Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

I’m not claiming authenticity here. I mean, this has the elements of a classic gumbo, but then I took a bit of a turn with adding bloody mary mix. I like the ease of it, and it tastes good.

There is a short window of time here on the Central Coast where hot stew-like foods coexist with the harvest of okra. That window is now. While our days are still warm, our mornings and overnights are cool enough to crave the warm embrace of this spicy gumbo. And this is spicy. If you find it a bit overwhelming for you, dial back the additional cayenne, and add a dash or two of vinegar in place of the tabasco. You can also dilute a bit more with the chicken stock. If it really, really is too much, add a bit of yogurt or sour cream to your individual bowl to draw the spice back a bit; authentic, no, but we’ve already established that.

My gumbo spice mix is Emeril’s spice mix from his New Orleans’s Cooking book, with just an addition or two on my part. It’s a nice spice to keep around to add a bit of oomph to soups or even baked chicken.
Gumbo Spice
2 TBS Chili Spice & Paprika
1 TBS Ground Coriander, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Kosher Salt
2 tsp Ground Cumin
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper, Crushed Red Pepper, Dried Oregano, Dried Thyme, & Black Pepper
Mix and keep in an airtight container

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
1 1/2 LBS Boneless/Skinless Chicken cut into cubes (I use a mixture of thigh and breast)
2 CUPS Chicken Stock
2 TBS Gumbo Spice
4 Andouille Sausage links–cut crosswise into pieces
1/4 cup flour
2 CUPS sliced okra (fresh or frozen)
1 Medium Onion–chopped
3 Stalks Celery–chopped
1 Green Pepper–chopped
3 Cloves Garlic–chopped
14 oz can Diced Tomatoes–undrained (or the equivalent of diced in-season tomatoes)
1 cup Mr & Mrs T’s Spicy Bloody Mary Mix
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup Scallions–sliced
2 tsp (or more) Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp Dried Thyme
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 tsp White Pepper
1/4 tsp Cayenne
2-4 Dashes Tabasco
Olive Oil
Cooked Steamed Rice to Serve

Brown the sausage in a little bit of olive oil. Keeping the heat on medium, remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and add the chicken pieces. Cook until browned on all sides, then sprinkle with the Gumbo Spice. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and add to the sausage. Add more oil to the fat in the pan resulting in about 1/4 cup in total. Staying on medium-high heat, add the flour and stir until the mixture reaches a medium-brown hue. When it is brown turn off the heat and quickly add okra, onions, garlic, celery, and green pepper. Allow the sizzling to stop, then add chicken stock, stir while scraping all the bits off the bottom of the pan. Add Mr & Mrs T’s, tomatoes, green onions, bay leaf, thyme, black pepper, white pepper, and cayenne. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add back the chicken and sausage and let simmer for at least an hour. The longer it simmers the better. Taste for salt and spice level; adjust as necessary
Serve with or without rice, and add Tabasco as desired.
Serves 6-8

Squash Soup

Every year we grow pumpkins and squash in our gardens. It is always a bit of a toss-up which variety gets planted and which survive our very busy ground squirrels. Our rule of thumb is “for every pumpkin or squash you want to survive, plant 10″. It is frustrating…but we can’t stop, won’t stop.
This past year we had good success with the Boston Marrow Squash. It is big and orange like a pumpkin, but it is not round and begging to be carved for halloween.

The Boston Marrow was once a very popular variety which was sold commercially. Its flesh is a bit dry and sweet. I believe it is in the hubbard family.

Our root cellar is not quite finished, so we have been storing our squash and pumpkins on the back porch. I do not recommend this. It is actually a horrible idea. My hope is that I will get through them all before the hand of time takes them away from me (or even worse, those dreaded squirrels).

I wish I had an actual recipe for you…but I never measure and I use what I have on hand. Hopefully, you will feel inspired to do the same.

Here is how it went:

Peel and cut about your squash (or pumpkin) into 1/2″ size cubes–about 3 cups…but as many cups as you would like. I like to match the number of cups of squash to cups of stock (or water). For every 3 cups of squash, finely dice 1/4 of an onion and 1 garlic clove.
In a stockpot, put enough olive oil to just coat the bottom. Toss in the onion and garlic and slowly cook until they are soft. If you see them starting to brown, add a bit of stock or water (an ounce or two) to stop the cooking. Stir in 2-3 Tbs curry powder, 1/2 tsp ground cumin & 1/2 tsp paprika. Let the paste get a bit cooked. Add to this the squash and give it a nice stir. Add your stock/broth/water to cover the squash. Grate 1/4 of an apple into the mixture (more if you’d like a bit more sweetness). Cook until everything is soft.
Remove from heat and run the mixture through a blender or use an emersion stick to fully puree the mixture. At this point, you can run it through a tam or sieve to make it silky smooth, but that isn’t necessary unless you are going for a Michelin star.
Rinse your stockpot and then put it back on the stove and pour your puree back in. Turn the heat on low. This is where you start futzing. Add a tsp or so of Braggs, a little black pepper, additional curry powder if you think it needs it. Salt if it needs it. If it is too thick, add more stock/water…if it is too runny, let it cook a bit to reduce.

To Top: put some olive oil in a small saucepan…maybe 1/4 cup. Toss in a tsp of curry powder, a pinch of red pepper flakes a handful of dried onions, or fresh onions, or onion powder and a handful of pignoli nuts. Cook until hot and the flavors are melded.

To serve: Put the soup in a bowl and top with your delicious curry pignoli oil. Ta Da!

Bean and Barley Chili

I enjoy soups and stews year ’round, but this pleasantly cool weather makes me want to hunker down with a stick to your ribs kinda meal. But, stick to your ribs sometimes also means, stick to your thighs {if you smell what i’m cooking}.  This recipe is vegetarian, and very low in fat.  I might be so bold as to say, Guilt Free.  It uses dried beans, so it will cost you a bit of time in the soaking, but is well worth it.

I make a huge pot and freeze the leftovers; mainly because Mike is a meat eater.  Say vegetarian chili to him, and all he hears is “I didn’t make dinner tonight.”

Bean and Pearl Barley Chili

1 bag 15 bean soup mix–beans only * save the flavor packet for something else
water for soaking beans
1 onion– diced
2 celery ribs–diced
2 carrots–diced
1 pasilla chile–diced
1 cup mushrooms–diced
1/4 cup chili spice mix
1/4 tsp cayenne
4 Tbs tomato paste
1 cup pearl barley –uncooked
6 cups liquid * I use 4 cups vegetable broth ad 2 cups beer
1 generous Tablespoon grated bittersweet chocolate
salt and pepper to taste

Soak the bean in water overnight or use whatever method you are most comfortable with for softening dried beans.  Drain.  In a heavy stock pot, cook onions, celery carrots, pasilla, and mushrooms in a bit of olive oil, until they soften and just begin to brown.  Toss in chili spice and cayenne and give it a turn or two to coat everything.  Add the pearl barley and stir to coat.  Stir in the tomato paste, liquid, and chocolate, then toss in the beans and cook until they and the barley are tender.  It should take about an hour over medium heat.  Do not let boil, just simmer.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with all your favorite chili fixins.

Hungarian Goulash

The first signs of autumn has meandered on to our ranch. Cool evenings, transitioning to near frosty nights. Just the kind of weather that gets me back into the mood for hearty stews and slow cooked meats

Hungarian Goulash
2 1/2 lbs stew meat (beef or venison)– cut into cubes {at least 1″}
1/2 cup (about) all purpose flour for dredging
olive oil
1 large onion–cut in half then thinly sliced in have moons
10-12 crimini mushrooms–sliced
4 cloves of garlic–smashed and kept whole or near whole
1 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp hot paprika
1 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
14 ounce diced tomatoes-with juice
1/2 cup water
2 cups beef broth
salt and pepper to taste (about 1 tsp of each)
1/3 cup sour cream
1 Tbs lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Heat oil in bottom of a dutch oven (just enough to coat the bottom). Dredge the meat cubes in flour and shake of excess. Toss into the hot oil and sear meat on all sides. Do not crowd the pan, work in batches if necessary. Once the meat is seared add it back to the pan with juices (if working in batches) and add onion, mushrooms and garlic. Add a bit more olive oil if needed. allow to cook down for a few minutes. add the sweet paprika, smoked paprika, hot paprika and caraway seeds and give it a good stir, so the spices are evenly distributed. This will also toast the spices a bit. Add the tomatoes and water and use a wooden spoon to scrape all the bits off the bottom of the pan. Add beef broth and cover. place in a 350 preheated oven and allow to cook for about 2 1/2 hours, or until the meat is fall apart tender.
Remove from oven and add lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow to sit for a few minutes, then taste again for salt. stir in sour cream and parsley (check one more time for salt). Serve over buttered wide-noodles or dumplings

Roasted Beet Soup

I love borscht. Really i do. Especially on chilly nights when stick to your ribs is a necessity. Sometimes, however, I like my beet soup to be rich and creamy without the meatiness of a borscht. That is when I make this. It is vegetarian vegan if you don’t add the creme fraiche & butter. Light in heft, but not in flavor.

Roasted Beet Soup
1 lb beets-peeled
olive oil
2 leeks–white and light green only–cleaned and cut in half
2 cloves garlic–peeled
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
4 cups vegetable broth (or water)
juice of 1/2 lemon + 1 tsp finely grated zest
knob of butter (optional)
1/4 tsp white pepper to taste (or more to taste)
salt to taste
serve with creme fraiche

Preheat the oven to 350F. Fill a roasting pan with the beets, leeks and whole garlic cloves. Cover lightly in olive oil and a bit of kosher salt. Toss to make sure the vegetables are all lightly coated in the oil. Roast until fork tender (about 1 hour). Allow the vegetables to cool slightly and then cut into medium size pieces (1 1/2-2″). Toss the vegetables (beets, leeks, garlic), along with any pan juices into a stock pot. Add bay leaf, thyme, lemon juice, lemon zest and cover with broth. Gently simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are very tender. Remove the bay leaf and the thyme stalk. Toss in butter (if using) working in batches, whirl the soup in a blender or food processor, until smooth. If it becomes too thick, add a bit more broth (or water). Pour into clean stockpot as your batches reach your desired consistency. If you wish for smooth and silky soup, push the blended soup through a fine sieve. Add pepper and taste for seasoning. Serve hot with a dollop of creme fraiche stirred through.

Venison Tagine

I may have mentioned before a time or three that my husband is a hunter. It affords us a freezer full of rich meats antelope, boar, venison and elk. Venison works well with the heady spices found in an african pantry.

Venison Tagine
serves 4

1 1/2 lbs venison (or lamb) cut into chunks
1/2 cup (about) flour
olive oil
salt to taste
3/4 tsp pepper
1 Tbs garam masala-after grinding*
large pinch saffron threads
2 cups warm water
1 medium onion-grated
1 clove garlic-finely chopped
generous handful dried cranberries or cherries
1/2 cup dried apricots, cut into slivers
1 lemon-grated zest and juice
1 cup blanched almonds
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbs unsalted butter

Dissolve saffron in the warm water. Preheat oven to 350F. Heat olive oil in bottom of heavy bottom (oven proof) pot or dutch oven. Coat the venison pieces in flour and brown in olive oil. Once brown, add in onion and cook until the onion just begins to brown on edges. Toss in garlic and give it a few stirs. Allow to cook a couple of minutes. Add saffron water, cover and place in preheated oven. Cook until venison is very tender about 45-60 minutes). Remove from oven, add in cranberries (or cherries if using), apricots, honey, lemon zest and juice, almonds, and honey. Place over medium heat on stove and cook for about 15 minutes more. If it appears to be too dry add a bit of warm water just to loosen a bit. if it is too watery, remove the top and cook and stir to slightly thicken. Remove from heat and stir in butter just before serving.
serve with couscous or over rice
*i use whole spices-toast them and then grind in mortar and pestle…but if you can find garam masala in your spice aisle, by all means use it!enison tagine
serves 4

Antelope Guisado

Once a year Mike indulges in a good ol’ fashioned boys on the hunt, Hunt. The kind where they pack in meals, stoke a fire for warmth, group lug fresh kill, and walk for hours, in wet woods. Apparently it is a bonding experience. I am happy my husband hunts. What makes me more happy? He doesn’t care to have me by his side. We have a deal. He field dresses whatever he takes down and i will butcher & cook it. I find antelope to be mild, extremely lean and quite delicious. It is perfect for this spicy chili-esque stew.

Antelope Guisado

1 Tbs olive oil
2lbs antelope meat–in 1″ cubes
1 small white onion–chopped
1 red jalapeno–finely chopped
1 green jalapeno–finely chopped
1 pasilla chile–chopped
3 cloves garlic–coarsely chopped
1 tsp ground chipotle pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 bottle lager (or your favorite beer)
14oz can whole peeled tomatoes

Preheat oven to 350F. Heat dutch oven over medium heat. Add olive oil and onions. Cook onions until they begin to brown on the edges. Add the meat and saute until beginning to brown. Toss in the green jalapeno, red jalapeno, pasilla, and garlic. Give it a good stir. Add the cumin, oregano, salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes more. Add the beer and tomatoes, give another good stir. Cover, remove from heat and place in the oven for about 2 hours. Take a look at about 1 1/2 hours to make sure all the liquid has not evaporated. If it has, add a bit of water. You want the guisado to be a bit loose, but not soupy.
Serve with tortillas, a bit of sour cream and a sprinkling of cilantro
*this would be equally good with lamb, beef or pork