Monday, April 20, 2009


The highlight of my eating last week started in a dispute over soup. Gumbo to be specific. I don't recall how soup became the topic of conversation...but then again, why wouldn't it be. Soup is delicious and wonderful and I could muse about it all day long. So maybe I got a little worked up when I was sure gumbo was cooked with rice, and Russ resolute that is was served over it.

Technically speaking, I lost the tussle. But I was decided that gumbo was on for Monday dinner so the loss was of little consequence.

Waiting tables in my college days, I donned a white apron serving up gumbo and crawfish etouffee at a small, spicy little cajun/creole restaurant in Central Pennsylvania. Spats Cafe. What great, funny, delicious memories I have of that restaurant. Filling ice tea pitchers and polishing silverware in the morning, I'd watch the cooks stir big pots of dark roux under the waves of heat spilling off the flatop in the kitchen. Roux, a rich, slowly cooked combination of fat and flour is what makes gumbo gumbo. Up until this past week I'd never actually made it myself. So it wasn't just soup we were talking about for dinner. It was soup and a roux.

And the perfect occasion to try the contents of the peanut butter jar of homemade lard; rendered from pork fat by my genius-in-the-kitchen friend, and farmer, Anna.

It was a what's-in-the-pantry inspired gumbo, so for serious soupers, not your traditional mix. No peppers or okra. But smoked duck breast, red beans and rice (cooked in), carrots, kale, sage and thyme. Ok, the duck breast was an impulse buy at the grocery store. But a delicious addition to be sure.

With the soup simmering on a burner, I stirred the roux. The nutty, rich smell of the flour and fat cooking sent me back to those days of hot sauce and cornbread at Spats. Committing to that roux, stirring for about 30 minutes until it grew a walnut, chocolate brown, the smell and feel of it all sent my thoughts towards what else I could possibly come up with to put roux in...

But once mixed into the stock pot, it was clear that roux was made for gumbo. Gumbo for a roux.

For me, the peppery burn of the brown broth was seasoned with the flavor of Spats lunch breaks, slurping soup at that back table sprinkled with silverware wrapped in mardi gras beads.

For everyone else, it was a flavor that cooked with rice, or served over it, no matter. As long as there was enough for seconds, no arguments to be found.

*Don't forget that the Virtual Great American Bake Sale is still in progress. While your soup's on the stove, check out the recipes and share a little something before chowing down!

Wild Rice and Beans Gumbo

1 cup red beans
1 cup wild rice
6 medium carrots
1 bunch celery
1 large red onion
1 10" andouille sausage
1/2 pound smoked duck breast
1 pound chicken breast
5 large leaves of kale
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 rosemary sprig
1 T sage
1 T thyme
1 T sea salt
2 t cayenne pepper
lots of black pepper (50-60 turns of a peppermill)
3 qts chicken stock
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup fat (butter, lard, oil...)

1. Rehydrate beans according to directions on package.
2. Chop celery, carrots, garlic and onion.
3. Cube duck breast and cut andouille sausage into slices, then quarters.
4. Cube chicken. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne.
5. Cut kale into ribbons.
6. In the bottom of a large stockpot, over medium heat, add 1 T olive oil, duck breast, sausage, garlic and spices, and brown for a couple of minutes.
7. Add chicken, brown.
8. Add carrots, celery and onion. Sweat until onions are translucent.
9. Pour in stock.
10. Add rice and beans.
11. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
12. Reduce to a simmer, let cook for 1- 1 1/2 hrs. Taste occasionally for seasoning.
13. In a small saucepot over medium heat, mix together flour and fat. Stir constantly to avoid burning; cook until roux is a nice dark brown. Note- use a heat resistant spatula or wooden spoon...mixture is HOT! Let roux cool to room temperature.
14. Very carefully add roux to the stockpot. Stir to incorporate.

15-20 servings

1 comment:

kraymoney said...

What about the sweet cat? I LOVE SOUP!