When You’re Hungry in Hungary

Paprika…The What

Making the Perfect Stuffed Bell Peppers

Don’t Be a Dumbo About Making Gumbo

If I were to talk about both choosing the perfect ingredients for your gumbo and using the perfect method, this would be an extremely long post.

Instead we’re gonna talk about the perfect ingredientsw…and talk about method in the next.

Making the perfect gumbo is about like decorating a Christmas tree. There are an umpteen thousand different ways to do it, and every one has their own opinion of what your finished project should look/taste like.

But regardless your personal preference, there are some tips about choosing ingredients that remain the same regardless what type of gumbo you may be making.

 

 

 

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Mear

A few things to keep in mind as far as the meat are…

1. If you are making chicken gumbo, use the legs becacuse they will give the best flavor.

2. Buy bone-in chicken, and then cook your chicken on the bone, but take off the skin if there’s any on it.. This will add extra richness to your gumbo. Just make sure that you carefully remove all bones from your gumbo before serving…especially if you are serving it to your Cajun grandmother.

3. Brown your meat over high heat before sticking in into the pot. This will add more flavor to your gumbo.

4. If using a sausage, such as andouille or kielbasa, wait and add them at the end of your cooking time…otherwise they get get rubbery.

 

 

Now for a few recipes as to which meat can be used and some recipes to try…

 

 

 

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Vegetables

In a  previous post we learned that The Cajun Holy Trinity consists of onions, celery, and bell peppers—not carrots, as in the classic French mirepoix which consists  of onions, celery, and carrots,

As in most cooking, it is always best to use fresh ingredients instead of the frozen stuff…even though the frozen stuff is so much more convenient…

Tomatoes…Tomatoes are typically found in Creole gumbo recipes,..not Cajun…(so not going to get into the specifics of this, just trust me on this one)…versions of the dish

Okra…Okra is often used as a thickener. Okra is often used as a thickener and While there are many gumbo recipes that do not call for okra…and many people do not like adding the okra because they claim that it makes their gumbo slimy…,the word “gumbo” is actually derived from the West African word for okra.

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Liquid

You can use either water or stock/broth to create the base of your gumbo., but using water will mean that your gumbo will end up having much less flavor…so I wouldn’t recommend it.

And of course you can buy stock/broth from the grocery store, but it’s also easy to make your own…and perhaps cheaper.

So how you make your own stock?

The stock or broth that you use depends on the type of gumbo you are making, but here are three basic recipes…

Making the Perfect Cajun Gumbo

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Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexels.com

The perfect Cajun gumbo is not exactly a soup…not exactly a stew…but an ultimately thick and hearty dish consisting of the Cajun Holy Trinity…celery, bell peppers and onions…and perhaps one or several varieties of meat and seafood—such as andouille sausage, shrimp, and crab….and, what I think is the best part, the okra.

The perfect Cajun gumbo is the result of the merging together of several different cultural groups—such as French, Spanish, African, Irish, and American Indians—from as far back as the early 1800s….combining the best that the world has to offer into one great big pot of soup.

The perfect Cajun gumbo is one of these Southern comfort foods is gumbo…the ultimate comfort food if you’re from Louisiana…(trust me, my husband and I were stationed at Fort Polk for three years….only part that I did like about living there was the food.)…

 

There are so many different recipes for gumbo out there…but like any true Southerner knows, the best gumbo or any other ultimate comfort food can only be found in their mom or grandmother’s kitchen.

 

 

It;s amazing to look back and realize just how much time our own mothers…(well maybe)…but definitely our grandmothers in the Deep South spent in the kitchen, especially on Saturdays to get ready for “after meetin’ eatin'” on Sundays….another Deep South ritual.

Like most other comfort food in the Deep South, making gumbo does not require a recipe…you just “wing” it for the most part.

 

 

As for me personally, there are two types of people that I hate more than any other group in this great big world…those who can play piano by ear, and those who can cook without a recipe.

Most Southern chefs are the type of cook that can take a handful of this and a handful of that and whip up something awesome…I would love to say that I’m one of those chefs. 

 

 

Truth is…I’m not.

 

 

Gumbo recipes that you will find online will run the gamut from being as thick as porridge or as thin as soup…being a caramel color or being darker mahogany…consisting of sausage, ham, shellfish, chicken, and any and all other kinds of varmints—including such things that most of us not having grown up in the Deep South would even consider eating…such as squirrel.s

So in the next two posts, we’ll take a look at a few ingredients that can be used in gumbo…and then a few tips on how to make your own gumbo as good as your Cajun grandmother’s…(well, maybe not that good)…

The Cajun Holy Trinity

Usually when I think about  bell \peppers, the first thing that  comes to mind is stuffed bell peppers.

However, the most common use of bell peppers is the almost daily use of “The holy trinity,”…used just about in every recipe…such as Cajun foods and Creole foods like etouffee, gumbo, dirty rice, red beans and ricer, and jambalaya…stews, soups…spaghetti sauce…and more.

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What is the Cajun Holy Trinity?

The holy trinity consists of some combination of onions, bell peppers, and celery, dependent on the recipe you’re using.

The Cajun holy trinity originated in France however….where another trinity of the local cuisine reigned supreme. This was a basic combination of onions, carrots, and celery…called mirepoix.

Mirepoix had been the starting point for most cooking in France since the 1700s,

When the Cajuns began settling in Louisiana, they expected to start cooking their meals by using the trio of veggies that they had always used in classic French cooking…but this was not the case…because carrots did not grow well in the Louisiana soil. Bell peppers were used instead of carrots.

Even though the Cajuns had been using this mixture for generations, it was not until Paul Prudhomme, the celebrity Cajun chef started using this term in the last 1970s or early 1980s that this became what this combination was called.

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Other Spice Blends Around the World

Sautéeing a trio of three chopped veggies is a common first step in many different types of food around the world…such as…

  • Chinese food…onions, soy sauce, and rice
  • German suppengrün…carrots, leeks, celery roots
  • Greek food…olive oil, lemon juice and garlic
  • Indian food…tadka…onions, garlic, ginger
  • Italian food…tomatoes, garlic and basil
  • Mexican food…rice, beans and chilies
  • Spanish food…soffrito,,,onion, garlic, bell peppers, tomatoes

 

 

 

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Cooking with the Cajun Holy Trinity

The Cajun holy trinity is not actually meant to be a side dish or meal in and of itself…rather a seasoning blend that breaks down while you are cooking and adds more flavor to whatever you are cooking.

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Making the Holy Trinity

Start by washing the three ingredients. Then mince them up with a sharp knife.

Now sauté your vegetables in butter or oil over medium heat…(more on this later as we start looking at different Cajun recipes)

Once the vegetables start cooking down, lower the heat and finish cooking the food until it is transparent and darken in color…about 30 to 40 minutes.

Bell Peppers…The Which

Bell Peppers…The Why

Bell Peppers…The What

When you think about peppers, the first thing that you probably think about is just how hot they can make your food…

 

But there is one type of pepper that contains hardly any capsaicinoids, the chemical typically found in peppers that are to blame for making other peppers so hot.

 

This pepper is the bell pepper.

 

Bell peppers actually have a mild and sometimes sweet flavor because they contain about four grams of sugar per cup.

 

The bell pepper also differs from other peppers because it is larger, rounder, crunchier and milder.

 

 

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The Nightshade Family

Most people consider peppers to be vegetables, but they are actually fruits which belong to the nightshade family.

The nightshade family includes many other produce items—including chili peppers, cayenne peppers, eggplants, tomatoes and potatoes.

 

 

 

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Color

Bell peppers come in a wide variety of colors—such as the typical red, yellow, and green…but also orange, purple, brown, and ivory.

This range of colors depends on which variety the pepper is and how ripe the pepper is when it is picked….since most varieties of bell peppers  start off green and then change color as they mature.

I’ve wondered if I should buy the red yellow, or the green…and why it really even matters.

 

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Bumps

As most of already can figure out, bell peppers all have a similar structure and shape, regardless of their color.. They all have a smooth outer skin surrounding a fresh, crunchy flesh inside as well as a hollow area containing countless seeds.

 

The more mature the pepper is whenever it is picked, the sweeter the pepper will be. In other words, orange and yellow bell peppers are sweeter than green bell peppers…and red bell peppers are the sweetest.

 

The more mature the pepper is when picked, also the more vitamin C it will contain.

 

Peppers with three bumps on the bottom are thought of by many as being better for cooking, while those wacith four bumps are better for eating raw because they are sweeter.

 

Not so sure if this is the case or not…(actually I do most of my grocery shopping through Instacart, so whether I get three bumps or four depends on what the Instacart shopper picks up…not like I’m gonna tell my shopper that I want bell peppers with three bumps on the bottom, right?!)…

Making the Perfect Raspberry Pancakes and Waffles