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Julie Tronchet Masson’s Okra Gumbo


Put on a steaming pot of gumbo for Mardi Gras.

“Julie Tronchet Masson was the ancestor of my friend Lou Costa, who has the distinction of being a descendant of one of New Orleans’ oldest families,” Jessica B. Harris writes in “Beyond Gumbo: Creole Fusion Food from the Atlantic Rim” (Simon & Schuster, $27). “This version of gumbo is one of the treasured family recipes that Lou and his family whip up when they entertain in their glorious antique-filled house that used to be a Freedman’s Bureau. I’ve spent many an evening there, sitting on a stool in the kitchen chopping and helping out.”

Get your family to pitch in and do likewise to create this Creole favorite.

Julie Tronchet Masson’s Okra Gumbo

1 1/2 pounds okra
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 pound ham, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 1/2 pounds medium to large shrimp
1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
White rice, for serving

Slice the okra and place in a heavy Dutch oven with the oil. Fry for 20 minutes or until all stickiness is gone. Add the onion, garlic and ham, and cook for 5 minutes, or until the onions are wilted but not browned. Add the shrimp and crabmeat and 2 cups of water. Cook for 15 minutes and add salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 10 minutes. Serve hot over white rice.

Makes 6 servings.

From “Beyond Gumbo: Creole Fusion Food from the Atlantic Rim” by Jessica B. Harris

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It’s Time to Party!


Mardi Gras is just around the corner. Are you ready to party?

Fat Tuesday is a time to celebrate the bounteous flavors we have before some of us embark on 40 days of self-sacrifice. So, before you exorcise your demons, exercise them in a bacchanalia worthy of the Big Easy.

It is in that spirit that we offer three recipes. One is for a traditional Creole soup filled with oysters, artichokes, butter and more wonderful things.

Second is a gumbo chock full of ham, shrimp and crabmeat, as well as the traditional okra. (Gumbo is an African word for okra, so the dish was created with the vegetable in mind. If you don’t like the slime, follow the recipe closely.)

Finally, what’s a party without a great cocktail or two? To make sure you imbibe something wonderful, we offer a recipe for a Big Easy tradition, the Cocktail à la Louisiane, an irresistible blend of whiskey, Benedictine, Peychaud bitters and other wonders. (I found the Peychaud Bitters at Spec’s.)

From our files are a few more recipes and ideas to make your Mardi Gras even more flavorful:

Sandy White’s Crazy Good Gumbo

A Genuine Sazarac

Last-Minute Mardi Gras

Callaloo

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Celebrate Mardi Gras With a Pot of Gumbo


Mardi Gras is just a day away. Time to start thinking gumbo. SavorSA reader Sandy White, originally from New Orleans, shares a recipe for her version of this favorite:

“Just about every Louisiana kitchen has its version of the soup/stew called gumbo.  The name is derived from the African word for “okra” – though it’s not necessary and you will see that this version does not contain any.

“Although various versions contain game, poultry, seafood or a combination thereof, one ingredient common to all is the roux, which is simply the combination of equal parts of flour and fat. It provides both thickening and color to the gumbo.

“Enjoy!”

Sandy’s Gumbo

1-1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
Good quality Creole seasoning
1 cup vegetable oil plus 2 tablespoons, divided use
1 cup flour
2 cups diced onion
1 cup diced pepper (I use a combination of green and red bell pepper)
1 cup diced celery
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon pepper
2 bay leaves
1 ½ pounds good quality smoked andouille sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces (see note)
8 cups broth (I use a combination of chicken and vegetable)
1 (14 ½-ounce) can of crushed/diced tomato
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (optional)

Season chicken thighs with creole seasoning. Sauté chicken is 2 tablespoons vegetable oil until browned.  Remove chicken from pot.  In pot add flour and 1 cup oil together and stir to combine.

Cook the roux until it develops a medium dark brown color (dark peanut butter).  Be careful not to splash the roux on you – it is very hot! Paul Prudhomme refers to it as the “Cajun equivalent of napalm.” While cooking the roux be careful not to allow it to burn – if it does, you must start over.  Stirring the roux is a must, and the process can take 30 minutes or more. I have a Cajun friend who likes to time the process in terms of the number of beers consumed.  Based on his timing this roux would probably be a 3 to 4 beer roux!

Add vegetables and sauté until translucent.  Add cayenne, pepper and salt.

Add broth and stir to dissolve roux.  Add bay leaves. Add sausage, browned chicken and tomato.

Simmer, covered, over low heat for 1 – 2 hours.

At the end of cooking turn off heat, add shrimp (if using) and cover the pot.

In 5-10 minutes the shrimp will be cooked and the gumbo ready to eat.

Serve over steamed rice and garnish with thinly sliced green onion.

Note: I am convinced that it is the sausage that makes the gumbo. I use two sources for my andouille.  The first is Jacobs in Laplace, La., (www.cajunsausage.com) and the second is The Best Stop in Scott, La., (www.thebeststopsupermarket.com).  Both places will ship overnight.

I find that this gumbo is best if made 2-3 days ahead and reheat when ready to serve.

Makes 8-10 servings.

From Sandy White

If you have a favorite recipe to share, e-mail info@savorsa.com.

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In Season: Facing the Fear of Okra


okraMy late mother-in-law was a formidable cook and thrifty to boot. But years ago, she was nearly defeated by a small, conical pod from her husband’s garden: okra.

Her husband, Si, planted a 20-foot row of okra plants that summer. When they began to produce pods, the bounty was exciting. Marjorie made and served and froze lots of her excellent shrimp gumbo, brimming with delicious okra. She made okra pickles and fried okra and sautéed okra.

The plants were still madly producing a couple of months later when her husband plowed them under. The lesson they learned:  A 20-foot row of plants will yield far too much okra for a family of five and all of their neighbors in a three-block radius.

This year I decided to plant okra. Heeding the family lesson I planted just two okra seeds. Never having seen an okra plant in production I waited for the proliferation of okra to begin. Surprises were ahead.

First, the sheer vigor of the plant astonished me. I had put one seedling into a large pot holding a Meyer lemon and another in a pot with my allspice tree. All of the plants appear to be living well together at this time, but the okra with the lemon is about three feet tall, still growing and regularly producing pods. Its stalk looks to be about an inch thick. The other plant got off to a slow start but is almost to the production stage.

Second, I was pleasantly surprised at the beauty of the okra flower. It opens to about the size and shape of an espresso cup. The petals are creamy ivory leaning to yellow. The throat of the blossom is a deep magenta-purple.

The third surprise was how swiftly the pods grow. A friend suggested I camp out on a lawn chair overnight to keep an eye on them, flashlight and clippers in hand. I may exaggerate, but I believe I have seen them go from the size of a thimble to the size of a small zucchini overnight. (Imagine the terror of my father-in-law,  facing a 20-foot row of the things.)

I like fresh okra. I love to slice and sauté them in a little olive oil and add them to tomatoes and onions for a side dish. Indians make a good dry sauté of thick-cut okra pods that never seems slimy.

Ah yes, that mucilage. I’d learned that part of the thickening of a good gumbo came from the slimy production of the cut okra. That, and the roux, of course. If they are cooked with an acidic food, such as tomatoes or lemon juice, the mucilage seems to retreat. The following spicy Indian recipe for Bhindi Curry is a good example.  Also, sliced, fried okra is largely mucilage free, as are pickled okra pods.

Okra is very good in an omelet, too. I picked two pods off the plant one morning and sliced them up along with a small crook-neck squash growing in another part of the yard and a few grape tomatoes. I sautéed them briefly and folded them into the omelet. The recipe below, for Bhindi Curry, is another spicy and delicious way to use okra.

Okra is available (and very popular) now in San Antonio farmers markets. That is a good thing.  This summer taught me that two okra plants are not enough for two okra-loving people. Next year, I’ll plant three.

Bhindi (Okra) Curry

1 pound okra
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
½ teaspoon fenugreek seed, slightly crushed
3 tablespoons mustard oil (vegetable oil can be used)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 (1-inch) pieces fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
½ teaspoon heenj (asafoetida) (see note)
3/4 cup diced tomatoes
1 green pepper, chopped
2 small green chiles (such as serrano) or dry red chiles, chopped, or to taste

Wash the okra, trim tops and tails, cut into approximately pieces about ½-inch thick. Fry mustard seed, coriander seed and fenugreek seed in mustard oil (or vegetable oil) for 2-3 minutes. Cover the pan or the mustard seeds will leap out all over the kitchen. Add garlic, onion and ginger; fry gently for about 10 minutes more. Put the ground cumin, paprika and heenj into a small bowl and make a paste with a little water. Add paste to the pan with other ingredients and fry for a further 10 minutes. Add cut okra, tomatoes, green pepper and chiles to the pan. Stir. Cover and simmer very slowly until the okra is tender but not sloppy (about 15-20 minutes).

Heenj, or asafoetida, is available at any of the city’s Indian markets.

Serves 3-4 as a main course, 5-6 as a side vegetable.

From: Tony Walton/astray recipes.com

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