Sunday, March 1, 2009

Mardi Gras Memories

I think of my 4+ years in New Orleans, I stayed in town for only three of the Mardi Gras. I mean really, at some point being surrounded by drunken, belligerent, loud people get on your nerves. And so my friends asked me to go somewhere else.

But during my time, I enjoyed a lot of beer, crawfish, and of course, gumbo. This past week I made gumbo for the cafè special, which meant about 30 gallons of the stuff for our friends and customers. Here's the recipe that I used:

3 lb of chicken thighs
2 lb Andouille, cut into small slices

Dusting for chicken: Flour, salt, paprika, cayenne and freshly cracked black pepper

1/3 C. AP Flour
1/3 C. Peanut Oil

2-3 Bell peppers (I mixed green and red)
4-6 Celery stalks, diced
2 Onion, diced
6 Garlic cloves, minced
1 T. Basil
1 T. Oregano
2 t. Cayenne
2 t. Freshly ground black pepper
1 T. Salt, to taste
8 C. Stock or broth

Skin thighs, but don't take all the fat off. Dust with flour and spices to cover. Brown in hot peanut oil in bottom of large stock pot. When both sides are brown, remove chicken and hold.

Brown the sausage until starting to crisp. Remove and add to chicken.

Make the roux. Turn heat up - ideally using a heavy metal pan like a cast iron. Drain oil from browning process, leaving the drippings. Add flour and oil and scrape the bottom of the pan well to make sure nothing burns. Constantly stir as roux transitions from light brown to dark brown, but not quite black. If you feel like things are progressing too quickly then turn heat down a bit. As you get to the really dark brown roux, add the peppers, celery and onions immediately and stir. Then add the spices and combine well. Turn heat down to medium, cover and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the stock or broth and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, then turn down and simmer, covered, for 2-3 hours. Adjust taste throughout the process. In the pictures you can see that I added a bunch of crawfish during the last 30 minutes of cooking. On one day I added shrimp, so feel free to add whatever you enjoy.

(Sorry about the bad pic)
I also cranked out a bunch of king cakes complete with artisenal baby Jesus' courtesy of artist Suzi Calhoun or Art & Conversation.

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