Day before yesterday I had gumbo chalked on the board for dinner. Between having our granddaughter living with us, (which really is like taking one of those X-treme energy packs that imbue you with superpowers allowing you to mow the lawn, sew a set of king sized sheets, and aline the tires while simultaneously rethinking the NASA space program), to focusing on moving, and life in general, my days are half gone lately before I get one shoe in place. Whew, now that was a sentence. I need kudos for that one.
Gumbo is not something to be addressed on a busy day. This recipe needs lots of love and attention, and, if hurried, can get its Cajun back up and spit in your face. Fortunately, the night before I’d taken the time to chop up the “holy trinity”, onions, celery and green pepper. Also, I had precooked the chicken, and the Andouille sausage was sliced. All that was left was to devein the shrimp and make the seafood stock. Deveining the shrimp is not my favorite job, but since I must have missed the show of hands, I went about the task of gettin er done.
Now, last week I did something incredibly stupid and remember thinking, “Lord, I’m getting old”. I can’t remember, naturally, what it was that made me think that because Lord I’m getting old. Gumbo day reminded me several times where that thought train had been headed before it got derailed. I deveined and peeled the shrimp and re-iced them, reserving the shells to infuse the broth. Sacre bleu, mon amis, Susie was on a roll. I grabbed my stockpot and filled it with the allotted amount of water, adding a bit of rich chicken broth and the shrimp shells for flavor and brought it to a boil. After turning it down to simmer, I left it alone for an hour.
Hearing the timer, I retrieved the collander from the cupboard, slapped it in the sink to catch the shells and proceeded to pour the broth through the collander and directly into the garbage disposal, finding myself left with shrimp shells and no broth. Seriously? I wonder if they let you write blogs when you’re in the home?
Not to be outdone, and still having the reserved shells, I set the timer once again and began the process anew. I believe I was thinking once again, “Lord I’m getting old”, but really can’t trust my memory at this point.
In the meantime I began to think about getting the roux on the move. I pulled the holy trinity out as well as my sausage and set them on the cutting board. Butter was thrown in the pan to melt and I retrieved the garlic and the flour from the back fridge. Spices were premeasured in a small glass dish, and once again the old horse was puffing smoothly along the track.
Roux, good roux, in a way is an art. That being said my ex-husband, who was from Texas, was the Michelangelo of Roux and was kind enough to teach me a few tricks. Whisk the flour in, never stir, and brown just until fragrant and a rich golden but not dark amber color. If you burn it, toss it, because the burnt taste will infuse the entire dish. I have made this dish many times, so this should have been the easy part, emphasis on the should here. Butter melted, I added the holy trinity and the garlic and, in yet another senior moment, the sausage seemed to tumble in behind the group. It took me another ten or so minutes to retrieve each piece of sausage and set them aside. Sigh. What time does the pill cart come by and do they have strawberry jello tonight?
At this point the gumbo became more of a quest than a meal. It had been promised, and by God, I was going to deliver. Once I got the roux done and the second batch of stock working, I relaxed a bit. As sides we were having garlic bread, tossed salad and fresh asparagus. Please write in and remind my family I’m invaluable at any time. Smile.
The salad managed to come together with the gods behind it. It was a “Susie salad”, as my grandchildren refer to it, which is basically finely chopped lettuce with everything but icky beets in it (that being for them), tossed with a blend of one half bleu cheese and one half Italian dressing with homemade croutons.
Time constrained, I opted for several small loaves of sourdough garlic bread that, according to the directions, required opening the package, placing on a baking sheet and cooking for the allotted amount of time. Pretty much a no-brainer. Tossing them in the oven the phone rang. While talking, another call clicked in and a finger of steam from the gumbo was beckoning for me to take a look in the pot. Ach. I’m sure the time for the bread went off, but Susie didn’t hear it. I did, however, hear the smoke alarm. Truthfully, it was rather hard to miss. The good news was there was another phone call coming in. “Hello, God, it’s me Susie”. We took pictures of the charred remains of the bread in case the local crematorium might be hiring somewhere down the line and required photos of my past work.
After we got the smoke smell out of the house and placed a bowl of lemon water in the oven, we sat down to eat. Amazingly, I have to say that was the best gumbo I’ve ever turned out of a pot. Do not ask me what I did, and if I knew, I guarantee it would not be worth the effort for you to repeat it, but it was just great. Last night I went for Quiche and managed to turn it out without requiring any attention from the fire department. Yea.
1 deep dish pie crust, yours or purchased
1 onion, chopped fine
1 Tbsp. shallot, chopped fine
2 Tbsp. butter
6 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
2 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
1/8 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, shredded
1 cup Swiss cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Gruyere, shredded
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups half and half
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. Hungarian paprika (regular can be used)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prick pie shell. Line with either heavy duty tin foil or parchment paper topped with dried beans or weight with pie weights. Bake for 20 mins.
Remove from oven and increase temperature to 425 degrees.
Meanwhile, heat butter in small skillet. Add onion and shallot. Saute 3-5 mins. until onions are translucent. Remove from heat. In large bowl beat eggs and seasonings.
Place onion/shallot mixture in bottom of prepared shell. Top with crumbled bacon and cheeses. Pour egg mixture over top.
Bake at 425 degrees for 10 mins. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue cooking for 50 mins. or until filling is set and golden brown. Allow to cool 10-12 mins. before cutting.