Okra Gumbo with Sausage and Fish

My friend Mike offers us his classic gumbo recipe with okra, andouille and seafood. I wish I had gotten a chance to taste it, but the color of that roux is evidence enough that it must have been great.

This recipe was adapted from several in Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen. This gumbo is a family favorite. It isn’t too spicy, has a delicious toasty, nutty complexity from the roux, and the okra keeps it from being too thin (the darker you make a roux, the less thickening power it has). It is, however, a definite time commitment. This is a recipe where you should have everything completely prepped and lain out before you start heating the oil for the roux.

Gumbo previously: Gumbo with Chicken, Andouille and Shrimp
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Five Spice Squash Soup

A “He Cooks” post from my friend Mike, who introduced himself last week with Fried Beer-Battered Pickles.

After seeing Brittany’s squash soup post, I decided to make one myself. I thought the distinctive flavor of five spice would go great with the sweetness of the squash. (Five spice is a Chinese blend of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Szechwan pepper and ground fennel seeds.) The five spice was wonderful with the squash, but the soup was a little sweet. I’ll definitely skip the roasting to cut down on the sweetness next time I make it. (The recipe below takes that into account.)

Unfortunately, I’m not much of a photographer, and was in a bit of a hurry to get this one on the table, so the picture doesn’t really do it justice. I also made some spicy shrimp to go on top, but the spoonful of crème fraiche, fresh chives, and pickled ginger I had on the leftovers complemented the flavors of the soup much better.
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Risotto Three Ways

Risotto had been on our list of things to make for some time, and a few months ago the slow-motion shots of a Venetian chef flipping risotto on Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations finally compelled us to buy arborio rice.

Since then, we've had three very successful risotto endeavors.

Our first effort was a knockout taste-wise, but too ugly to stand alone in a blog post. (The internet can be cruel.) Then Sycamore chef Mike Odette let me borrow his risotto cookbook, which had great information and fun stories, along with delicious sounding recipes. A few notes:

  • “Risotto is a simple dish, with relatively few ingredients. Consequently, each element gets its share of the limelight and sparkles individually on your palate.” — ie. Use butter, homemade stock and real Italian cheese
  • Risotto doesn't like shortcuts. The stock must be added a cup at a time so it is slowly absorbed by each grain. “Continue the game of add, stir, and wait, until the rice is just slightly resistant to the bite.”
  • “Good raw materials. Simple cooking procedures. No unnecessary frills. That's what Italian cooking is all about.”

Before Michael left, we finished off the arborio rice with our highest quality risotto yet. Homemade stock, a whole stick of butter, saffron, shrimp and scallops, and real Parmesan Reggiano.

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Recipes from Iron Chef Competition: Indian Rice Fritter and Shrimp Curry

Back in February, Michael, my friend Gwen and I competed in the university Iron Chef competition, where we had a few days to plan a two course menu involving various rices. We all love Indian food so that’s the route we went. Then we had one hour and two burners to prepare the dishes for four judges with the help of campus chef Jeremy Elmore. We wished we placed better than third, but we were very proud of the food we made and think you’d like it, too. The menu:

  • Vegetable and Brown Basmati Fritter with Three Sauces: Curry-Lime Yogurt, Coconut-Mango Chutney and Chili-Garlic Tomato Paste
  • Gulf Shrimp in Coconut-Tamarind Curry Sauce with Red Himalayan Rice Pilaf and Cucumber Raita

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Shrimp and Chicken Noodle Soup

I’m not sure where my head was when I made this meal. Luckily it turned out tasty, but I did so many silly things along the way, like forget several ingredients I bought specifically for the dish. Seriously, I didn’t remember to put ginger in until I went up for seconds. Who makes anything Asian-inspired without ginger?

thai-soup

But let me explain the little bit of thinking that did go into this dinner. I wanted to improvise another soup, this time with light Asian flavors. I started with Trader Joe’s all-natural vegetable broth, which I brought to a boil with some frozen shrimp shells I had the presence of mind to save last week. I just finished reading Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat, and she talks about keeping bones and shells and other normally disposed items to use later in stock.

After a bit, I removed the shells and added chicken, carrots and green onions. Then came the hard part: figuring out how to make it taste like something. I added a good amount of soy sauce and some Singapore seasoning I brought from my parents’ house. I think it’s a blend of curry, pepper and lemon that is meant to go on fish or chicken. Then I remembered to add a few garlic cloves (you know, that ingredient that goes in pretty much everything. My mind was clearly somewhere else.)

It was starting to taste all right, but it took on new complexity when I gave it a glug of white wine. I figured I’d apply the same idea I learned a week earlier when I saw sherry listed in a stir-fry recipe. I’m not sure the soup would have been worth anything without it.

I added bok choy and peas. (Not snap peas, even though I had them in the fridge. No, that would have been the smart thing to do.) Then I put the shrimp in, followed soon by thin glass noodles.

We served it with bean sprouts, cilantro and spicy sriracha sauce.

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Gumbo

Gumbo Pot

This is the meal inspired by a sausage and a song. When the campus meat market started offering andouille sausage, I knew we had to make gumbo. Then our friend Kat discovered a song listed under the genre “gumbo funk,” and we had a soundtrack.

We cooked up a big ol’ pot of gumbo for Michael’s parents when we went to visit, and maybe Michael’s mom just loves us, but she couldn’t stop talking about how good it was. I can’t say I’ve had a ton of gumbo in my day, but this was the best one I’ve tasted. The vegetables maintained their form and taste, instead of becoming a pot of mush. The chicken, sausage and shrimp each brought their own flavors too.

The best canned tomatoes available.  Don't even try to argue otherwise.
According to Michael, the best canned tomatoes available. Don't even try to argue otherwise.

This Food Network recipe just called for chicken and andouille, but I felt like there should be some seafood. You can do scallops too. The only other change we made to the recipe was adding a combination of Cajun spices to the flour in which we dredged the chicken. In addition to salt and pepper, I added paprika, chili powder, celery salt and oregano. If you have a packaged blend, that works too.

Gumbo Dish

Change whatever you want in the recipe, but make sure you have some gumbo funk on the playlist.

Britt and Kat Gumbo


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