Friday, December 17, 2010

Comfort Foods

To me, the colder months mean comfort foods; slow cooked pot roast, roasted chicken with root veggies, or savory stews or soups. 

The other night the temperature dropped to 23 degrees in central Florida.  23!  Burrr…

Okay, before I hear “It’s minus two” up north – we are not used to this weather down here!  Our local newscast had to give tips on “Staying warm.”  They amounted to “Cover up” and “Wear layers.”

Yes, the sunshine gets to our brains down here in the Sunshine State.

None-the-less, Floridians like their comfort foods, too.  I grew up in Pennsylvania.  I think the difference between northern and southern comfort food – especially in this part of Florida - is that we tend to gravitate toward traditional southern meals, or Cuban or Cajun influenced dishes.   I love them all. 

So the other night when I actually had to crank on the gas heat and dig out my flannel nightgown, I came up with this quick, hearty and easy recipe for Gumbo that I know you will enjoy; even if you live in the Great White Tundra.

Let’s get cooking!

N’Orleans Style Chicken, Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo File’

4 tbs. Canola Oil, divided
1 – 6 oz boneless, skinless Chicken Breast, chopped into bite sized pieces
Pinch of course Sea Salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
½ cup All Purpose Flour
1 medium Green Bell Pepper, chopped
½ medium Sweet Onion, chopped
3 stalks Celery, chopped
2 ½ ounces fully cooked Andouille Sausage, sliced into ½ inch rounds and then halved
1 – 12 oz Light Beer
32 oz. good quality Chicken Stock
1 tbs. Cajun Seasoning
Cayenne Pepper, to taste
24 medium Frozen Uncooked Shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ tsp. Gumbo File’ (more for sprinkling)

Steamed White Rice
Chopped Fresh Chives (for topping)

Add 1 tbs. Canola Oil to cast iron skillet or Dutch oven.  Add chicken, salt and pepper.  Brown chicken, about four-to-five minutes.

Remove chicken and reserve to bowl.

Add remaining oil and flour to make a roux.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring every fifteen-to-thirty seconds.  Do not let this burn.  Do not try to do anything else.  Watch it and stir.  After about 15 minutes, you should end up with a mixture that looks like melted peanut butter.

Add the Trinity; bell pepper, onion and celery along with the sausage.  Cook over medium heat, about 3 -5 minutes until vegetables soften an the sausage renders fat. 

Remove to a bowl and reserve. 

Add beer.  Deglaze the pan, scrapping the brown bits from the bottom. 

Add chicken stock.  Bring to boil and reduce to simmer, uncovered, about 20 – 25 minutes.

Add vegetable and sausage mixture back to Gumbo.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer another 15 minutes.

Add frozen shrimp.  Cook five minutes.  Add chicken and turn off heat.  Add in Gumbo File’.

Stir and let rest about five minutes, covered, before serving.

To serve, ladle Gumbo into bowls.  Top with steamed white rice, chives and a little extra Gumbo file’ – just a sprinkle (optional).

Tip:  Making a Roux isn’t easy.  It takes practice. If your Gumbo is too thin, remove ¼ cup of the hot cooking liquid to a glass heat proof bowl.  Whisk in 1 tsp. of corn starch.  Return to Gumbo and bring to boil (about five minutes).  If you need to use this step, do this BEFORE adding the Gumbo File’. 

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