Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What's For Dinner Wednesday

I was in a total dinner funk this week. No ideas. Or, rather, lots of ideas but nothing I knew my entire family would like. :/ I ended up on the Internet searching frantically through cooking blogs to find inspiration, and voila - suddenly I was back in Alabama...

... sitting in Joe's apartment, my allergies going insanely hyperactive, my nose running like a tap, feeling like a complete. idiot. And in that moment, Joe proved that he was the kind of rare, special guy that knows exactly what to do in a crisis.

He gave me a bowl of gumbo, and brought me cayenne and hot sauce. I used both, and five minutes later, my sinuses had cleared. Amazing stuff. :) And the gumbo was to die for.

My mind was made up. Gumbo it was.

I searched high and low but couldn't find a good crockpot gumbo recipe, so I did a lot of research - reading blogs and recipes and even some articles about the historical roots of gumbo (did you know such a thing existed?) - and with much prayer and crossing of fingers, I decided to strike out on my own and make my own recipe. It ended up being the kind of recipe that's kind of labor-intensive at the beginning, before you shove it in the crockpot, but that's so, so worth it.

Here it goes:

Sarah's Crockpot Gumbo
(Makes enough for nine, with leftovers)
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or chopped fine (I want a garlic press for Christmas!!!)
4 large stalks of celery (or enough that you end up with roughly equal parts celery and onion)
1 each red and green bell pepper, chopped
1 lb sausage (I used andouille)
3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
32 oz chicken stock
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup flour
3 bay leaves
Sage, thyme, cumin, paprika, mustard, cayenne, salt, and pepper, to taste
1 lb medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
Gumbo file powder (optional)
Frank's Red Hot
Old Bay (optional)

Onion, garlic, and celery: this is what's referred to as the "holy trinity" of cajun cooking, apparently. :) Add them and a tablespoon or so of oil in a largish skillet (I used cast iron, for once, and it worked great!) and cook on medium-low until softened (but not browned). Add bell peppers and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add sausages and cook, turning frequently, until just browned but not cooked all the way through.

Remove veggies and sausages from pan. Slice sausages into rounds. Add to crockpot. Add chicken.

Now to make a roux:

Heat oil in a pan on low - don't clean it out, all those little bits have a ton of flavor! Whisk in flour. It'll look "funky" as one blogger put it, but trust me. Continue cooking, on low heat, stirring constantly, as it darkens in color. Slow and low! :) If it burns at all or begins to smell overdone, throw it out and start again. You can make yours any depth you'd like - I did mine pretty dark! - but don't burn it.

Add the rest of the chicken stock and whisk. The stock should thicken immediately. Turn off the heat. Add spices as desired - I started out with about a teaspoon of each, and added more as I desired. It was a very intuitive process. :)

Pour the stock over the crockpot, place bay leaves on top, and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

One hour before serving, remove chicken breasts from pot, shred, and return to pot; add shrimp.

Right before serving, add a good sprinkle of file powder and stir. This will add a nice taste and fragrance, and it'll thicken the rest of the stock.

Serve over rice (the traditional way!) with Frank's Red Hot (oh yes!) or Old Bay, if you're like me and a proud Marylander who puts Old Bay - not just crab seasoning, lol - on everything. :)

This got a 2 thumbs up from everybody, so I'll definitely be putting it in my "repeat" file! :)

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