Searching for Gumbo in the Eighties

I was in college in the 80’s when I learned to cook. My mother wasn’t the kind of mom who wanted your help in the kitchen. It would ruin her efficiency and make things messier. She was an excellent cook, though. When I went away to college and ate on campus my first reaction was to call back home for recipes that I could make in my dorm room. My room was a two-bedroom suite with a full-size kitchen so that made things easier.

In the 80’s cooking shows were pretty much only available on PBS, at least the only ones I was aware of. I’m sure there were others but those I remember were various incarnations of Julia (The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cookChild shows, The Frugal Gourmet, and Louisiana Cooking with Justin Wilson. I enjoyed them all and learned from them. There are still several recipes in my rotation of regular meals that came out of The Frugal Gourmet cookbooks.

It was Justin Wilson who made me want to eat Cajun food. Gumbo became a goal for me, one that I have followed for years now. I cooked several different versions of backwoods, or chicken and sausage gumbo, from various different cookbooks; The Frugal Gourmet, Chef Paul Prudhomme, The Little Gumbo Book (a tiny gem containing 27 gumbo recipes compiled by Gwen McKee), to name a few. Over the years a recipe came together that finally tasted and felt right to me and my family. I’m sure some will say it’s not  REAL gumbo, or that I have done something heretical, but that’s okay. The Little Gumbo Book proves to me that a gumbo recipe is kind of like an opinion in that everyone has one and … that’s as far as I’ll go with that analogy.

Oh, and when we make gumbo we make a large pot because we plan on eating it for days, so get out your stockpot.

We usually use pre-cooked chicken when making gumbo. If I’m thinking far enough ahead I will smoke a bird on the grill, debone it, and add that meat to pot. Or maybe roast it in the oven. Today I hadn’t thought ahead, so I stewed the bird and used the broth and the meat for the gumbo.

The two most important things about gumbo are the roux and the Holy Trinity (onion, bell pepper, and celery). A roux is a mixture of flour and oil, cooked gently over medium heat. 2 rouxWhen making gumbo you want to cook that roux until it reaches a coppery color, or maybe the color of peanut butter. I start with a cup of oil and a cup of flour. This takes a while and you need to keep stirring it at all times. Watch it carefully as well, because a perfect roux can go from copper to burned in seconds. 3 rouxWhen it is the proper color, toss in the trinity and sauté until the vegetables are limp, adding the garlic towards the end. The vegetables will stop the roux from browning further. Yeah, there are some carrots in there, too. I’m not apologizing.5 saute

When the vegetables are done transfer the roux to the big pot and add the stock and crushed tomatoes, stirring constantly over a medium-high heat until the stock thickens. At this point, you can add the seasonings, cover the pot, and let it simmer for about an hour.6 simmer

Cut up and pan fry the sausage while the stock is simmering. Set the meat aside then deglaze the pan with water, stock, of beer, and scrape all the delicious fond
left on the bottom of the skillet, then add that to the stock. Once the hour is up, add the chicken and sausage and let it simmer for another 20-30 minutes. Serve over the cooked rice with crusty bread, maybe a nice Sourdough French or Ciabatta.4 gumbo

Oh, and this is better if you can make it today but serve it tomorrow.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 large green bell peppers
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 8 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 4 quarts chicken broth
  • 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • some freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2-3 teaspoons of Tabasco or hot sauce of your choice
  • Salt to taste
  • Cooked Rice

Number of Servings: A lot.

Variations:

  1. Leave out the tomatoes and add an extra quart of broth. You can definitely go more traditional and add some okra. Slice it up and sauté with the other vegetables. It will help thicken and smooth the broth.
  2. If you are celiac and need gluten-free recipes I have found that the roux can be made by using white or brown rice flour instead of regular flour, and the flavor is virtually the same. I use a 1 to 1 substitution. It doesn’t thicken the broth as well so adding a little corn starch or arrowroot powder in a slurry towards the end helps.
  3. You will notice in the picture some potatoes and carrots in the bowl as well. If we are making gumbo as a one-dish meal or trying to stretch it to feed lots of people, we sometimes add them to the pot in the last thirty minutes of cooking. It might be a heinous blasphemy to some, but we don’t care.
  4. Try different types of sausage and different meats. We’ve used roasted turkey, sometimes added ham, and on occasion fresh shrimp in the last few minutes before serving. In the original recipe this is built from, the chicken was fried in the oil that was going to be used to make the roux, then the bone-in pieces were simmered till done in the stock. I’ve done it and it was delicious.
  5. There will be quite a lot of oil on top from the roux. Use a spoon or a fat separator to remove the excess oil.

In Praise of Spring Eggs

Hopple Popple

I’m not German. Pretty sure I’m Polish by extraction, but not sure about that and it’s not a thing anyone in my family ever thought about anyway.

Hoppel Popple, however, I am told, is a traditional German breakfast casserole made with eggs and cured meats, potatoes, onions, and probably whatever else you have left in the fridge that you need to get rid of. I have an overabundance of eggs in the house right now. 14 dozen from trades for bread and because I have friends who have chickens and this is the time of year that they start laying like crazy. So here’s my take on Hopple Popple, which I’m sure is decidedly different in every German household.

I started by taking about 2.5 pounds of red potatoes and cooking them under high pressure in my Instant Pot for 5 minutes. After the 5 minutes was up I let the pressure cooker release naturally for 5 minutes before doing a quick release on the remaining pressure. If you don’t have a pressure cooker you can boil the potatoes for 15-20 minutes.

While the potatoes were cooking I sautéed a pound of good pork sausage with one chopped medium red onion, about 6 crushed cloves of garlic. When that was well cooked I added about 4 ounces of sliced mushrooms to the mix, sautéed a bit longer, then set aside off of the heat.

The next step was to slice the potatoes into 1/3-1/2 inch slices. I fried these in a mixture of butter and bacon grease until golden brown and crispy on each side. This took two batches in my 12-inch skillet. Once the first batch was done I set them aside to drain a bit while I fried the second batch. I mixed up my egg mixture while the second batch of potatoes was frying. You’re going to probably need a dozen large eggs from the grocery store. Crack them and whisk them up with about a cup of milk or heavy cream.

When the second batch of potatoes is done give them a light sprinkle of salt, then pour the sausage mixture that you have set aside on top of them and spread it out evenly. Take the first batch of fried potatoes and arrange them on top of the meat. Pour the egg mixture over the entire thing, turn your heat down to a little below medium, put a lid on the pan and let it cook until the eggs set up, probably around 5-8 minutes. Once the eggs have set up put a little cheese of your choice on top, put the lid back on and let it melt a little. I put the pan under the broiler for a little blistering.

Let the Hopple Popple sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. Simple food, peasant food, delicious food.Hopple Popple_edited

Picture is kind of crappy. Took it with my Kindle Fire, which is not noted for the quality of it’s camera. C’est la vie. I’ll use a better camera next time.

May 2017 Update

I’ve decided I’m not going to do a weekly newsletter, but maybe something more on a monthly basis as I find things of interest to share and have some news. Not everything will be about bread, but about food in general.

We’re participating in a new venture here in the High Country. If you haven’t heard of the High Country Food Hub and Online Marketplace you should check it out. It’s a new venue offering another way to buy local foods and value-added products.

SAVOR Blowing Rock takes place next week, April 20-23. We’ll be one of the vendors located inside the Grand Tasting Tent on the Maple Street Parking lot behind First Citizens Bank off Main Street. We’ll be there Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon. “The 2017 edition of SAVOR Blowing Rock includes an expanded range of seminars and events that feature regional culture, music, craft beers from local breweries and across the state, beverage tastings and dinners that showcase the town’s culinary artistry.”

This Saturday, April 15, will be the last Boone Winter Farmers Market. If you haven’t come before, you should. Check us out between 9 AM and Noon downstairs in the Watauga Agriculture Center at 252 Poplar Grove Road.

Last but not least we hope you are gearing up for the 2017 Watauga County Farmers Market. Opening Day is Saturday, May 6!

2017 Update

It’s been about 2.5 years since I updated this site. I didn’t totally abandon it, just spent more time writing and communicating on facebook. Forward into the future, I’d like to be more active here. There is no real plan or schedule, I just like the idea of a place to occasionally share my thoughts about bread in particular and food in general and life overall. Maybe offer a recipe or a special. Let me know if what you think. See you soon.Bistro_sign

Fall is here

It’s been several of weeks since I last sent an email out. We’ve been pushing hard at the Farmers Market and we’ve done a couple of other events. A week ago Sunday we participated in an event at the Jones von Drehle Vineyards & Winery. They are close by, and the vineyard is beautiful, as is the patio and tasting room. Check them out on facebook and head down for one of their many dinners.
It’s officially Fall, and this past Saturday the air was cold and the wind was blowing, but the Watauga Market was busy despite the weather. Don’t assume that because your garden is dead there is nothing at the market. Vendors are still loaded with produce and the market is open through November.

Vollkornbrot.

Vollkornbrot.

In the picture above, Vollkornbrot.
100% rye. Whole rye berries, cracked rye, cracked malted rye, fresh ground rye flour, rye sourdough, and a bit of honey. Tasty?
Very.

You should make (insert product name here)! It will really sell!

I have a motto when it comes to the bake shop. I don’t make anything I don’t personally like.

Some of you are correct. There are things I could make that would sell very well, but either I don’t like the product, or I don’t like the technique (too time-consuming or messy), so I don’t want to mess with it.

There are some things that I could make but I won’t because somebody else is already doing it, and I don’t want to step on their toes. That might not be a great business decision in your eyes, but that’s me.

Sometimes you are wrong. That product you think would really sell, well it won’t. You see, we’ve tried it already, or we’ve seen others try it. Not going there again.

So, I make what I enjoy making, and I’m glad that you enjoy it as well. 

Here’s something I enjoy making.

Whole Grain Ciabatta with Herbes de Provence. Want some?

 

Do you have (insert name here) bread this week?

“It only takes a small oven to produce a half-baked idea.” ~ Brandy Brandon

At least one thing I make each week doesn’t live up to my expectations, or it fails outright. I can blame ingredients on occasion, and the humidity might be a significant factor at other times. It might be because of injury (two weeks ago), or mechanical failure (mixer mishap last week), However, in the end, it falls to me. Injury or mechanical failure can usually be attributed to inattention to detail or circumstances. 

Problems with ingredients or humidity might be a little out of personal control, but again, attention to detail can help overcome those as well.

Attention to detail. It’s important.

Do you bake all this yourself?

Yes. I do.

I do have some help in the shop. In the past Michael Kelley assisted me, and that young man is a highly skilled assistant. Madison, my lovely daughter, is working full time for me now and learning the trade. I have help mixing and prepping materials, but in the end, every loaf of bread, every bagel, every croissant, etc., is my responsibility.

So yes, I bake it all, despite how incredulous that might seem to some.

*Except the cookies. Jacob does those. They are his private enterprise, so when you buy his cookies at the market, you are directly supporting an industrious 13 year old.

Do You Make Anything Gluten-Free?

No.

I’m a baker, not a pastry-chef.

If I was a pastry chef I would make many g-free items, as well as gluten-heavy items.

If you are celiac, I feel for you. My wife is celiac. I don’t bake bread for her, though, either. I can’t in my shop. There is no way to determine whether or not I’ve cleaned everything well enough to make something that is safe for her. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an ogre. I make very good gluten free treats like clafoutis, and I’ve made several delicious gluten-free cakes (pound cakes, carrot cakes, etc.), as well as gluten free corn bread, but no gluten-free breads. I make them in the house, not in the shop. And they are for special occasions, not daily consumption. They are also not for the markets.

Logistically, I can’t bake what I do AND experiment with gluten-free items. I have a small shop (your deck is probably bigger) and limited help (my children). And frankly, I’m not really interested in learning to bake items for an extremely small portion of the population that, in the end, won’t be willing to pay the price for them. Considering the extra effort and cost of goods that go into them, it’s not a wonderful niche-market for a small-scale baker. Large scale manufacturers have a wonderful niche market in gluten free items because they market based on the fear and ignorance of consumers, and they charge exorbitant prices for the product. I’m not going to lie to you about a product and overcharge you for it.

Unless you are a diagnosed celiac, or someone suffering with autoimmune disease, and you want to discuss alternatives to gluten products, I don’t want to talk about your g-free diet. I’m a bit frustrated with folks changing their entire eating lifestyle, feeling healthier, and then saying that going gluten-free is what made the difference. Bad logic? Yeah.