In the thirty years I lived in or around Chicago, a winter occurred in every one of those years. You could look it up. And, every one of those winters has been painfully cold and prolonged.1
One felicitous consequence of this otherwise unfortunate situation is that I accumulated, after careful and replicated testing, recipes for four winter dishes that meet my criteria for cold weather survival rations:
- The recipes are easy to understand and can be completed by someone with no culinary skills beyond the capacity to follow simple directions. There are, for example, no instructions to “deglaze” whatever it is one deglazes (donuts?) or “start with a basic mirepoix.” And, everything on the list of ingredients can routinely be found at the local Jewel grocery store. produce a delicious product.
- The leftovers can be frozen and will taste as good or better reheated than the servings that were consumed the day they were cooked.
- One serving results in most folks — well, those who are not teenage boys — feeling content but not bloated
- The first, second, third… and last mouthful overwhelms winter despair and triggers expressions of epicurean delight, such as Yummmm or its equivalents2
Being generous of spirit, I hereby grant amnesty to those living without the benefit of horrid winters who nonetheless wish to indulge in these feasts.
Now, on to today’s offering.
Years ago, while surveying a batch of southern hospitals for the Joint Commission, I developed a passion for that region’s gumbo-po’boy-muffuletta jambalaya cuisine. Penny’s excellent version of seafood gumbo follows (Note: today’s gumbo recipe pushes the limits of “simple directions,” but with a clear mind and stout heart, even a culinary philistine can produce a delicious result):
- 12 ounces fresh or frozen peeled and deveined shrimp
- 1-pound smoked sausage, such as andouille or kielbasa, cut crosswise 1/2-inch thick pieces
- 4 pounds chicken thighs, skin removed
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cooking oil
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1/2 cup chopped red sweet pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped green sweet pepper
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
- 6 cups chicken broth (I use low sodium)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon file powder
- 3 cups hot cooked rice
- Creole seasoning (if Creole seasoning is not available, use a mixture of paprika, oregano, cayenne, garlic, thyme, salt, & pepper)
In Dutch oven or large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until well browned (about 8 minutes). Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Set aside.
Season the chicken with the Creole seasoning and add in batches to the fat remaining in the pan. Cook over medium-high heat until well browned (5 to 6 minutes). Remove the chicken from the pan, let cool, and then refrigerate until ready to use.
Combine the remaining 1/2 cup oil and the flour in the same Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook, stirring slowly and constantly for 20 to 25 minutes, to make a dark brown roux, the color of chocolate
Stir in onion, red sweet pepper, green sweet pepper, garlic, salt, black pepper, and ground red pepper. Cook over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are just crisp-tender, stirring often.
Add the onions, celery, and bell peppers and cook, stirring, until wilted (4 to 5 minutes). Add the reserved sausage, salt, black pepper, cayenne, and bay leaves, stir, and cook for 2 minutes. Stirring, slowly add the chicken stock, and cook, stirring, until well combined. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.
Stir in reserved chicken to the pot and simmer for 1 hour, skimming off any fat that rises to the surface
Add in shrimp and file. Simmer, covered, about 5 minutes more or until shrimp turns opaque. Discard bay leaves.
Spoon rice into the bottom of deep bowls or large cups and ladle the gumbo on top. Serve, passing hot sauce on the side.
Makes 6 servings.
Recipes For Winter Sustenance & Verve:
- DrHGuy is not a celebrant of the Winter Wonderland conceit or a participant in any winter sports that require equipment other than pillows, handcuffs, and a few extra batteries. In fact, as far as DrHGuy can determine, winter in Chicago is why a merciful God made Maui and keeps airlines flying there. [↩]
- Also acceptable are delectable, luscious, delightful, scrumptious, scrumdidelicious, mmmmmm, delicious, heavenly, yummy, yum yum yum, délicieux, quite toothsome, and damn, that’s good [↩]