There were some Silvana Meats hot links left over after my birthday party (along with several pounds of coleslaw, enough hot dog buns for an army and an embarrassment of macaroni salad – guess what I was eating for breakfast all week), so the obvious next step was to make jambalaya. I’ve had great success with the gumbo from James Villas’ wonderful book The Glory of Southern Cooking, so I looked up his jambalaya recipe. I ended up following it almost exactly, except for substituting a pound of large shrimp for the crawfish (and not putting it in until the very end – why does he tell you to cook seafood for twenty minutes?) and adding two hot links, cut into small dice.
Holy moly, it was good. The rice absorbed all the wonderful flavors of the hot links and clam juice, and the texture was perfect. There really isn’t that much difference between this and a paella, except for the lack of saffron or a bottom crust. And it was really, really easy to make.
Despite the fact that my husband adores gumbo and orders it frequently in restaurants, I had never made it myself until yesterday. I can’t imagine what I was waiting for.
I followed three different recipes simultaneously, all from James Villas’ Glory of Southern Cooking, a used copy of which we recently acquired. He includes one seafood gumbo thickened with roux and okra, one with boiled chicken, sausage, roux and file powder, and another with seared chicken and some remarkably overcooked seafood but no roux at all. I wanted to include chicken, andouille sausage and prawns, and I had okra but no file powder, so I sort of combined them all.
First of all, I fried chopped bacon and sliced raw andouille sausage together, then scooped them out into a bowl, leaving the spicy fat behind. Then I fried pieces of boneless chicken thigh meat in the pork fat, taking it out when just cooked through. When the chicken was cooled enough, I shredded it and put it aside with the bacon and sausage. Then I added a quarter cup of white flour to the fat to make a roux, and cooked that for a while on low heat. Chopped onion, celery and bell pepper were mixed into the roux, then a bag of frozen okra. After all that had cooked for a bit, I put in chopped parsley (and a few celery leaves, since I had them), dried thyme, a bay leaf, a quart of chicken stock, and two cans of tomatoes. I let that simmer for about an hour, then put the meaty bits back into the pot. After another 30-45 minutes, we put on rice to cook, then added a pound of raw peeled shrimp to the gumbo and let it simmer quietly until the rice was done. I served the gumbo ladled over heaps of hot rice.
It tasted exactly like gumbo, and a really, really good one, too. This may have just taken up permanent residence in our cooking repertoire.