Monday, May 13, 2013

Chicken & Sausage Gumbo (with a paleo-friendly version)

While in Texas last month for work, I was able to have dinner with my siblings and sister-in-law, under the same roof, for the first time in almost two years. It was such a treat, and we took advantage of the few evenings we had together to eat delicious homemade food, drink lots of wine, and catch up with music playing in the background. My fantastic sister-in-law and brother were true to their Cajun roots and prepared an incredible gumbo for me and my sister one night (with zydeco playing in the background, of course).
my brother dishing up gumbo for a sibling dinner in Houston: Cajun-Tex cuisine
This gumbo was FAR better than the recipe that my sister and I had attempted together when she came to visit me and the hubs in London a couple of years ago. We never got the roux right. And the roux is key. The resulting gumbo just didn't have that deep, rich taste, and there was a slightly grainy texture to the stock. My paternal grandmother used to make gumbo every year for all the family who came to visit their Nashville home at Christmas. I have great memories of gumbo dinners at the kids' table with my cousins, and was disappointed to discover how difficult it seemed to replicate the dish. Like the yeast-bread gene, I thought I'd also skipped out on the gumbo gene when my sister and I failed to make a good batch. Following our unsuccessful try, I hadn't attempted gumbo again, sticking to cajun-inspired chicken or pasta dishes, or the easy crowd-pleaser shrimp and grits (need to post that one soon).
Chicken & Sausage Gumbo (no roux!) @ SouthernSpoon blog
delicious gumbo with chicken and sausage, roux-less and gluten-free
But my sister-in-law and brother shared the secret to their roux-less, tasty recipe. By charing the okra, then the onions, and then concentrating the flavor of the spices and broth into the vegetables, you create a wonderful, dark stock that tastes as rich as the finest butter-and-flour roux. In fact, I think the flavor of this gumbo is even better than all of the roux-based gumbo I've had in the past. And I'm pleased to say that it goes over well in the southern hemisphere : ) This gumbo is also gluten-free friendly, and dairy-free, too, since extra virgin olive oil is used instead of butter.
easy and delicious gumbo (no roux!) @ SouthernSpoon blog
easy, rich-tasting gumbo, served with lots of Tabasco
After sourcing locally grown okra (labelled okra beans!) at our nearby grocer, I made a batch of this gumbo over the weekend. It really is an incredibly delicious recipe, and can be adapted to use whatever combination of chicken, sausage, or seafood you have on hand. We used shredded rotisserie chicken and a couple of links of chorizo (no andoille sausage here in Sydney as far as I can tell), but prawns (shrimp) and sausage would also be awesome. We used roasted red bell peppers rather than tomatoes because of allergies to tomatoes, but either will work well. The hubs gave this recipe his highest approval, and strongly recommends you make it as soon as you can. Make sure you have Tabasco on hand. And happy anniversary for tomorrow to my one-of-a-kind brother and sister-in-law, love y'all!

Chicken & Sausage Gumbo
serves 4

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground sea salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cup okra, sliced (divided use)
1 medium sized onion, diced
3 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (divided use)
2 red bell peppers, roasted, skins peeled, and diced (or 1 cup chopped tomatoes)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup thinly sliced andoille sausage (or chorizo), uncooked
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked rotisserie chicken
1 cup raw prawns (shrimp), optional

To serve:
1 cup dried rice (or cauliflower rice if cooking grain-free/ paleo: recipe below)
1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced
Tabasco sauce

In a small bowl, combine the spices (black pepper through parsley) and set aside.  You will gradually add this spice mixture as you prepare the gumbo.

You will first char the okra, then onion, which will help to create a dark, rich roux-like broth for the gumbo. Heat a large saucepan on the stove over high heat. As soon as the pan starts smoking, add the tablespoon of olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add half of the sliced okra (3/4 cup) along with a few pinches of the spice mixture. Quickly swirl the okra around the pan to cover with oil and the spices, then leave to sauté for a minute before stirring. You want to char the okra so that it's a bit blacked, but be careful not to burn it through (you may need to turn your burner down to medium-high if your saucepan is thin). Cook okra for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until evenly charred. Add the onions and a few more pinches of the spice mixture. Again, quickly swirl them around to coat with the oil and spices, then leave for a minute before stirring. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until onion is beginning to brown.

Add 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth to the okra onion mixture to deglaze the pan. Scrape the bottom of the pan to remove all of the blackened bits. Cook until all of the liquid has evaporated, about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pan.

Add the diced roasted bell peppers and the minced garlic with another few pinches of the spice mixture. Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pan, until all of the liquid has evaporated (2-3 minutes). Now add 1/2 cup of chicken or vegetable broth, and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pan, until all of the liquid has evaporated (5-6 minutes).

Add the remaining 2 cups of vegetable or chicken broth, the sausage, and a few more pinches of the spice mixture. Cover, turn heat down to medium-low, and simmer for 40 minutes.

Prepare the rice according to package directions, set aside and keep warm. (Or prepare cauliflower rice as per recipe below).

After simmering the gumbo for 40 minutes, add the shredded, cooked chicken and the remaining 3/4 cup sliced okra. (At this point, taste the gumbo and, if necessary, add the remaining spice mixture.)  After added the chicken and remaining okra, simmer for 15 minutes. If using prawns (shrimp), add them at the end of the 15 minutes, and simmer for an additional 4-5 minutes, just until prawns turn completely pink.

To serve, place a 1/2-cup mound of rice (or prepared cauliflower rice) in the centre of each bowl, and ladle gumbo over the rice. Sprinkle with the sliced green onions, and serve immediately, with Tabasco on the side.

Cauliflower Rice
serves 3-4

1/2 large head of cauliflower, rinsed thoroughly
1 tablespoon olive oil (not extra virgin) or melted coconut oil
pinch of freshly ground salt

Grate the cauliflower florets on a grater (the side with the large holes), or process the florets gently in a food processor, until you have a pile of cauliflower 'rice grains'. (You will have between 2 1/2 to 3 cups).

Place a medium sized saucepan over medium heat, and add the oil, swirling to coat the pan. Add the cauliflower, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes, until cauliflower is cooked through but still a bit crisp-tender. You may speed up the cooking process by covering the pan with a lid and steaming for 4-5 minutes. Watch that the cauliflower doesn't burn, and turn the heat down to low if necessary to prevent burning.

Remove cauliflower from heat and stir in a pinch of freshly ground sea salt, and serve.

Variations: Before adding the cauliflower, sauté a 1/4 cup chopped onion and a teaspoon of minced garlic. You may also add your favorite herbs and seasonings to vary the flavor of your cauliflower rice. A pinch of tumeric, with sautéed onion and garlic, makes a delicious cauliflower rice that is well suited to Indian dishes.

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