Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo

This dish brings me right back to Mama’s kitchen. Shrimp and sausage gumbo falls along side French bread and chips and salsa under the “can’t live without” category for me.

My mom grew up in Southeast Texas where the best of Creole, Mexican and Southern foods combine. Although according to my grandmother, Creole gumbo does not usually include sausage, the heartiness of the links add spice and depth to this dish. I chose a jalapeno pork sausage to bring extra heat to my gumbo, but regular sausage will do just fine.

File (pronounced fee-lay, or “file” as I so reverently refer to it as) is an essential. It’s made from dried and ground sassafras leaves. It is not only included in the gumbo, but often used as a garnish for extra seasoning. It is a fragrant additive with an almost black tea taste to it. It also helps thicken the broth.

Another thickening agent used here is okra. I cut them thick, as to prevent complete liquidation of the green beauties. Their sliminess, which is often a turn off for okra amateurs, brings an added thickness to the broth and roux. They lose their gooey texture; so for those who are put off by the vegetable, this is a great introduction into the Wonderful World of Okra.

Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo

Ingredients

2 strips of bacon, diced

1 pound smoked sausage, cubed

1 stick of butter, or 1/2 cup 

1/4 cup flour

2 quarts chicken stock

1 large onion

1 pound okra, cut into 1/2 to 1 inch thick pieces

1 green bell pepper, chopped

2 stalks celery, sliced

4 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon cayenne

2 Bay leaves

2 sprigs rosemary

1 Tablespoons gumbo file

1 pound shrimp

Salt and pepper, to taste

Start by cooking the bacon and sausage in cast iron pot. Because of the obvious greasiness of the meats, little to no oil is needed for cooking. Once browned, remove from pot.

Saute onions, celery, green bell pepper, okra and garlic in meat fat. Remove from pot when onions are translucent.

At this point, it’s time to make the “roux”, which is essential to gumbo. The seemingly daunting task is made easy in this recipe: add flour and butter to meat fat in pan. Constantly stir for about 4 minutes. You’ll know the roux is ready butter melts, flour is fully incorporated and has reached a medium to dark caramel color. I like a lighter roux in my gumbo, but feel free to cook until brick reddish-brown.

When roux is ready, add tomatoes, stock, sautéed meat and vegetables, Bay leaves and rosemary. Bring to a boil, and cook 15 minutes. Reduce to a simmer, or risk tough shrimp.

Toss shrimp with cayenne, salt, pepper and file. Add to rest of the simmering gumbo.

Continue cooking on a low simmer for about 45 minutes.

Serve over rice, with a sprinkle of file if desired. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.

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Stuffed Zucchini Boats

 

Zucchini, one of summer’s more bountiful vegetables; and while my garden isn’t cranking the little green lovers out quite as frequent as I’d like, grocery store prices for the squash are excellent this time of year.

While I don’t normally cook vegetarian dishes, two halves of these hearty boats is filling. I like just one half with chicken or fish.

 

 

Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Ingredients

2 zucchini

1 small onion, about 1/4 cup chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 TB Basil, chopped

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

1/4 cup bread crumbs

1/4 shredded cheese

Salt and pepper

 

 

Split zucchini in half, and scrape out seeds.

Saute zucchini scrapings, onion and garlic until onion is translucent, about 7-10 minutes.

In a medium-sized bowl, toss saute mixture with salt, pepper, pine nuts and bread crumbs.

 

 

Divide mixture between the four boats evenly. Top with cheese.

 

 

Bake in 400* oven for 20-25 minutes, or until zucchini are soft enough to cut with fork.

 

 

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Pulled Pork Tacos with Sweet Sauce

Pulled pork isn’t just for sandwiches any longer. These spicy sweet tacos serve up an easy transition into Mexican food, which is a big part of my food inspiration. I grew up eating chips and salsa, enchiladas and tacos, and although I’m not Hispanic, I have a craving for the spicier part of life. The sauce I created doesn’t burn your taste buds  but eases them into a complex layer of sweet and spicy freshness.

Mom and I made about 15 pounds of pulled pork tacos for my best friends  bridal shower, and every shred of meat was gone by time the party was over. Add my special barbecue sauce, and you’ll be making this dish weekly for your family and friends.

Pulled Pork

Ingredients

3 pounds Boston Butt roast

1 Tablespoon chili powder

1/2 Tablespoon garlic powder

1/2 Tablespoon paprika

1/2 Tablespoon onion powder

Mix together spices.

Rub spice mixture on meat. Let sit for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 300*. Cook for 5 to 6 hours, or until internal temperature reaches 170*.

Let cool for 10 to 20 minutes before shredding the pork. I pulled the meat apart with my hands, but you can use two knives. Don’t shred the pork too finely. Leave some meaty hunks, or you will be left with a sloppy joe-like texture. Be sure to pull off fat and sinews, or tendons, when you’re pulling the meat.

Coat pork pieces in barbeque sauce.

Serve on tortilla with fresh cilantro, a squirt of lime and some hot sauce, if desired.

Sweet Sauce

Ingredients

2 jalapenos, deseeded and diced

1 small onion, diced (about 1/4 cup)

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 tsp cayenne

1 Tablespoon chili powder

1 Tablespoon butter

3/4 cup ketchup

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

3 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 to 2 Tablespoons of hot sauce (I used Valentina Salsa Picante, but Tabasco or Cholula would work fine here.)

1 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

Saute jalapenos, onion and garlic together in butter, about five minutes.

While still in pan, toss saute mixture with brown sugar, chili powder and cayenne.

Add catsup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and stock. Bring sauce to boil.

Puree sauce in food processor or blender until smooth. Return to stove, and simmer for 10 minutes.

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Easy Breezy– A Boozy Cooler

When I was home recently, Mom and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen together. We shared our kitchen secrets, and even catered my best friend’s bridal shower. But an East Texas kitchen in June can be hotter than Hell, so we mixed up this cooling cocktail.

Easy Breezy

Ingredients, for pitcher

1/2 cup citrus vodka, chilled

1/2 cup simple syrup, cooled

1 cup club soda

1 cucumber, peeled and sliced

Crushed mint, as desired (I used two sprigs)

 

 

Stack cucumber in bottom of pitcher. Add mint.

Pour vodka, simple syrup and club soda over cucumbers.

Let sit in refrigerator for 30 minutes, or pour over ice.

Garnish with cucumber and mint.

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Grandy’s Pork Chops in a Pan

This recipe is a staple in my family– an easy, one-pot dish that is an inexpensive, but full of flavor.

Mom says that her mother, my Grandy, would cook this for the family growing up. The recipe, handed down to my mother, was a classic dinner in our house as well. However, while Mom explained the recipe to me over-the-phone, I could not remember eating it. I flashed-back once we piled the vegetables under the pork chops that I recognized this dish: it’s hearty smell and down-home taste brought me back to the dinner table, to my family.

The meaty red potatoes stand up to the juices that drip down from the chops to the green beans. This steaming method ensures a perfectly cooked plate, not to mention adding flavor without extra butter or oil.

Grandy’s Pork Chops in a Pan

Ingredients

3 red potatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick

1 white onion, sliced 1/2 in thick

4 pork loin, center loin chops

4 cups green beans, fresh

2 cups water

Salt and pepper 

Season chops with salt and pepper.

Brown chops in skillet on medium-high heat.

Remove chops from pan, and pan from heat.

Add fresh green beans and two cups of water.

Stack potato slices, then onion slices. Crown with browned pork chops.

Cover, and cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes, or until potatoes are soft.

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Mocha Morning Muffins

I love bringing my coworkers treats. As the producer for a morning show, I am in charge of making sure my staff is fully energized and happy before we go live at 5 a.m., and I’ve learned that baked goods always make mornings sing. These folks serve as my guinea pigs, as well as motivators for me to crank out new concoctions.

These dense, chocolately cakes are a mildly sweet compliment to your morning coffee or milk. The bitter dough with bites of sweet chips prove to wake up and excite the mind.

Mocha Morning Muffins

Ingredients

3/4 cup cold milk

2 Tablespoons instant coffee

1 3/4 cup flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 Tablespoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Dissolve instant coffee in cold milk. Set aside.

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and sugar.

Beat one egg with vegetable oil and vanilla. Add coffee and milk.

Mix well with dry ingredients. Add chocolate chips.

Spoon out batter into lined muffin tin. These don’t rise much, so feel free to fill to 2/3 of the way up the cup.

Bake at 400* for 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Serve with milk or coffee.

 

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Southern Sweet Iced Tea

Sweet tea is a Southern essential. Iced tea on a hot summer’s day is comfort in a glass, and it has been hot on the South Plains. With triple-digit heat and recent humid streak we’ve had, I urge for something more than a glass of iced water.

Sweet tea brings me back to warm kitchens and family style dinners. “Would you like another glass?” was a routine question, with the answer always being “yes”. This ritual was a common courtesy. I not only learned that I should serve others, but to serve them before myself.

 

Southern Sweet Iced Tea

Ingredients

1 cup boiling water

1 cup simple syrup (1 cup of sugar dissolved in 1 cup of boiling water)

2 Tea bags

6 cups of water

Steep tea bags in one cup of boiling water, removed from heat, for five minutes.

Add simply syrup mixture, and let cool.

Pour into pitcher with 6 cups of cold or room temperature water, and stir. Pour over ice.

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