Cooking with Myra: Gumbo perfect meal with friends
By Myra Starkey
Nov. 13, 2012 at 5:13 a.m.
Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
• Roux (see recipe below)
• 4 quarts chicken stock
• 2 large onions, finely chopped
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1 cup green onions, chopped
• 1/4 cup parsley, chopped finely
• 1/2 cup green bell pepper, finely chopped
• 1 cup celery, finely chopped
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 pound smoked pork sausage, sliced
• 3 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
• Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning to taste
• Pepper to taste
• Rice (cooked)
Make the roux, and when it is the color of a copper penny, add the vegetables except for green onions. Allow the vegetables to soften. Transfer the mixture to a large pot and add the chicken stock. Add remaining ingredients and boil for 2 hours. Season with Tony Chachere seasoning and pepper. Add green onions and cook for 5 minutes. Serve over rice.
File' (a powder derived from tender sassafras leaves) This powder will thicken and flavor the gumbo and is available at the grocery store. The powder is gray/green in color.
• 1 cup flour
• 1/2 cup canola oil
Cook very slowly in cast iron skillet, stirring constantly. The roux will turn the color of a copper penny, dark chocolate or dark caramel. The darker the roux, the deeper the flavor of the gumbo. If you burn the roux, start over as the gumbo will taste burned.
November should not be this hot. I worked briefly in the yard raking leaves and picking up acorns and broke out in a sweat.
Normally in the fall, you don a sweater and muffler before going outside because of the chill in the air.
Of course, in Texas that is probably only wishful thinking.
I remember when I first heard that a bunch of fancy scientists had come up with the concept of global warming, and being from the South, I wondered what had taken them so long to figure that out. I thought maybe the next year they might discover chiggers or okra.
Despite the hot weather, I was in the gumbo mood and decided to make a roux.
I started with flour and oil and hours later had a rich dark paste worthy of a Louisiana gumbo recipe.
Taylor was going hunting and, seeing me at the stove, asked if I could make some gumbo for him to take on his adventure.
I am continuing a long-standing family tradition of roux making. My mom taught me when I was young enough to reach the stove and old enough to know that the roux burns unless you are very careful. Bored with the necessary task of prolonged stirring, I would usually ask how I would know when I was done and she would say, "Keep stirring until it is the color of a dark copper penny."
So, this is still my marker of when to stop the cooking process. I have tweaked the recipe over the years, sometimes substituting chicken and sausage in place of shrimp and crab for the gumbo, but the practice of making the roux reminds me of my childhood.
Since Taylor had planned to go deer hunting for the weekend with a couple of buddies, I knew that I was free to do whatever I wanted. I weighed what I could accomplish at home and found those things far less important than time with some friends just hanging around.
Sure, the closets would not get cleaned out right then, nor would some of the flower beds be free of weeds, but I needed some social time and I would soon have a pot of gumbo ready to share.
A few hours later, I was spooning rice into bowls then ladling in the dark, creamy gumbo. We took our seats around the table and were ready to eat and chat. Women usually get straight to the heart of life when they get together, and soon we were talking about our lives, sharing our fears about the future and solving the world's problems, not the least of which was the recent election.
I did not keep track of the number of bowls consumed, but I personally stopped at two and one-third refills.
I lowered the temperature of the air conditioner to cut the gumbo-induced sweating that we were all experiencing as we laughed and recounted old stories.
I realize that I am so fortunate to have good friends. These gals love me and accept me for who I am. They have been by my side for years, have cried with me when I have lost loved ones, prayed me through cancer, loved my children and continue to love me unconditionally.
On Saturday afternoon, we decided to take a road trip to Port Aransas, so we could walk on the beach with the wind blowing in our hair. The surf was mightily stirred up, and the normally calm waves were lapping and crashing on the sand.
A lone kite surfer skimmed the tops of the white caps jumping high on the board as the wind caught his kite and raised him up in the air until it dropped him back in the water.
A few overnight campers were setting up tents on the sand, probably anticipating the night bonfire and roasting of marshmallows. We were trying to work up an appetite for supper at Shells Restaurant in Port Aransas. I insisted we go there, and Janet thought I had built it up so much that it would not live up to the hype.
Several lean-legged joggers passed us, kicking up sand behind them. A young couple passed holding hands probably wishing they had hired the babysitter for a few more hours.
I could identify with many of those I passed because I have entered those seasons and moved on to the next part of life, the blessed empty nest.
I wondered what those on the beach thought of us, middle-aged women with rolled up jeans, barefooted and giggling as the cold foamy water rose against our shins while we tried to make quick retreats.
The wind and waves seem to put one's brain in neutral, erasing thoughts and worries as surely as the surf clears messages written in the sand.
Once our stroll on the beach ended, we went to Shells and had dinner with the early crowd.
I ordered capellini pasta with seafood served in a Thai coconut broth. Wow. I am never disappointed with this dish, and I slurped my noodles through more conversations about our lives. We were all pleased with the food.
The fact is that spending a day or a weekend with those you love is always the best choice.
I almost missed out on the blessing of time with friends thinking that staying home and doing housework and yard work would have been a better choice. That stuff can wait. Gumbo with friends must be done now.
Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email email@example.com.