Mumbo gumbo

“Don’t bring your lunch tomorrow, I told my workmates.  I’ll bring food for all y’all I told ‘em.”

nhs buds

Four of my best friends in the world.  From left: Bo, Waldo, Kat, and Kelsi.

That was Bo; one of my very best and oldest friends.

She called me last night at 11:00.  And if you knew Bo, you’d know how very unusual this is.  Petey and I are unqualified, dyed-in-the-wool night owls, but my friend not only goes to bed with the chickens, she’s the one urging them along.

Bo is my kitchen role model.  She’s been a great cook since we were kids.  Her calm and confidence with all things food inspires me to try new things, even when it scares me.

So, when the phone rang, and it was Bo, but a nervous, worried Bo, I knew something was up.  She told me I was the only person that she could call this late at night (I think she must hang out with farmers and milkmen in Elizabeth City).

Those guys are straight-up party animals.

My culinary rock, the strongest, most authentic person I’ve ever known was in a tizzy because she was making gumbo for her colleagues at her new job, and realized that she had no flour for roux.

Roux is a French word, which in English roughly translates to reddish-brown.  It’s a 50/50 cooked mixture of flour and fat.  Roux can be any shade from very light blond to dark, chocolatey brown.  As roux cooks it darkens and the thickening power decreases, so more must be used. I use it almost exclusively when making gravies and thick, cream soups.  My roux of thumb (Roux of thumb; see what I did there?) is normally peanut butter-colored.  It thickens well, and imparts a buttery, nutty flavor to the food.

I use it almost exclusively when making gravies and thick, cream soups.  My roux of thumb (Roux of thumb; see what I did there?) is normally peanut butter-colored.  It thickens well, and imparts a buttery, nutty flavor to the food.

In Cajun cooking, the roux is much more rustic and cooked to a dark, brick color, which colors the food, and gives it a rich smoky flavor.

This is cajun roux.  Go any further and it is burned and unusable.

Well Bo was in the middle of a very important pot of gumbo, and out of flour.  Unfortunately, it was 10PM, and in Elizabeth City there are no 24-hour Kroger stores offering shelf after shelf of various flours for sale.

Well Bo was in the middle of a very important pot of gumbo, and out of flour.  Unfortunately, it was 10PM, and in Elizabeth City there are no 24-hour Kroger stores offering shelf after shelf of various flours for sale.

So what’s a desperate culinary rock to do?

My girl made a substitution.  She used a combination of waffle mix and white cornmeal.

And it worked.

Since you don’t normally get anything hot and spicy from me, she graciously offered to share this recipe for her spicy Cajun gumbo.  I love her make-do roux, but if you want traditional, just use one cup each flour and vegetable oil.

bo's roux

Bo’s make-do roux.

Bo’s Gumbo

gumbo

1 lb. Andouille, sliced

12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks

2 green peppers, chopped

8 ribs celery, chopped

2 medium onions, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

1 large can diced tomatoes

1 bag frozen cut okra

2 tsp dried thyme

2 tsp dried red pepper flakes

8 cups (or so) chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

After cutting up the chicken I sprinkle it with salt, black pepper, cayenne, granulated garlic, onion powder, oregano, thyme and paprika, mix it to coat well and let it sit for a few minutes.

For the roux I used 1 cup of oil 3/4 cup of Krusteaz waffle mix and 1/4 cup white cornmeal.

Get it nice and dark.

Brown the vegetables, add Andouille and chicken, cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add can of tomatoes. Start adding roux a spoonful at a time, stirring as you go. Stir in most of the chicken stock.  Add the frozen okra and let it come to a low boil, turn down heat to low and cook for 1.5 hours, stirring every five minutes or so to keep it from sticking. Add more chicken stock as needed. 

Some Andouille is hotter than others so if it isn’t spicy enough you can add hot sauce at the end to your taste.

It is better when served the next day. Most people serve it over white rice but I just eat it like it is.

You cam omit the chicken and add shrimp but only add them after it’s done or they will be little rubber bits.

I hope you enjoy this spicy dish from my friend, the spicy dish that is Bo.

Thanks for your time.

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