Chicken & Sausage Gumbo

Chicken & Sausage GumboSure, you may have heard of Gumbo, but do you know where it got it’s name from? Well, we can’t be 100% sure, but we do know that the dish we know as Gumbo originated in southern Louisiana from the Creole people during the 18th century. It typically consists primarily of a strongly flavoured stock, okra, meat or shellfish, a thickener, and seasoning vegetables, which can include celery, bell peppers and onions. Gumbo is often categorized by the type of thickener used: the African vegetable okra, the Choctaw spice filé powder (dried and ground sassafras leaves), or roux, the French base made of flour and fat. The dish likely derived its name from either the Bantu (Native African) word for okra (ki ngombo) or the Choctaw (Native American) word for filé (kombo). The dish is the official cuisine of the state of Louisiana. The recipe below actually uses all 3 types of thickeners, though the filé powder is optional (more for taste rather than a thickener). In my mind, 3 is better than 1! This recipe will serve about 6 people.

Ingredients:

⅓ cup and 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¼ cup and 2 teaspoons oil or fat rendered from cooking sausage*
2 stalks celery, diced
1 small/medium onion, diced
1 small/medium green bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
6 ounces sausage, sliced
1 pound chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
4 ¾ cups stock (chicken, beef or vegetable)
1 ¼ teaspoons white sugar
salt to taste
2 ½ teaspoons hot pepper sauce, or to taste
¼ teaspoon Cajun seasoning blend, or to taste
1 ½ bay leaves
¼ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
½ of a 398ml can crushed tomatoes (about 200ml)
¾ cup tomato sauce
¾ teaspoon gumbo filé powder
2 ½ teaspoons oil or sausage drippings
1 cup frozen cut okra, thawed
2 ½ teaspoons vinegar

* Cook’s Note: This recipe calls for the use of sausage; you can use any type you like, though if using a raw one, I suggest either completely removing it from the casing and cooking it up like ground meat, or cooking it whole with the casing still on, then slicing it up thick and adding it to the pot later. Just be careful when stirring the dish later that if you’ve cut up the sausage that it doesn’t crumble and break up too much! Remember, save the drippings from cooking the sausage, and use it in place of oil in this recipe. It adds so much more flavour than regular cooking oil!

Directions:

Make a roux by whisking the flour and ¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons oil/sausage drippings together in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat to form a smooth mixture. Cook the roux, whisking constantly, until it turns a rich mahogany brown colour. This can take 20 to 30 minutes; watch heat carefully and whisk constantly or roux will burn. Remove from heat; continue whisking until mixture stops cooking.

Stir the vegetables into the roux, and mix in the sausage and chicken breasts. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat, and cook until vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and set aside.

Bring the stock to a boil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot. Whisk the roux mixture into the boiling stock. Reduce heat to a simmer, and mix in the sugar, salt, hot pepper sauce, Cajun seasoning, bay leaves, thyme, stewed tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Simmer the soup over low heat for 1 hour; mix in 2 teaspoons of filé gumbo powder at the 45-minute mark.

Meanwhile, heat 2 ½ teaspoons of oil or sausage drippings in a skillet, and cook the okra with vinegar over medium heat for 15 minutes; remove okra with slotted spoon, and stir into the simmering gumbo. Continue to simmer until flavors have blended, 45 more minutes. Just before serving, stir in 2 more teaspoons of filé gumbo powder. Serve over hot rice.

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Sausage & Chicken Jambalaya

Sausage & Chicken JambalayaThis one dish meal is great for a weeknight, and can be made as spicy or mild as you like. You can use any type of sausage that you like, though if using a raw one, I suggest either completely removing it from the casing and cooking it up like ground meat, or cooking it whole with the casing still on, then slicing it up thick and adding it to the pot later. Just be careful when stirring the dish later that if you’ve cut up the sausage that it doesn’t crumble and break up too much! This recipe will makes 6 servings.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons oil, divided
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
¾ pound sausage, sliced into rounds
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 onion, diced
1 small green bell pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (398ml) can crushed Italian tomatoes
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 ¼ cups uncooked white rice
3 cups chicken broth

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large heavy Dutch oven over medium heat. Season the sausage and chicken pieces with Cajun seasoning. Sauté sausage until browned. Remove with slotted spoon, and set aside. A lot of oil will naturally render when you are cooking the sausage, so you can use this very flavourful oil to now cook the chicken pieces in. If you find that you don’t have enough oil from cooking the sausages, you can always add a bit more oil to the pan. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and sauté them until lightly browned on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon, and set aside.

In the same pot, sauté onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic until tender. Stir in crushed tomatoes, and season with red pepper, black pepper, salt, hot pepper sauce, thyme, basil and oregano. Stir in chicken and sausage. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the rice and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Serve hot!

Fish Soup

Fish SoupThis is a nice alternative to chicken soup, and combines the fish course and soup course into one! All the flavour, half the work! This recipe will serve about 12 people.

Ingredients:

⅓ cup olive oil
2 medium onions, quartered
2 large leeks, white part and most of the green part, sliced*
4 stalks celery
1 bulb fennel, quartered (save the fronds for garnish)*
6 cloves garlic
1 large bunch parsley*
2 red peppers, seeded and cut in chunks
Head and tail of a large salmon, tile fish, or any other big fish, quartered, loosely but securely wrapped in cheesecloth
2 (540ml) cans crushed tomatoes
8 cups water
2 large potatoes, cut in small cubes
1 cup dry white wine
½ teaspoon cayenne, or a little more to taste
Good pinch ground cloves
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon paprika
2 good pinches saffron
8 cups fish, cubed, about 1” size (salmon, tile or snapper)

* Click here to learn how to properly clean these vegetables and herbs.

Directions:

In a food processor, coarsely grind the onions, leeks, celery, fennel, garlic, parsley and peppers. You can do this in batches if you have a smaller processor or you find the vegetables are becoming over processed.

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil, and then add the vegetable mixture. Sauté the mixture until the onions and leeks become translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes. Mix often so that nothing sticks and burns.

Next, add the head and tail of the fish (in the cloth), along with the tomatoes, water, potatoes, wine, cloves, bay leaves and paprika. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and let cook for 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecloth with the fish parts in it, and then add the chopped up fish meat and saffron to the pot. Allow the soup to cook another few minutes until the chopped fish has cooked through. Adjust salt and pepper to taste, and then serve hot, garnished with a few fronds from the fennel.

Fagioli al l’uccelletto (Beans Braised in Tomato and Sage Sauce)

beans braised with tomato and sageIngredients:

1 (796ml) can cannellini beans
1 (796ml) can crushed tomatoes
3 – 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
A few fresh sage leaves*
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Directions:

Begin by making a simple tomato sauce: gently sauté a few garlic cloves and some fresh sage leaves in olive oil. When the garlic is just beginning to brown, add the canned tomatoes, and let it simmer, always on gentle heat, until the tomatoes have reduced nicely to a saucy consistency.

Add the cannellini beans, season with salt and peppers, and allow them to simmer in the tomato sauce for about 10 minutes or so, just long enough for them to absorb the flavor of the sauce. Test for seasoning, adjust if need be, and serve your fagioli all’uccelletto immediately.

* Click here to learn how to clean sage.

Italian Sausage, Peppers, and Onions

Sausage and PeppersIngredients:

8 (4 ounce) links sweet Italian sausage or other sweet/mild sausage
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 large red bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 large yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 ½ teaspoons dried basil
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 (796ml) can of diced or crushed tomatoes
⅓ cup wine or beer
½ tablespoon of corn starch

Directions:

In a large pot, add the canned tomatoes and herbs, then cook on low while preparing the remaining ingredients. Place the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, and brown on all sides. Remove from skillet, and slice. Add the sliced sausage and any drippings to the pot with the tomatoes.

Add the oil to the same skillet that you used for the sausages. Stir in the onions and garlic, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the peppers, and then stir in the wine/beer. Continue to cook and stir until peppers and onions are tender.

Once tender, add the vegetables to the pot with the tomatoes and sausages. Let everything simmer on low for an hour. If you find that the sauce is a bit too watery, take about 3 tablespoons of liquid from the pot and mix it with the cornstarch. Once dissolved, add this cornstarch slurry back to the pot. It will thicken up the sauce. Serve hot.

Sauce 4 – Basic Tomato Sauce

Tomato Sauce 1This is a traditional tomato sauce that I have adjusted to reflect a kosher kitchen: meaning that the salt pork and ham bone have been removed, and substituted with an equal amount of olive oil and the use of a beef marrow bone. Should you wish to make the sauce pareve, or vegetarian, you can leave out the bone all together. This recipe will make about 4 cups of sauce.

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups onions, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 (796ml) cans crushed tomatoes
4 cups veal or chicken stock
1 beef marrow bone
Kosher salt, to taste
Sugar, to taste
——– For Sachet: ——–
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried thyme
3-4 fresh parsley stems
8-10 black peppercorns, crushed

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300°F. Tie the sachet ingredients into a cheesecloth sack using a piece of kitchen twine. In a heavy, oven-safe Dutch oven, bring the olive oil up to temperature. Add the carrots, celery, onions and garlic and sauté for a few minutes until the onion is translucent but not brown. Add the tomatoes, the beef bone (if using), the stock and the sachet. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer the pot to the oven. Simmer in the oven, partially covered, for two hours. Remove from oven. Remove sachet and bone and purée sauce in a blender or food processor until smooth, working in batches if necessary. Season to taste with Kosher salt and a small amount of sugar — just enough to cut the acid edge of the tomatoes. Serve hot. If not serving the sauce right away, keep it covered and warm until you’re ready to use it.

Creole SauceCreole Sauce

Creole sauce, also referred to as creole tomato sauce, and sauce piquant in New Orleans, is a Creole cuisine, Bahamian cuisine and New Orleans cuisine sauce made by sautéeing vegetables in butter and olive oil. It is used in the American south and in Bahamas. This recipe will make about 2 cups of sauce.

Ingredients:

2 cups tomato sauce (see recipe above)
¾ cup chopped onions
¾ cup chopped celery
½ cup diced green pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Zest of 1 lemon*
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste

Directions:

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, sauté the onions, green pepper, celery and garlic until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, bay leaf, oregano and lemon zest. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf, season with the salt, pepper and cayenne and serve right away.

* click here for my tips on zesting lemons and other citrus.

spanish sauceSpanish Tomato Sauce

This tomato sauce with a spanish flair can also be refered to as a sofrito – which in Spanish cuisine, consists of garlic, onion, paprika, peppers, and tomatoes cooked in olive oil. While there is no paprika in this recipe, the additions of the the mushrooms and olives add a nice earthy and salty kick. This sauce is great on meats and poultry, or even just over pasta. This recipe will make about 2 cups of sauce.

Ingredients:

2 cups tomato sauce
½ cup sliced mushrooms
½ cup chopped onions
¼ cup diced green pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Tabasco sauce (or another hot pepper sauce), to taste
½ cup olives (black or green), sliced

Directions:

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, sauté the onions, green pepper and garlic until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to sauté until the mushrooms are soft. Add the tomato sauce, bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes. Season with the salt, pepper, Tabasco and olives, then serve right away.

Moroccan Mains: Chicken & Couscous

tumeric chicken

Moroccan Chicken

Serves 8
Ingredients:

2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast meat – cubed
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon salt
olive oil
2 onions, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, diced
4 carrots, sliced ¼” rounds
4 stalks celery, sliced ¼” rounds
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups crushed tomatoes
2 cups canned chickpeas, drained
2 zucchini, sliced ½” rounds
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Pepper, to taste

Directions:

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat adding a little olive oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and brown in the saucepan until almost cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Sauté the onion, garlic, carrots and celery in same pan. When tender, stir in ginger, paprika, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper and turmeric; stir fry for about 1 minute, then mix in broth and tomatoes. Return chicken to pan, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add chickpeas and zucchini to pan and bring to a simmer once again; cover pan and cook for about 15 minutes, or until zucchini is cooked through and tender. Stir in lemon juice and serve over the rice, plain couscous or the delicious couscous recipe below.

CouscousMoroccan Couscous

Ingredients:

1 ¼ teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 red, green, or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1″ pieces
2 zucchinis, halved lengthwise and cut into ¾” pieces
½ cup golden raisins (optional)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
grated zest of one orange
1 540ml can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 ½ cups chicken broth
½ cup orange juice
1 ½ cups couscous
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint*

Directions:

Place a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Stir in the cumin, ginger, cloves, cayenne, cardamom, coriander, and allspice; gently toast until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in oil and onion, cook until softened. Stir in the bell pepper, and zucchini; cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the raisins, salt, zest, and garbanzos. Pour in the chicken broth and orange juice; turn heat to high and bring to a boil. When the mixture is boiling, stir in the couscous and remove from heat; cover, and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and fold in chopped mint.

*To learn how to inspect fresh mint, click here.

Maple Beer Chili

Maple Chili

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 – 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and sliced, depending on your heat tolerance
1 (540ml ) can tomato sauce
1 (796ml) can crushed tomatoes
½ – ¾ cup maple syrup cup maple syrup, depending on your sweet tolerance
1 (540ml) can kidney beans, drained
1 (540ml) can pinto beans, drained
1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chili powder
4 pounds lean ground beef
salt to taste
2 bottles of beer, or as needed

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, onion, red bell pepper, and jalapeno peppers. Cook and stir until the onion is tender, about 7 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, maple syrup, and beans. Season with black pepper and chili powder. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and stir in the ground beef. Sprinkle beef with salt. Cook and stir until the beef is crumbly, evenly browned, and no longer pink. Drain and discard any excess grease; then stir the cooked beef into the chili along with 1 beer. Cook and stir for 1 hour, stirring frequently. Season to taste with salt, and thin to desired consistency with the remaining beer before serving.

Best Minestrone Soup

Minestrone

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 onions, diced
2 cups chopped celery
5 carrots, sliced in ¼” rounds
6 cups vegetable broth
1 796ml can diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 769ml can crushed tomatoes
1 540ml canned kidney beans, drained
1 540ml can green beans, drained
2 cups baby spinach, rinsed and checked*
2 zucchinis, quartered and sliced
2 yellow squash, quartered and sliced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoons dried basil
salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup pasta, seashell or ditalini, or your favourite shape
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese for topping

Directions:

In a large stock pot, over medium-low heat, heat olive oil and sauté garlic for 2 to 3 minutes. Add onion and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes. Add celery and carrots, sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Add broth, diced and crushed tomatoes and bring to boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and add kidney beans, green beans, spinach leaves, zucchini, squash, oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, the longer the better. If the soup is too thick, or you would like more broth, you can add additional vegetable broth or water.

Fill a medium saucepan with water and add a heaping teaspoon of salt. You can omit the salt if you’re watching your sodium, but this is really your only chance to flavour the pasta itself. You could also add a teaspoon of bouillon to the water instead of salt. Bring the water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender. Drain water and set aside. Once pasta is cooked and soup is heated through place 2 tablespoons cooked pasta into individual serving bowls. Ladle soup on top of pasta and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.

* To learn how to check spinach, click here.