Gumbo season has arrived
There are those who eat gumbo year round. I’m not one of them. I wait for that first cold front to blow in from the west and then scurry to the supermarket or my local grocery store for the fixings for a chicken and sausage gumbo. Usually, the stores are busy with people like me, plopping the ingredients — flour, oil, rice, chicken and smoked sausage — into their carts. My husband likes to say that when the cold winds blow, there is not a chicken or links of smoked sausage or andouille to be had south of I-10.
I am a purist when it comes to gumbo. No seafood in a chicken and sausage gumbo and not any kind of meat in a seafood gumbo — only shrimp, crab and oysters. (However, on occasion, I do like a wild duck gumbo paired with andouille, and oysters and some of their liquor added at the end of the cooking time, and cooked just long enough to allow the edges of the oysters to curl. This was a favorite of my father, an avid sportsman.)
For a hors d’oeuvre, this is one my mother often served. Pick up about two pounds of your favorite hog’s head cheese. (My choice is from Legnon’s in New Iberia.) Put it in a saucepan and slowly melt over simmering heat. Have two empty egg cartons at the ready. Put about two tablespoons of the mixture into each cup in the carton and transfer to the refrigerator and allow it to set up into its gelatin form.
When ready to serve, gently pop out the hog’s head cheese and serve on crackers or toasted French bread, dabbing a little Creole or Dijon mustard on each.
My Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
You can save time by using jarred roux. I’m not offended by that.
Makes 10 to 12 servings
1 fryer chicken, about 3 to 4 pounds, cut into serving pieces
Creole or Cajun seasoning mix
½ cup dry white wine, vermouth or dry sherry
3 tablespoons plus 1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup flour
2 cups finely chopped onions
2 cups finely chopped green bell peppers
1 cup finely chopped celery
2 ½ to 3 quarts chicken stock (as needed)
1 ½ pounds andouille or other smoked sausage, cut crosswise into ¼-inch slices.
1 cup chopped green onions
½ cup chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Put chicken pieces in a large bowl and season with Cajun or Creole seasoning mix. Add 3 tablespoons vegetable oil and toss to coat chicken evenly. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and add wine. Return to oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. The chicken will be partially cooked.
Pick the meat off the bones and chop into chunks. Set aside.
Place sausage on a rimmed sheet pan and bake for 10 minutes. Drain off any excess fat and set aside.
Combine 1 cup oil and flour in a large cast-iron pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Stirring slowly and constantly, make a dark brown roux.
Add onions, bell peppers and celery and cook, stirring, often, until vegetables are lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Add chicken stock and sausage and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes. Add chicken and simmer for 30 more minutes.
Skim off excess oil and adjust seasoning. Add the green onions and parsley and serve over rice.
Pecan Bourbon Pound Cake
If you don’t have pecans, walnuts work quite well.
Makes 12 to 14 servings
1 pound butter
3 cups sugar
9 eggs, separated
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pure almond extract
1 teaspoon butter flavoring
¼ cup bourbon
2 cups chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease a tube pan or two (5-by 9-inch) loaf pans. Cut wax paper to fit the bottom of the pans and lightly grease wax paper.
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add egg yolks and beat well. Mix in flour, vanilla, almond and butter flavorings and bourbon. Beat egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff. Fold into batter. Stir in one cup of pecans.
Sprinkle bottom of pan (or pans) with ½ cup of the pecans. Add batter to the pan (or pans) and sprinkle the top with remaining ½ cup of pecans.
Bake until brown and a cake tester comes out clean, 1 ½ to 2 hours. To prevent the top of the cake from cracking, cover with foil the last 30 minutes of baking.
TIP: Garnish with sweet whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.