Sunday, November 18, 2012

While the gumbo simmers...

Mmmm...can you smell it?!

I can!

Homemade Chicken & Sausage Gumbo simmering away on the stove...mmm!

If your taste buds have never had the pleasure of experiencing the unique, tantalizing flavors of gumbo, then just let me be the one to tell you that you are being unfair to those precious taste buds of yours. What have they ever done to you? They deserve the comfort and blessing of this frugal delicacy.

Are you convinced?

Well, I am, so I guess that's what matters at this point, since I am the one who is sitting in a house that smells of simmering gumbo...and I can't even have any yet!

Yep. You've got that right. No gumbo tonight for this tempted soul. This is for tomorrow's lunch!

Why? What? How can I wait, you ask?

Well, it's really not that hard (said the person who tried to convince me to bungee jump...which I never did).

Okay, really though. You see, here's the thing.

Gumbo, like a fine wine, gets better with time. The flavors come together; the textures develop; the aroma thickens with temptation. It's just all around amazing after it has had time to truly come together.

Kind of like life...

You kind of have to understand the process of making gumbo to understand its comparison to life. Here---I'll help you. Stick with me now.

So---"first you make a roux." 
(That's pronounced "roo"---like Kanga-ROO---for you non-Southern folk that might be joining in here.) Yes, all good Cajun recipes start with this famous line---"first you make a roux."

What is a "roux" and how do you make it and why do you make it first, you might ask?

Well, I could tell you, but I would rather show you. But before I do, I must slightly disagree with the "first you make a roux" part. No, before you make the roux, you MUST have every chopped and/or boiled ingredient ready before you proceed. Once you start with the roux, you must stay with the roux---every inch of you is devoted to the roux---head to toe.

Here's why.

Making a roux consists of *gently* burning flour and fat (oil or butter depending on your recipe). I said GENTLY, which means you are cooking them together to the point that they are brown like chocolate and almost nutty flavored---but NOT SCORCHED---which is where the head-to-toe devotion comes in.

You can't rush a roux! It will either get scorched or, if under-cooked, will cause the gumbo to have the taste of raw flour throughout it.

As a matter of fact, my Facebook post tonight about sums it up. "I must say...making a roux & cooking gumbo cannot be done without a WHOLE LOTTA music & dancing...cause it takes a WHOLE LOTTA standing in one place & stirring. Just sharing some experiential wisdom...for what it's worth."

So, before you start the roux, you chop, chop chop. I used some nifty goggles to help keep the tears away while chopping.

Now, let me jump back to the part where I said making a gumbo is a lot like life.

Life involves some necessary though uncomfortable and tear-inducing chopping and boiling along the way. 

You know what I'm talking about, so I don't think I need to go any farther with that analogy. I am sure some vivid examples are sitting at the forefront of your mind right now.

But, without those painful, hot, tearful experiences, 
the outcome just would not be as satisfying nor as sought after.

Now, fast forward through the prep work, and we're back at the roux.

Remember how I described a good roux? The color of chocolate. Nutty flavored. No, I'm not in any way describing a Reese's peanut butter cup, but I am pointing out that you need to remember how delicious and necessary the appropriate outcome is to endure the next part.

As soon as you put the flour and fat (oil or butter) in the pot and turn on the heat, you MUST stand there and STIR, STIR, STIR. No questions asked! A scorched roux ruins a gumbo! (Ask anyone who attended my wedding and sampled the fare...)

Finally, once you have gotten the roux to the desired gently-burnt-not-scorched state, (NO, you DO NOT get to stop stirring...not yet!) you then add in the chopped Cajun Trinity of vegetables (onions, celery, and bell peppers).

And guess what you do now...KEEP STIRRING! (until the veggies are a bit wilted, per Emeril).

Once they are wilted, you add the sausage (in the recipe I made tonight, at least) and you KEEP STIRRING for just a little longer.

THEN, you can FINALLY pour in the water component (I used the stock from my boiled chicken) and...well...yes, KEEP STIRRING...but only until the water and roux start to blend together well and the mixture starts to come to a boil.

THEN, and ONLY THEN, when the mixture finally starts coming together and boiling, you can STOP STIRRING and let it simmer for a while (about an hour) only stirring occasionally (which will feel like a beach-side vacation after all of the CONSTANT stirring you've been doing).

After the first simmer-time, you then go back and add the chicken (for this recipe, at least) and let it simmer some more...a LOT about TWO HOURS more.

Simma' down now! ;)

And of course at the end, you add the finishing touches of some chopped green onions, parsley, and Gumbo File'.

You don't know what 
Gumbo File' is?!?!?!

Of course not. I knew that. Seriously though, it is a very finely ground powder that is made from the leaves of a sassafras tree. We can thank our local Native American ancestors for it. File' (pronounced "FEE-lay") adds a nice earthy flavor and even a unique texture to dishes it is added to. I saw one description that said it is spicy, but Wikipedia, I must disagree. Maybe it's just my Southern taste buds, but no spice detected here when tasting a File' infused dish.

Well, I really wasn't trying to be all Cajun Pioneer Woman or anything with this post, but it looks like I have accidentally tip-toed into food blogging.

Anyway, my real point of all of this is to say that, life takes some hard, intentional, work that is sometimes hot and painful and is sometimes boring and monotonous (except for the awesome Pandora music mixes playing in the background). But like a good gumbo, that starts with lots of chopping and then a good well-stirred roux, that hard work that is put in all the way through pays off each step of the way, but most of all in the end.

You may be tired, achy, bored, and/or hungry for what you have envisioned that final outcome to be; I know I am. 

But, please, please, please, don't cut any corners or stop paying attention along the way.

It will be worth it very soon. God has unexpected, soul-satisfying blessings and paths for you that He will be bringing your way sooner than you think or can imagine. He's not waiting until "the end" to give you all the satiating riches He has in store for you. He is changing your current desires to match His desires for you so that He can give you the desires of your heart HERE and NOW! And many more are awaiting you and me in eternity, which by the way is not "the end" but merely "the beginning!"

So, don't scorch your gumbo!!! 
and then enjoy the fulfillment of its rich flavors 
and inviting textures at the appointed time. 
Remember, if you have to wait to dig into it, that's not a bad thing. 
It gets better with time.

But as for me and my real gumbo, I'll be enjoying mine tomorrow, thank you very much! 

(By the way, I was inspired to write this post to also help you understand that, if you have wondered where I have been in my writing and reviewing, I am stirring my gumbo. My life is full of interesting, time-consuming, energy-consuming, and mind-consuming ingredients right now, so please know I am here and will be writing as able. But, in the meantime, I am stirring and waiting...while the gumbo simmers...)

How about you?

Is your gumbo raw, scorching, simmering, 
or finally offering you the delectable product 
of all of that hard work and monotony?

Please share!


misterp said...

Hi Halie

misterp said...

Hi Halie doing a check give me a facebook message if you get this.