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.
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…
- Alligator Gumbo…(First thing I considered when adding this meat was where in the heck am I supposed to get alligator meat…haven’t ever seen it in the meat department at Kroger or Albertson’s…couldn’t find it anywhere on Instacart….fortunately there are several online sources such as this one)
- Andouille sausage gumbo…Andouille is a smoked pork sausage that has a coarse grainy texture…made using pork, garlic, pepper, onions, wine, and seasonings….(I personally had never heard of andouille before my husband and I moved to Fort Polk Louisiana.)
- Catfish Gumbo
- Crawfish Gumbo
- Dried Shrimp Gumbo
- Duck Gumbo
- Hen Gumbo
- Rabbit Gumbo
- Sausage Gumbo
- Shrimp Gumbo…(Alton Brown’s recipe)
- Turkey Gumbo
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.
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…
So now that we’ve bought the perfect pot, found the perfect recie, bought the best veggies, sliced and diced, and so forth…
1.Constantly keep an eye on your soup while it is cooking. This will allow you to adjust the spices and cooking temperature as needed.
2. Cook on low heat. Don’t think that cooking your soup at a higher temperature will ensure that everything will actually get cooked instead of being raw or hard when you are ready to serve the soup.
Doing this will instead turn your meat into tough, hard-to-chew pieces…not to mention possibly ruining the bottom of that expensive soup pot that we all went out and bought after reading a previous article, right?
Instead bring your soup slowly to a boil and then allow the soup to simmer for the rest of the cooking time.
This will allow the ingredients to maintain their structure and integrity, while at the same time combining all of the ingredients into a flavorful soup.
4, Dig in Deep…There are many soup recipes out there that require taking some of the soup as it is cooking and blending it and then adding it back into the soup in order to thicken the soup. Using an immersion blender will reduce the risk of your getting burned and make this job easier and neater.
Here is a list from Good Housekeeping of some of the most highly recommended immersion blenders available…
5. Use your brain when using grains…Pasta and grains that are called for as ingredients will often overcook. Avoid this by cooking them separately and then adding them into the soup just before serving.
The perfect chili will depend on your own person preferences…beans, not beans…beef of chicken…plain or served as chili dogs… burgers topped with chili… (usually without beans)….chili fries…chili mac…or Frito pie and flavored to perfection…(more on this later)…
As we all probably know by now, especially if you live in Texas, chili is a type of spicy stew that not only is great to serve alone…or as
And speaking of chili, chilii made in New York City may taste good…and chili made in Texas may be better…the best chili is made in your own kitchen because you are the boss, and you can choose what ingredients you actually like best, not what somebody thinks you’ll like.
The recipe that you actually end up using for your chili will probably vary from one person to the next…based on where you live and what you actually want to be in your chili…(such as beans or no beans)
Since the perfect chili is a matter of person preference, instead of simply giving you one single recipes for the perfect chili, let’s consider some of the ingredients that you could use in chili…so that you can tweak the recipe until you find the perfect chili that is perfectly perfect for you and your family.
Beef…Most of us like our chili to be good and hearty…probab ly stockpiled with lots of meat…chili con carne…as most of us already know, you can always substitute ground turkey for the ground beef.
Chicken,,,one of my favorite meals is white chicken chili…kinda like my favorite lasagna contains white sauce and chicken…instead of the typicaxl ground beef and red saucer.
No Meat…my daughter has decided to embrace the vegetarian era…meaning that I often have to disappointment my Mississippi husband by making meals that do nit contain any meat…
Pork…Chili can also be made with pork…such as chili verde…a ‘green chili that is made from chunks of pork.
Chili peppers, often in the form of chili powder…which we will talk about later)…is commonly used to spice up your chili.
Remember that the white part of the pepper is where most of this capsaicin…especially the seeds.
Five types of chili peppers rhat you can consider using are…
- Bell pepper
- Cayenne pepper
- Habanero pepper
- Jalapeno pepper
- Poblano pepper
- Serrano pepper
- Thai prepper
- Wax pepper
As far as if the word is actually “chili” or “chile,” there is no clearcut answer. “Chili ” is typically what most of us call it here in the US, but “Chile” is the the word more often used in Mexico and several other Latin American countries.
Other people prefer to use the word “chile” whenever referring to the pepper, and chili to talk about the stew.
Vegetables, other than tomatoes, can also be good ingredients in your chili—vegetables such as mushrooms, zucchini, corn, squash, and beets…which is why I thought I could get by with a chili recipe while talking about the raw food pyramid, while talking about leafy greens, while talking about smoothies, while talking about antioxidants…if that made any sense)…
The use of beans in chili has been debated for a very, very long time…especially here in Texas.
In fact the society that “governs” most of the chili cookoffs so populat around America have banned the use of beans in their cook-offs.
Here in Texas. supposedly we eat our chili without beans…(sorry…that doesn[t include me…I like my chili as heartless…I mean hearty…as possible).
While everyone else supposedly like their chili with beans, any type of bean—including
- black beans
- blacked-eyed peas
- great Northern beans
- kidney beans
- navy beans
- pinto beans
- white beans
As far as chili beans, these are actually pinto or kidney beans that have already been spiced…which will obviously change the taste of the chili from what it would have been if you had used them by themselves.
When using beans, be sure to rinse them first to to remove the extra salt and starches.
The use of tomatoes…just like the use of beans…whenever making chili has been a topic of debate for a very, very lnog time.
What actually makes chili chili…at least to me…is the spices that you add…
Without the perfect blend of spices, you simply have another meat dish that contains tomatoes, vegetables, and perhaps beans…
The spices that you use are what give chili its complex flavor.
Recipes exist with all sorts of different spice blends to flavor the chili….but the four most common spices are when making chili are…
- chili powder
- Other spices that I’ve seen in chili recipes include cayenne pepper, cinnamon, dry mustard, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and onion powder.
Any by the way, chili powder is not actually a spice in and of itself…and you can make your own without making a special trip to gT
Toppings that you can add to your chili once it’s finished cooking include…
- Cheese—such as Monterey Jack, cheddar
- Crackers—such as saltine crackers or oyster crackers
- Diced avocado
- Diced red or green onion
- Lime wedges
- Sliced green onions
- Sour cream
- Tortilla chips
Foods that go great when served with chili include cornbread, tortillas, tamales, rice, and pasta.
- 2# ground beef or turkey
1/2 large white onion, chopped
- 1 onion diced
- 1 green bell pepper seeded and diced
- 1 medium yellow onion -diced
- 1 jalapeno seeded and finely diced
- 2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder…OR…2Tbsp cumin, 1/4tsp cayenne pepper -optional, 1tsp oregano, 1/2tsp paprika
- 2Tbsp sugar or brown sugar
- 1Tbsp garlic powder or 4 cloves minced garlic
- 1 1/2tsp salt
- 1/2tsp pepper
- 2Tbsp tomato paste…OR…8oz tomato sauce
- 28oz diced tomatoes with juic
- 19 oz kidney beans canned, drained & rinsed
- 1 1/2 cups beef broth…OR…beer
- 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- Toppings as desired
Cook for 6-7 minutes.
Just thought that I would throw that in there before you smart making chili for tonight’s dinner…it would be much better if you make it today and serve it tomorrow.
Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes.
Add the onion. Cook five minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the beef, onions, garlic and some of the chili powder…cook for about seven minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.
Drain any fat.
Add remaining ingredients…making sure to stir until well combined.
Bring the liquid to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low or medium-low.
Simmer uncovered for at least twenty minutes….again stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon…the lower your cooking temperature and the longer you cook your chili, the more flavorful it will be.
Simmering you chili uncovered will allow the chili to naturally thicken without having to add cornstarch or flour.
Remove the pot from the heat. Let the chili rest for at least five minutes before serving.
Top with cheddar cheese, green onions, cilantro or other favorite toppings.
Leftovers…assuming there are any…will last from three to five days.
Freezing Chili…Chili can be frozen either in single sized portions for lunches or in freezer bags for a quick and easy weeknight meal.
Before you start making your own homemade soup, there is certain equipment that you must have on hand.
And the most important equipment of all—a big enough pan.
You could find the very best recipe, spend hours making your own stock, buy the best ingredients, take the time to finely dice all of your vegetables exactly the same size, and so forth…
But will all that effort mean one darn thing if you don’t have a big enough pot.
Pots and pans are like bath towels. All of us have them—in various sizes and shapes and colors.
But most of us simply settle for the first towel that we happen to grab we get out of the shower.
How much thought do you put into your bath towels and pots and pans on a daily basis?
But this shouldn’t be the case.
Here is some advice as far as what to look for when finding “the perfect pot to pea in”…
.Base…The bottom should be heavy in order to keep ingredients at the bottom from scorching during long cooking..
Handles…There should be two short, sturdy handles that have been bolted on, not simply pressed and adhered on. Remember you’re going to need a “good grip” when you will be picking up a heavy pot with hot liquid.
Height…A pot that is higher than it is wide prevents too much liquid from evaporating.
- Glass—Glass lids allow you to see the progress of your stock or soup.
- Oven Safe—If you plan to use the pot in the oven, be sure your lid and your handles are oven safe.
- Steaming—Look for a small hole in the glass lid with a grommet.
- Tight—The lid should fit tightly so that you close the lid and steam properly.
Material is probably the most important thing to consider when buying new pots and pans.
There are several options available, including…
- Dishwasher Safe…no
- Heats fairly evenly and quickly
- Cost…$21 w/o cover
- Heats quickly
Coated Carbon Steel, enameled…
- Example…Le Creuset
- Dishwasher safe…no, requires constant upkeep
- Heats rapidly
- More of a collectible or display item, not very realistic for the real world
- Cost…as low as $10
- Heats rapidly and evenly
- Weight..sturdy without being too heavy
Stainless Steel w/ aluminum or copper core base…
- Cost…around $60
- Heat…rapid heating thanks to the base of either aluminum or copper surrounded by stainless steel
Shape…Taller pots allow less water to steam out from the stock, but also consider how much difference in temperature there might be at the bottom of the pot than at the top of the pot.
And if you’re as short as I am, be realistic. Imagine stirring your soup as it cooks and then also picking up and pouring the contents of the pot.
Size…The pot should be large enough to hold at least four quarts.
Having these nightly meals requires planning and thinking ahead…more so when you find our that your significant other has type 2 diabetes…the main thing I have learned this last year.
Fortunately this is also the time of year for one of my favorite things…
Soup is definitely the ultimate comfort food—both nourishing and warming to the body as well as the soul.
And soup can be made so many different ways—such as chicken noodle soup, vegetable beef stew, clam chowder—to name a few.
Regardless the type of being made, there are certain things to keep in mind as you add soup to your menu plan this winter…certain things that will always remain the same regardless the type of soup being made.
Soup is great this time of year also because as a chef, or at least as a cook, you can easily transform practically any ingredient into a delicious, satisfying meal that will allow to use whatever ingredients you already have on hand and not have to get back in the cold now that the holidays are over.
In this next series of posts, we’ll look at the ingredients and method used to make a great pot of soup…much better soup than anything you could ever get out of a can or a box…
But what if you go to all this trouble and simply find your soup one great big inedible or at least tasteless mess…
There are still some things that will help rescue your failed soup and to also make your soup one that you would even be happier to feed your family.
Such as what?
1.If you like crumbly cheese, add some crumbly cheese such as…
- goat cheese
- ricotta salata
2If you like grated cheese, add grated cheeses such as…
3. If you want to add some creaminess, add…
- crème fraiche
- sour cream
4. If you want to add some crunch, add…
- toasted pumpkin seeds
- toasted sesame seeds
5. If you would like to give you soup more of a kick, add one of the following, depending on which tye of sou you are making…
- apple cider vinegar
- white wine
6. If you want a brighter flavor, add a squeeze of lemon juice or a dash of vinegar.
7. If you want a savory flavor, add one of the following…
- anchovy paste
- fish sauce
- soy sauce
8. If your soup is too salty, add one of the following and then boil for about twenty minutes more…
- raw otato
- finely shredded cabbage
- cooked beans
9. If your soup is too watery or simly boring, add…
- canned or frozen mixed vegetables
- cooked kidney or white beans
- drained canned tomatoes
- finely shredded cabbage
10. If you want to add even more flavor, add some fresh herbs, such as…
11. If the bottom of the dish has scorched…Leaving the heat on too high or not keeping an eye on the sou as it cooking often means that your sou will burn at the bottom. If this haens, salvage whatever liquid you can from the to without scraing the bottom cra into the sou, but do not scrape the burned meat and veggies into the rest of the remaining good sou, or you’ve just wasted your time and your ingredients for nothing.
12. If you would like to reduce the fat content in your soup, make the soup a day or two before and refrigerate. When you get ready to serve it, simply scrape off the fat that will rise to the top and reheat.
13. If you want your soup to taste even better, cooking and refrigerating like this makes them also taste better.
And if your soup is too hot, take a walk around the block…
Who knows…you might even find Goldilocks at your house when you get back?…Just hope that you don’t see a bear…
- Beef soups…marjoram, rosemary, thyme
- Chicken soups…celery seed, marjoram, thyme, parsley, and sage
- Chilis…chili powder, cumin
- Cream soups…parsley, thyme.
- Meaty, hearty soups…cumin
- Tomato-based soups…basil, oregano or fennel
Regardless what you are making or what seasonings you are adding, never use so much seasoning that it is overpowering.
1. Fresh herbs…You can add only one fresh herb or a combination of herbs to your soup, based on what your family likes best.
You can add the fresh herbs either with the woody stems still attached or not. It really doesn’t matter because the stems and leaves will drop off as they cook, Once your soup is finished, simply remove these can be removed with tongs or a slotted spoon before serving.
Fresh herbs will have a more intense flavor if added near the end of the cooking time.
2. Garlic…Garlic is a flavor enhance rhat brings out the flavors of the other ingredients in the soup. Garlic…Garlic is a flavor enhancer that brings out the flavors of the other ingredients in the soup. Even if a soup recipe doesn’t call for garlic, you can always add two or three cloves of garlic without worrying that your soup will have a garlicky taste.
.3. Ginger...Ginger is another flavor enhancer. Adding ginger to vegetable and chicken soups adds a slightly sweet taste and aromaFresh herbs…Fresh herbs provide an intense and complex flavor. Use three or four tablespoons of chopped, fresh herbs for ten to twelve cups of soup.
4. Spice Cabinet Spices…Use 1 to 2 teaspoons of ground spices per ten to twelve cups liquid.
Some of the most commonly used spices include…