Tag Archives: Soul

Seafood and Chicken Gumbo

There’s something quite romantic about a home cooked gumbo. Not Valentine’s Day romantic, but romantic in the sense that it conjures up images in your head of another place and time that you long for.  It’s certainly not a dish that you come across very often in Sydney, but it was one of those dishes that I always wanted to make.  With a week off down the coast and nothing on the schedule but cooking and eating, I had my perfect setting for making this dish.

I got this recipe from Ride or Fry by Dante Gonzales, but adapted it to what I was able to find around Jervis Bay.   It’s a fantastic book that was given to me from my beautiful wife for Christmas and its filled with American classics with hints of Caribbean, Mexican and Asian influences.  There are plenty of things I left off the list like poblano peppers and southern spices that I couldn’t find down the coast, so try to hunt everything down  in advanced before deciding on making this.

You’ll want to start this at least 4-5 hours before you want to serve.

Seafood & Chicken Gumbo. Photo by Emiko Davies

Seafood & Chicken Gumbo. Photo by Emiko Davies

Gumbo Ingredients

  • 2 large green peppers
  • 500g chicken breast, chopped
  • 2 smoked sausages, chopped
  • ½ cup of peanut oil
  • ¾ cup of flour
  • 2 onions
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 2 capsicums
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup of okra, roasted and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of thyme, chopped
  • Spices*
  • ½ teaspoon of chilli flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 400g of raw prawns (with heads and shells)
  • 6-8 Alaskan crab legs
  • 1 can of baby corn
  • ½ cup of chopped parsley

Gumbo Stock

  • 1 onion, shopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2  bay leaves
  • ½ cup of parsley
  • 10 -12 cups of water
  • 1 Chicken carcass
  • Prawn heads and shells
  • 1 Fish carcass
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

*For the spices, add a pinch of each of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cumin, bay leaf powder, mustard seed, ground cloves, and fennel seed

Stock

Gumbo is all about the stock, so you’ve got to make it from scratch.  And if you play your cards right, it won’t cost you anymore, you won’t have any waste, and your food will taste better in the end.  Instead of just buying chicken breast, buy a whole chicken and use the carcass to make the stock.  Instead of buying shelled prawns, get them whole and use the shells and heads in the stock as well.  Most of the veggies that get thrown into the Gumbo can be used to make the base of the stock, so just make sure you have a few more on hand.

Back to making the gumbo stock.   This can be done a day in advance and you can freeze leftovers, which always come in handy when you need stock down the track.  Add some oil to the pan and throw in your garlic, onions, celery, carrots and let that sizzle for a few minutes.  Add your prawn bits (shells and head), bay leaves, herbs and chicken carcass to the pot.  You can throw in other parts of the chicken as well to later shred into chicken sandwiches, but you want to avoid adding in too much skin. If you have a fish carcass, throw it in now as well.  Top up with enough water to cover everything and then leave it to simmer for the next few hours, skimming scum off the surface once in a while.  When done, pour the stock into a large bowl through a fine sieve and keep aside.

Gumbo

Now that you have your stock, puree the green peppers with 2 cups of stock, and then add it back to the gumbo stock. Get a big pot (the biggest one you have) and heat up a tablespoon of oil on medium high and sauté your chicken and sausage pieces in batches until browned on all sides (about 5 -8 mins).  Don’t worry if you get some meat sticking to the bottom of the pan – it’ll just add to the flavour.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

In the same pot, pour in the rest of the oil and the flour as well, stirring constantly for 20 minutes until a roux forms.  This will take about 20 minutes and you’ll know its ready when it turns thickish and is the colour of chocolate milk.  This is the perfect time to break out the New Orleans jams and make the time float by.

Once you have your roux, throw in your onions, celery, capsicums and garlic, and cook on low heat for about 8-10 mins, stirring regularly.Now add your stock.  Be sure to add it slowly and stir constantly to avoid any lumps.

Return the chicken and sausage to the pot along with cherry tomatoes, bay leaves, chilli flakes, thyme and spice mix.  Cover the pot and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.  Take the lid off and cook for an additional 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Lastly, add the prawns, crab legs, corn, okra and parsley and continue to cook uncovered for 15 minutes.  I had some extra calamari on hand so I threw this into the pot as well.

Your gumbo is now ready!  Slop them into bowls making sure everyone gets a little of everything and serve with rice or French bread and maybe some mixed greens.  Slurp that down with your grin.

Seafood & Chicken Gumbo. Photo by Emiko Davies

Seafood & Chicken Gumbo. Photo by Emiko Davies

Jams

One of the biggest reasons why I made this dish, was my love for southern soul music.  In particular, New Orleans soul music.  New Orleans is the home to so many great funk, jazz and soul artists including The Meters, Eddie Bo, Lee Dorsey, and countless numbers of jazz and big band players.

I’m focusing the mix of music more on the funk end of the spectrum as I think the raw gritty funk matches the gumbo just perfectly.  Funk heads out there will notice that most of the tracks I’ve selected in the Spotify playlist have been cherry picked from the excellent New Orleans Funk compilations by the brilliant Soul Jazz label.  They’ve recently put out volume 3 in the series and they’re all highly recommended.

Sink into the groove while you slurp that soup.

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Puerco Pibil

If you’re a fan of Robert Rodriguez’s Once Upon a Time in Mexico, then you’re probably well acquainted with this dish.  You may have even already looked up the 10 minute cooking school that Rodriguez hosted in the DVD extras, which is where this recipe comes from.  Puerco Pibil (also known as cochinita pibil) is a traditional Mexican slow roasted dish that is marinated in acidic juices and an array of spices – most notably annatto seed, which is what gives this dish its fantastic red colour.  The acid in the marinade tenderises the meat and the additional 4 hours in the oven makes the pork melt in your mouth.  What more could you want?

Enjoy this dish alongside green rice, salsa, hungry friends and plenty of beer.  It also makes fantastic leftovers to do it all over again for lunch.

Puerco Pibil

Puerco Pibil with green rice and salsa

Ingredients

  • 2 kilograms of pork shoulder, cut into 2 inch chunks
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 5 lemons, juiced
  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 2 habanero peppers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of tequila
  • banana leaves

Annatto paste:

  • 5 tablespoons of annatto seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin
  • 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
  • 8 pieces allspice
  • ½ teaspoon of cloves

If you have a spare coffee grinder (that isn’t used with coffee) then use this to grind up the annatto seeds.  If you don’t happen to own one, you can always use a motar and pestle but just be warned that you’ll be working up a bit of a sweat to grind them down finely.  Grind up the remaining annatto paste ingredients and set this aside.

Mix the orange juice, vinegar, salt, lemon, garlic, peppers and tequila with the annatto paste and pour over the pork shoulder. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes. Line up a tray with banana leaves and pour in the pork shoulder and marinade and wrap it up the best you can.  Cover completely with aluminium foil and put in a preheated oven for 4 hours at 160 degrees Celsius.

While this is cooking, you have plenty of time to decide what to eat with it.  My favourite is green rice and salsa, but this also makes a great filling for tacos or burritos.

Serves 6

JAM:

I can’t help but relate slow cooked comfort food with deep and heavy soul music.  Something about the honesty and simplicity. The song I’ve chosen is a psych-soul cover of the Romeo and Juliet theme from Mexican funk band Rabbits and Carrots.  The song, Romeo & Julieta, is from the album Soul Latino, which is an album well worth seeking out featuring mostly covers of funk and soul legends.  It’s slow, moody, yearns for the older days and the perfect accompaniment to this dish. Listen here:

The good people at Vampi Soul have recently reissued this so you should be able to find it at your local record store.   Alternatively, you can order your copy online here.

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