Monday, December 27, 2010

The weather outside is frightful...

As December comes to a close, we look forward to 2011 and the promise of a fresh start.  Many of us will make a resolution to lose weight, work less and sleep more.  I for one, plan to be more active in 2011.  I will stop taking life for granted and putting off the things I want to do; assuming tomorrow is promised to me.  I will write more, experience more, appreciate the little things in life more.   I'll begin with accepting and coming to terms with the cold, blustery climate we live in.  The northeast is braced for our first blizzard of the winter season.  It's freezing and a move to Florida is not in our future.   This calls for drastic measures.  Lots of layers, some hot stew in my belly and those little gel thingies that heat up, in my mittens.
When thinking of stew, nothing says winter survival like a steamy bowl of "N'awlins" Gumbo.   I pulled out the old crockpot and gathered my ingredients.

6 cps. of Stock (shrimp or chicken)
1 large Guinness (dark) beer
3 chicken breasts (skinless/boneless)
1 lb. med size Shrimp
2 bell peppers
1 med onion
lots of garlic
1 bunch of green onions (separate green from bottom)
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
1 dozen fresh okra pods (or 1/2 bag frozen/cut)
1/4 cp. leeks
6 slices of turkey bacon (or pork if preferred)
2 cps. Turkey Kielbasa or andouille sausage
1/4 cp. Worchester sauce
5 bay leaves
1 T.  smoked paprika
1 T. old bay seasoning
1 t. cayenne pepper
2 T. File` powder (ground sassafras leaves)

fresh thyme and cilantro
Salt and Pepper

Heat the crockpot at the highest setting.  Pour in 3/4's of the stock, worchester and bay leaves.  Saute` bacon, sausage and set aside, reserving the oil in the pan. Medium dice and saute` in same pan, leeks, onions, carrots, celery and bell peppers until slightly brown.  Add minced garlic and the diced bottoms of the green onions.  Sprinkle in old bay, paprika and salt/pepper.  Stir for a few minutes and add the remaining stock to deglaze the pan. Add mixture to crockpot, spoon in the roux, stir till dissolved.  Pour in the beer and simmer for an hour.  Add chicken to the pot and simmer for another 30 minutes.  Shred chicken and add sausage/ crumbled bacon, simmer for another 30 minutes. Finally add shrimp, okra, green onions, cilantro, cayenne and file` powder.  Give a stir and another 30 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

1/2 cp. Flour
4 T. Butter (room temp)

The Roux is the most important part of a great gumbo.  A well tended roux is the key.  Once you begin the roux, you must stir it till it's done; no phone chats or feeding the cats.  Begin with butter in a heated pan.  It should be warm enough to melt the butter, but not burn it.  You want the butter to sizzle until the frothy milk solids begin to dissipate.  Once the butter is melted and begins changing to a deeper shade, sprinkle the flour  while stirring with a whisk.  Once all of the flour has been added, continue to stir constantly, ensuring an even color and consistency (no lumps).  Don't forget to stir from the bottom and keep the sides of the pan clean.  If you see black specks at this stage, you must start over.  Once the roux is chocolate in color and even (you're looking for a consistency of creamy peanut butter), remove it from heat and place in a small bowl.

As I sit here, sipping a smokey glass of Pinotage in front of a blazing fire with, Coleman Hawkins playing softly in the background.  I realize, winter has its good points too.  Life is good... isn't it? See you in the new year.  Cheers.