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Just Good Food

by John Ryan

 

Gumbo

 

Don't be put off by the laundry list of ingredients. Sure it's a lot of ingredients, but it's not tricky and doesn't require split second timing. In fact, this is a leisurely soup to make on a cold afternoon while listening to old records.

If there is a trick to this, it's thinning out the roux (flour and butter paste). Here's the drill: Anytime you want to add liquid (water, wine, beer, whatever) to roux you want to go slow. You want to stir in a bit of water until the paste is thick and smooth. Each time you add a splash of water, it'll end up thinner, but it should always be smooth before adding more liquid. If you simply add all the liquid at once you'll get a zillion little flour/butter lumps and they won't dissolve for anything.

 

You need...
2 hours
7 or 8-quart soup pot with a lid
Large skillet
2 big mixing bowls

3/4 cup oil
1 cup flour
4 fat cloves garlic, minced
3 or 4 ribs celery, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1 big green pepper, chopped
1 chicken breast, boneless and skinless
1/2 pound smoked Polish sausage
1/2 pound smoked ham (this is about 1 slice that is 1/2-inch thick)
1 teaspoon each: dried basil dried thyme leaf
1/2 teaspoon each: cayenne pepper garlic powder onion powder
6 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
1 pound okra, sliced in 1/2-inch wheels
Gumbo file powder to taste—optional
1 bunch scallions, sliced (most of the green part too)

 

1. First, get the roux going—stir the oil and flour together in your big soup pot. Let it cook slowly until it turns milk-chocolate brown, 30 minutes or so. Stir from time to time. Watch that it doesn't burn.

2. Meanwhile, mince the garlic and chop the vegetables. Put it all in a big bowl off to the side. Then dice all the meats into 1/2-inch pieces and put it all in another big bowl. Then mix the spices and toss them with the meat. (Don't worry, the spices won't really cover the meat.)

3. When the roux finally turns chocolatey brown, dump the vegetables in the pot and stir. It'll make a big gummy mess; that's good. Turn the heat to medium, clap on a lid and let the vegetables steam until they are soft, about 15 minutes.

4. While the vegetables are sweating it out, sauté the meats in a dry skillet. You may need to do this in a couple batches. You're not trying to cook the meats through. You just need to brown the meats slightly and toast the spices. After 5 or 10 minutes a light crust will usually develop on the bottom of the pan. At this point, put the meats back in the bowl and pour a cup or two of chicken broth in the skillet. Scrape the bottom of the pan.

5. Gradually stir the skillet broth into the vegetables in the pot. Add the rest of the broth and water slowly, stirring all the while to keep the paste from getting lumpy. Throw in the meats, bring the soup to a simmer, cover, and forget about it for about 45 minutes.

6. Now you're about 20 minutes away from eating. Put on a pot of rice. (For 4 people, use 1 cup of white rice and 1-3/4 cups water.) Stir the okra in with the gumbo and season with salt. If you have gumbo file, treat it like salt and stir it in to taste.

7. When the rice is done, stir the diced scallions into the gumbo. Serve by putting a little rice in each bowl and ladling gumbo over the top.

 

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John Ryan

Both chef and musician, John Ryan wrote the Just Good Food blog from 1996 through 2001.

 

This page created January 2000

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