It is that time of month again, the time to reveal this months daring cooks challenge. Ever since I joined the daring kitchen my calender has 4 very important marks in every month. The days the daring cooks and bakers challenges are announced and the dates they are revealed.
Before diving into this month’s challenge, I want to remind all my wonderful readers of the vote for the daring bakers edible sweet container contest (which I am still super thrilled I qualified for the final 5 of). I would be really thankful if you would take a minute and check out the entries and if you like mine (no. 2 the apple bowl) your vote is highly appreciated.
Our May hostess, Denise, of There’s a Newf in My Soup!, challenged The Daring Cooks to make Gumbo! She provided us with all the recipes we’d need, from creole spices, homemade stock, and Louisiana white rice, to Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh.
This was an awesome challenge. It was somewhat intimidating, labor intensive (a lot of chopping and stirring) and time-consuming but worth every minute.
I have never made gumbo before but I have certainly heard and read A LOT about it, so you can say I was looking forward to the experience . I decided to do the chicken and smoked sausage gumbo but after an extensive search I couldn’t find any smoked sausage :(. I tried to look for a recipe with just chicken but I couldn’t find any, but I did find out that gumbo is really versatile and you can really mix and match ingredients so I decided to give chicken gumbo and I have to say it was SO worth it.
I started by making the chicken stock. This was the first time I have ever made chicken stock from scratch and I have to say that it was time-consuming but the result was heavenly. The smell and the taste of REAL chicken stock is unlike anything that will come from a box or a cube. The house was filled with an intoxicating smell.
One thing I learnt though..if I am going to make chicken stock at home I need to get a bigger pot! I couldn’t fit the amount of water listed in the recipe in my biggest pot, the last liter had no place to go lol So what I did is allow it to cook and reduce then I added the final liter. (I know the stock police will knock down the door any minute now..)
Next up was the roux and this was the part that I feared the most. I read so much about how important the roux is and how much it affects the final taste of the gumbo and I was really worried I’d burn it or not make it brown enough. It took 20 minutes of stirring and a couple of burns to get to a dark chocolate colour.(The roux gets REALLY hot so if you decide to make this please wear long sleeves and use a deep pot to avoid splattering).
I added the onions and after a cloud of steam came up I started stirring to brown the onions but the roux turned dark brown ..in fact it became black! and I was terrified..I kept telling myself (you burnt the roux..you burnt the roux) but I remembered Audax (take the time to visit his post, it is full of wonderful information and delicious variations of gumbo) posting something about a black roux and since I didn’t have the time or the energy to start from scratch I went on..By the time the stock was added the color went back to brown and I could breathe easier.
As the gumbo was cooking my daughter came into the kitchen asking what smelled so good 🙂 I knew I was doing something right..
Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo
Minimally adapted from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh
1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) rendered chicken fat, duck fat, or canola oil
1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm) (5 oz) flour
2 large onions, diced
1 chicken (3 ½ to 4 lbs.), cut into 10 pieces
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) Basic Creole Spices (recipe follows), or store-bought Creole spice blend
2 pounds (2 kilograms) spicy smoked sausage, sliced ½ inch (15mm) thick
2 stalks celery, diced
2 green bell peppers (capsicum), seeded and diced
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 quarts (3 liters) Basic Chicken Stock (recipe follows), or canned chicken stock
2 bay leaves
2 cups (480 ml) (320 gm) (11 oz) sliced fresh okra, ½ -inch (15mm) thick slices (or frozen, if fresh is not available)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) Worcestershire sauce
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Filé powder, to taste (didn’t use it)
Tabasco, to taste (didn’t use it)
4-6 cups (1 – 1½ liters) (650 gm – 950 gm) cooked Basic Louisiana White Rice (recipe follows)
1. Prepare homemade chicken stock, if using (recipe below).
2. Prepare homemade Basic Creole Spices, if using (recipe below).
3. Season the chicken pieces with about 2 tablespoons of the Creole Spices while you prepare the vegetables.
4.Make sure all of your vegetables are cut, diced, chopped, minced and ready to go before beginning the roux. You must stand at the stove and stir the roux continuously to prevent it from burning.
5. In a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pan, heat the chicken fat, duck fat, or canola oil over high heat. Whisk the flour into the hot oil – it will start to sizzle. Reduce the heat to moderate, and continue whisking until the roux becomes deep brown in color, about 15 minutes.
6. Add the onions. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir the onions into the roux. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue stirring until the roux becomes a glossy dark brown, about 10 minutes.
7. Add the chicken to the pot; raise the heat to moderate, and cook, turning the pieces until slightly browned, about 10 minutes.
8. Add the sliced smoked sausage and stir for about a minute.
9. Add the celery, bell peppers, tomato, and garlic, and continue stirring for about 3 minutes.
10. Add the thyme, chicken stock, and bay leaves. Bring the gumbo to a boil, stirring occasionally.
11. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, skimming off the fat from the surface of the gumbo every so often.
12. Add the chopped okra, and Worcestershire. Season with salt and pepper, several dashes of filé powder, and Tabasco, all to taste.
13. Simmer for another 45 minutes, continuing to skim the fat from the surface of the gumbo. Remove the bay leaves and serve in bowls over rice. Pass more filé powder at the table if desired.
Basic Chicken Stock
From My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh
Original recipe quantities doubled to yield 3 quarts needed for Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo
½-cup (120 ml) canola oil (or other vegetable oil)
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 leeks, white part only, coarsely chopped
8 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 pounds (1 kilogram) leftover roasted chicken bones and carcasses
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (5 gm) black peppercorns (about 1 teaspoon ground pepper)
6 quarts (5½ liters) water
1. Heat the canola oil in a large stockpot over moderate heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots, leeks, and garlic. Stir often, until vegetables are soft but not brown, about 3 minutes.
2. Add the chicken bones and carcasses, the bay leaves, thyme, peppercorns, and water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low and gently simmer, uncovered, skimming any foam that rises to the surface, until the stock has reduced by half, about 2 hours.
3. Strain through a fine sieve into a clean container. Allow the stock to cool, cover and refrigerate, then skim off the fat. Use immediately, for freeze for later use.
Basic Creole Spices
From My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh
Makes ½ cup
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (33 gm) celery salt
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (7 gm) sweet paprika
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (18 gm) coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (6 gm) freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (7 gm) garlic powder
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (7 gm) onion powder
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (4 gm) cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (1½ gm) ground allspice
Mix together all spices in a bowl. Transfer the spices to a clean container with a tight-fitting lid. Store up to six months.
Storage/Freezing Information: Store gumbo in the refrigerator for up to three days and then reheat gently before serving. As with many stews and braises, gumbo tastes better the second day. You can also freeze it for up to eight months. Simply transfer to freezer-safe containers.