Tuesday, July 21, 2009

As Promised: Gumbo ala Air Traffic Mike

Let me just start by saying that there is no one comprehensive gumbo recipe. The term "gumbo" covers a myriad of soups both savory and spicy. It's very pedigree guarantees that it is as American as the good natured mutt.

Any further argument on the topic can be carried out elsewhere. I'm not inclined to back down on my opinion.

I make more than one type of gumbo. My seafood gumbo is quite different than this one using file' as the thickening agent versus the okra you'll see here today. My smoked duck and andoullie gumbo sort of bridges the gap between seafood and todays Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo.

Let's get started, shall we?

The first thing you'll need to do is cook down a fryer. Cover the fryer with cold water in a large pot, add some bay leaves, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until tender (approximately 45 minutes to an hour).

While that's going on you're going to need to make some roux. Roux is simply flour cooked in fat in equal parts. For convenience sake, I just use the pot I'm going to cook the gumbo in.

In this case, over medium heat to start, melt a stick of butter. That's equal to 1/2 cup. After it melts, stir in 1/2 cup of flour. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Stir occasionally, about every five minutes or so.

After 45 minutes or so, depending on your stove's heat range, your roux should look like dark peanut butter.

Want it lighter or darker? Hey, make it the way you like. I like mine this shade.

Now with your chicken simmering and your roux browning its time to get the vegetables ready. Dice up one medium onion, one medium green bell pepper, and six toes of garlic. Set aside.

Note: Anybody wondering what that horrible looking object to the left of the picture is? Its a spatula rated for 700 degrees F I use to stir the roux with. A metal whisk would mess up the bottom of the stainless steel lined copper pot I'm cooking in.

Now its time to start the early assembly.

When the roux reaches the desired color sautee the diced vegetables in the roux, adding a pinch of salt and pepper. Sautee until the vegetables start to turn clear.

While that's going on, remove the fryer from the stock and set in a bowl to cool. Strain and reserve the stock. Straining removes any small bone fragments from the stock. Remember, this is a pot of gumbo, not a bowl of steaming hot death.

Turning back to the vegetable/roux mixture, add one 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes(or the fresh equivalent thereof) and stir in. I prefer using canned tomatoes since they've already had the skin removed.

Add the chicken stock to the vegetable/roux mixture and stir. Add one tablespoon of rubbed sage, two teaspoons of thyme, one teaspoon salt, one teaspoon black pepper, and one teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper. Stir in. Bring to a simmer.

Next up on the agenda is browning the smoked sausage. Why brown it? Two reasons. One, get rid of some of the fat. Two, bring out some of the sugars in the meat to enhance its flavor. Slice and brown the sausage. Place on paper towels to drain off the fat.

Drain the pan of any excess grease.

Deglaze the pan with a cup of dry white wine (vermouth works really well).

Add the sausage and pan juices to the gumbo.

Peel the chicken meat and add to the gumbo.

Add two ham hocks. Why? Ham makes soups even better and the smoky flavor compliments the sausage nicely. Bring to a simmer for an hour.

After one hour:

Remove the ham hocks, place into a bowl to cool off. Again, we don't want our company choking on a ham bone. You can use chunked boneless ham, but ham hocks give it that ooomph a good soup needs.

Last but not least, you have to add the okra. Frozen okra is just as good as fresh. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES USE CANNED OKRA!!!! Add two pounds of chopped frozen (or fresh) okra. Bring back up to a low simmer.

Remove meat fom ham hocks and add to gumbo. Taste gumbo for your seasoning levels. Depending on the strength of your seaonings, you may need to add more. Adjust as you deem necessary. Simmer one hour.

Serve over rice, or in my case hold the rice and serve with crusty bread.