I cooked UP Southern Gumbo with Fish Sauce!

Yesterday night, (my new bestie), Janee, invited me over for some southern gumbo.  She made it from scratch.  Regardless of what she will tell you, it was the perfect marriage of rice and seafood comfort.  And of course it has to be, because Janee is that cool chic who’s always busy hanging out with someone.

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Tonight, maybe driven by the awareness that I need to wake up by 5AM, I decided to make my own gumbo (shown above).  I used what I had, so hence the Asian flare.

According to Southern Food Ways, gumbo originated from the west African word for orka.  The more famous and common gumbo is the seafood combo that also encompasses chicken and sausages.

Janee felt her gumbo need a little more cooking time to blend the flavors together.  I cooked mine in a Tiger double-wall nonelectric slow cooker.  Of course, I didn’t pay $238 for mine.  I’m a bargain beast and I got it for under $10 and it’s worth every money saving penny!

The Asian Inspired Gumbo:

To Tomato or Not to Tomato:

There’s a hot debate about the use of tomato sauce.  Janee’s gumbo did not include tomato sauce.  The first and only recipe I looked at online was an authentic Good New Orelans recipe from Allreicpes.com made with tomato sauce and bacon fat that was passed down from grandmother to mother to granddaughter.  Since I was using what I had it in my kitchen, I used tomato sauce.

Seasonings:

After using a stepping stool, I discovered in the very top and back of my seasoning shelves,  an possibly ancient bottle of creole seasoning.  I poured some to taste.  Very salty and herbie.  Score!

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I also used some classic Italian seasoning.   For that Asian flare and my secret sauce for seafood dishes, I put in a healthy, long drizzle of fish sauce.  Janee used file powder, made from sassafras trees to thicken her sauce but since it was my first time learning about this new ingredient, I will have to try it another time.

The Roux:

In Asian dishes, cornstarch is a staple for thickening sauce.  My dad used to mix a spoonful with a little bit of water.  he would stire out the chunks to a creamy smooth paste before dumping in the wok.

Gumbo roux is a basic mix of flour and water cooked and stirred to a brown thickener for the gumbo base.  My roux came out terribly white.   I panic at the sight of my flour caking the bottom of my steel pan as I kept stirring it with a metal whisk.   I pulled it before it had the opportunity to brown.  My mistake as Janee would text to tell later that night.  It probably needed 5 more minutes.

The meats:

I had fishballs for my seafood.  My husband loves these in pho (rice noodle soup) but I usually eat around those big floating balls.   I cut them into thin slices.

I hopped at the opportunity to use the frozen frog legs from Ranch 99.  Sausages came my lunch leftovers.  Grilled chicken came premade and frozen.  I chopped it to mimic the shredded chicken breasts Janee had used her in gumbo.

The veggies:

When Janee was speaking about the holy trinity.  I smiled because superstar Emerald Lagasse from Food Network taught me that was the soul of southern comfort foods was the holy trinity: bell peppers, celery, and onions.  I’m embarrassed to say I had the celery but was missing onions and bell peppers.   A ton of powder made up for the coarse chopped onions.  I used carrots for the bell peppers.  Emerald has a version of gumbo here.

I also used a small open bag of frozen corn, carrots, and peas mix.  I typically use it for fried rice.

Since okra is not a stable in my household, I substituted shredded cabbage.  I was hoping it would somehow thicken the sauce.  I probably should have used more because it got cooked out.

The Last Ingredient:

I actually had some rice earlier that day,  which mind you is rare for our household as we don’t eat it old-school style (meaning I used to eat it 3 square meals 365 days a year).  We are  a mixed household and I can definitely tell you, my husband and my son could not survive on eating rice for more than 2 meals tops.

After I undercooked the roux, I dumped everything into my thermal cooker pot.  I waited for it to boil a sweat with the lid on top and transferred the pot into the outer pot shell.    I took a pic to send to Janee as I knew she would be proud. She called it stew! My patience pushed 30 minutes when my not hungry belly was won over by my hypnotically, hungry nose.

The gumbo was so divine over white rice!  Hot enough to tickle the root of my mouth and so salty. Yum!  I snapped a picture of it but, I realized it looked a lot like jambalaya.   Janee had explained the difference was that jambalaya held less liquid and didn’t have all the seafood goodness that gumbo did.

By morning, after several hours, it looked like below.   I could taste the fish sauce and the gumbo was definitely thick.  The frog legs was tender and falling off the bone.  I actually ate  the fishballs at all.

Final Thoughts:

I did miss the shrimp.  And maybe next time, I might add a little less tomato sauce and some bacon drippings.   (Janee has used vegetable oil.)  Plus the holy trinity must come into play.   I’ll let you know how the updated version out next time.

gumbo

So, what do you think?  Did this work as Asian gumbo with fish sauce?  Or was it as Janee puts it, just a stew?

 

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Stuffed Chicken Quarters

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This instructables first appeared here.

This Stuffed Chicken Quarters is a tribute to my grandmother. We were so lucky to have my grandmother in our household growing up because we got to eat good when we were kids. Too bad I was spoiled and didn’t learn how to cook from her. My grandmother’s fear that we might burn ourselves kept me away from the kitchen when I was growing up.

Anyways, I remember quite fondly of this particular chicken dish my grandmother made where she deboned the whole chicken and stuffed it. It was so delicious, the skin was crispy and the stuffing was melt-in-my-mouth good. Just heavenly, except that my grandmother only made this dish one time. But that one time was enough to make me still drool a little while I think about it some 20 years later.

This is my first attempt to recreate this  Stuffed Chicken Quarters and I can say I did my grandmother proud because my husband loved it. It is almost as good as how grandmother made it or as how I remembered how it tasted. If you have never debone chicken, I’ve got a video to demonstrate that as well as a bonus of an old school style of how to ground meat.

If you like this dish, please note that I am working on noodle dishes and this is the second one in this collection. Spring Rolls is my first noodles dish. Follow me as more noodle dishes will unfold into some pretty tasty instructables.

Ingredients:

3-4 chicken quarters or chicken breast

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

2-3 tablespoon cilantro, minced

2 celery sticks, chopped

1/3 onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1/2 package sweet potato noodles or vermicelli style rice noodles

salt

pepper

soy sauce

light cooking oil spray

optional: toothpicks

For those who don’t know chicken quarters are chicken pieces that have the thigh and the leg still connected together. I opted for this instead of a whole chicken since I wanted to make this as easy as possible to cook. Having done so, I would suggest that you can cut your prep time by using chicken breast instead of chicken quarters.

Yes, who knew that noodles also can be made from sweet potatoes. I certainly didn’t until I discovered these from a local Asian grocery store. I would say it’s a great alternative to the traditional rice noodles or even spaghetti noodles. The flavor tastes hearty and honestly I couldn’t tell that it was made of potatoes.

Prepping the Chicken and Noodles

1. Debone the chicken by carefully removing the skin and meat from the chicken bone. I have included a video that will make it easier for you if you have never done it before. Don’t worry, this was my first time too.

If you can’t watch the video, you will need to cut off the tail and fat to discard, take the skin off, take the meat off the bone. The video can also be found below or on my youtube channel by clicking here

Update:  I have also embedded it below.

2. Then you will have the fun of slicing the meat into smaller pieces and then chop away. I went old school! I used a Chinese/ Thai Chef knife found online on Amazon but you can use a butcher knife or any other large knife too. Just make sure to sharpen your knife for easier and faster prepping.

Of course if you have a food processor, by all means use that to grind the meat down into ground chicken. It will save you time and a tired hand. Even better if you can use ground turkey or if your local butcher shop sells ground chicken, buy it! I’m all about saving time.

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3. Boil hot water and cook the potato noodles in it until it is ready. Remember like spaghetti you need to stir it frequently to make sure it doesn’t stick. The potato noodles took longer to cook than traditional rice noodles.

4. When done, drain the noodles into a colander and wash noodles in cold water to stop it from overcooking.

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5. Using kitchen shears, cut the noodles into smaller pieces about 2-4 inches. To speed this up, I just pointed the shears straight down onto the noodles in the colander and cut, move, and cut.

Cooking the Stuffing

1. In a large sauté pan on medium high heat sauté garlic, onions, celery, and carrots until almost tender.

2. Add the ground chicken and cilantro to the pan.

3. Add 2-3 tablespoons of soy sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. When chicken is almost cooked, add the noodles to the pan and mix well.

5. Turn off stove when chicken is done.

Baking

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Lightly spray a baking pan so that it will not stick.

3. Place chicken skin on pan and add the cooked stuffing.

4. Fold the skin so that the stuffing is held completely inside.

5. Continue with stuffing the other skins pieces.

6. Use toothpicks to pierce and support the skin from unrolling if necessary.

7. Drizzle a healthy dose of soy sauce over each of the stuffed chicken pieces. Add salt and pepper if desire.

8. Place pan into oven and cook until skin is nice and crisp. (App. 40-50 minutes.) About 20 minutes in I did double-check the stuffed chicken quarters by adding more soy sauce and also wiggling the pieces to ensure that it was not sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Enjoy!

As I said, these Asian Stuffed Chicken Quarters came out delicious. They even tasted great the next day which was actually when I had mine.

Comparison

Mine differ from the taste of my grandmother’s original because I used sweet potato noodles which is chewier than the white noodles I remember her using. My grandmother also finely chopped/ minced everything. My vegetables, chicken, and noodles were much larger. I think minimal seasoning was used by my grandmother. She didn’t cook much with soy sauce since that’s not a traditional seasoning to Hmong dishes. I cook with soy sauce because I cater to the taste of my husband and because I thought it would give the right amount of moisture to support the skin as it crisped. One thing is for sure, I am 100% positive you can vary the stuffing and it will still come out tasty.

Thank you to all the grandmothers that help to inspire the new generation of good eats.