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DECEMBER 2013 / JANUARY 2014

GUMBO FOR COLD WEATHER

By Marcelle Bienvenu


Just about everyone I ran into the past few days is gathering the fixings for gumbo to enjoy on cold wet evenings during the holidays. Some families adhere to a tradition of having gumbo PLUS all the other goodies—like fried turkey, pork roast, rice dressing, sweet potatoes, cakes, pies and fudge. I took a poll as to what kinds of gumbos were simmering on the stove, and in my area chicken/andouille won hands down. I’m waiting for my duck-hunting friends to bring me a few mallards, teals or pintails with which to make Papa’s favorite—duck and oyster gumbo. It was Papa’s ritual to stop on his way back from his duck camp in Gueydan, Louisiana, (his cleaned ducks in the ice chest) to pick up freshly-shucked oysters in Abbeville. While he tended to the gumbo, I sometimes stole a few of the salty, cold oysters to slurp down with a dab of cocktail sauce. Sometimes I was allowed to sip on his cold beer. Ah, what flavors and memories!!!!


DUCK, OYSTER AND ANDOUILLE GUMBO
Makes 6 to 8 servings

  • 2 mallards (or 4 teal), dressed, and cut into serving pieces
  • Salt, black pepper and cayenne
  • 1 ¼ cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 medium-size yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 medium-size green bell peppers, chopped
  • 8 cups (about) water or chicken stock
  • 2 pounds andouille sausage, cut crosswise into ¼-inch slices
  • 2 dozen oysters with their liquor
  • ¼ cup chopped green onions (green part only)

Season the duck generously with salt, black pepper and cayenne. Set aside. Heat ¼ cup of the oil in a large, heavy pot (preferably black iron) over a medium-hot fire. Brown the duck pieces evenly in the oil, then remove and set aside. Drain off the oil in the pot. In the same pot, over medium heat, combine the remaining 1 cup oil and the flour, and stirring slowly and constantly, make a dark brown roux. Add the onions and bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and golden, 8 to 10 minutes.


Return the ducks to the pot and slowly add enough warm water or stock to cover the ducks completely. Add the andouille and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, until the ducks are tender, about 2 hours.


Add the oysters and their liquor, and the green onions and cook until the edges of the oysters curl slightly, about 5 minutes. Serve hot over rice. To go with this hearty gumbo, I offer both potato salad (made with homemade mayonnaise) and baked sweet potatoes. Some chose to plop the potato salad or the sweet potato right into their bowl of gumbo while others serve either alongside the gumbo. Your choice!


SOUTH LOUISIANA NEW YEAR’S FEAST


I rarely choose to diverge from the traditional dishes—cabbage (a symbol of prosperity) and black-eyed peas (said to bring one good luck)—for my New Year’s buffet. Since there are those who declare they don’t like the taste or smell of cabbage, I usually offer a couple of cabbage dishes in hopes that I can please even the choosiest of dinner guests since I don’t want any of my friends to go without.


Let me begin with steamed cabbage for the purists.


STEAMED CABBAGE
Makes 6 servings

  • 4 cups shredded cabbage, tightly packed
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Put the cabbage in the top of a steamer and steam over boiling water until it is just tender, eight to 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and toss with the butter and oil. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve warm.


This next recipe is a Cajun favorite.


CABBAGE CASSEROLE
Makes 8 to 10 servings

  • 1 pound lean ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ cups thinly sliced yellow onions
  • 1 (10-ounce) can tomatoes with green chilies
  • 2 large heads cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped
  • Salt, black pepper and cayenne, to taste
  • ½ pound sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.


Brown the pork in the oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Add the onions and tomatoes with chilies, and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Add the cabbage and season with salt, black pepper and cayenne. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the cabbage is tender, about 20 minutes.


Transfer to a casserole dish and top with the cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 15 minutes.


Rather than cooking the peas and rice separate, combine them to make a jambalaya—easy!


BLACK-EYED PEA JAMBALAYA
Makes 10 to 12 servings

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound smoked sausage, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 pound cubed ham
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell peppers
  • 2 (15-ounce) can black-eyed peas with jalapenos
  • 1 (14-ounce) can beef broth
  • Salt and cayenne to taste
  • 8 cups cooked rice
  • ¼ cup chopped green onions

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the sausage, ham, onions, and bell peppers. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are golden, about 8 minutes.


Add the peas and beef broth and reduce the heat to medium-low. Season with salt and cayenne. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.


Add the rice, a little at a time, and gently stir to mix. The mixture should be moist but not soggy. Season with salt and pepper.


Baked ham or baked brisket is a good choice to serve with the cabbage and peas. I recommend getting an untrimmed brisket as the fat will keep the meat moist while it bakes. Once it’s cooked, you can remove the excess fat before slicing to serve.


BAKED BRISKET
Makes 10 to 12 servings

  • 1 brisket, about 10 pounds, untrimmed
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, cayenne and black pepper
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle of beer

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking pan, large enough to accommodate the brisket, with heavy-duty aluminum foil.


Place the brisket in the prepared pan and rub generously with olive oil. Season generously with salt, cayenne and black pepper. Pour the soy sauce over the brisket. Bake until the brisket brown evenly, about 30 minutes.


Carefully pour in the beer. Reduce the heat to 250 degrees and cover securely with another sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake until fork-tender, 4 to 5 hours.


Be careful when removing the pan from the oven as there will be a lot of fat and liquid. Let the brisket rest for about 20 minutes before slicing.


And don’t forget the cornbread!


CHEDDAR CHEESE CORNBREAD
Makes 6 to 8 servings

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup corn oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups white cornmeal
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 (12-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 3 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan. Mix together the first three ingredients in a large bowl.


Combine the cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and baking soda and add to the buttermilk mixture. Stir together the corn and half-and-half and add to the batter. Mix in the onion, bell pepper and sugar. Pour half of the batter into the baking pan. Top with the cheese. Pour in the remaining batter. Bake until browned and springy to the touch, about 40 minutes.


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