to see what everyone brought.

Our friends came with sausages, shrimp and chicken. I had bell peppers and onions to add. Claud and I looked over the entire spread trying to decide if anything needed to be marinated or seasoned.

Claud turned to me and said, this looks like the makings of a gumbo."

Fact Box

Recipe for Gumbo

Serves: 8

Time: 1 hours

1 stick butter

1 cup flour

2 cups chicken stock (or beef stock) (or, if making it vegetarian, vegetable stock), divided

1 bottle of beer, divided

1 large onion, chopped thick

2 green bell peppers, chopped thick

1 cup celery, chopped

(basically, you want equal amounts of onion, peppers and celery)

3 tomatoes, chopped thick

2 chicken breasts, chopped thick (about inch pieces)

6 Andouille sausages, chopped

15 ounces tomato sauce

20 medium shrimp

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire

2 Tablespoons "Bayou Blast" (recipe follows)

In a large pot, melt the butter. When the butter is almost completely melted, slowly mix in the flour. This will turn into a thick paste. Gradually add in some of the stock and some of the beer. Keep mixing this until it becomes creamy. You want to cook this roux until it gets slightly brown (about five minutes). Add in the onions, peppers and celery. Cook these vegetables in the roux for about ten minutes. Add in the tomatoes, chicken and sausages. Stir in the tomato sauce. Add the "Bayou Blast". Add the rest of the stock and beer. Bring this to a boil. Then, turn the heat down and bring it to a simmer. Let this simmer for at least an hour. In the final ten minutes, add the shrimp. Once the shrimp is cooked, the gumbo is ready. Serve over rice.

Emeril's "Bayou Blast"

2 Tablespoons paprika

2 Tablespoons salt

2 Tablespoons garlic powder

1 Tablespoon black pepper

1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 Tablespoon onion powder

1 Tablespoon oregano (dried or fresh)

1 tablespoon thyme (dried or fresh)

Combine all ingredients and mix well.

My eyes widened, I smiled and said, "Yes, it certainly does. Should we make gumbo instead?" After asking everyone, it was unanimous....gumbo it would be.

The only thing we needed to add was celery, spices, a roux, some beer, and rice.

These were all ingredients we happened to have anyway.

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We quickly got to work.

Putting it all together was quite simple and while it simmered on the stove, we were able to sip wine and mingle with our friends.

Of course, I threw together some snacks to keep us from getting too hungry as the house filled with the aroma of delicious gumbo.

Gumbo is a thick stew that originated in southern Louisiana.

I have read that it combines several cultural influences, namely: French, Spanish and West African.

The word "gumbo" can also be used as a metaphor for a mixture of cultures.

It seemed fitting that we just came up with the idea for making it after several of our friends happened to bring a variety of suitable ingredients.

Two important aspects to making gumbo is the roux and "the trinity" (celery, onions and green bell peppers). I made a smaller vegetarian portion for Daphne.

I was not sure which ingredients would work best to give it that Creole flair.

So, I looked up Emeril Legasse's Cajun seasoning blend and quickly put together his version. I figured he would know best what seasoning would combine to make the best flavor suited to the south. I am including his Cajun seasoning mixture here; but, you can also use a ready made Cajun seasoning.

I found Emeril's recipe for Cajun seasoning, or as he calls it, "Bayou Blast," in his Cajun Jambalaya recipe.

I happened to have fresh oregano and fresh thyme; so, I substituted this for the dried oregano and thyme in his recipe. This recipe ends up making way too much for the gumbo. Just put it into a jar and you will use it for many other things.

Also, you can adjust the heat by adding less cayenne pepper to the combination.

You can let gumbo simmer for many hours. I did not have that luxury with hungry friends waiting to eat dinner.

So, I let this gumbo cook for about an hour. It tasted perfect. I am not sure if it would have tasted any better having stayed on the heat for several more hours. Everyone loved the gumbo. We served it over rice.

Traditionally, you eat this with beer and you place more hot sauce on the table.

I placed some sour cream out too just in case it was too spicy for anyone.

Adding a little sour cream can bring the spicy heat down a little.

We could not eat southern food without a discussion of the unfortunate events that have wreaked havoc in the South. The unbelievable devastation brought to so many people by so many tornadoes did not go unnoticed during our meal.

We toasted to the health and well being of all of the people who survived with or without their homes. Our thoughts went out to everyone affected by the life-threatening storms.

In the end, everyone loved the gumbo.

Some people did have to use the sour cream and beer to help cool down their hot mouths. I went without the cream: I love spicy!



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