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French Peasant's Guide to Dirt Cheap Gumbo & Other Veg

French_Peasant
French_Peasant Posts: 1,634 Member
We have been discussing the prices of fresh fruit and veg on another thread where I mentioned I loved cooking Creole and French recipes:

http://community.myfitnesspal.com/en/discussion/10527034/wish-fresh-veggies-werent-so-expensive/p1

I was asked for some recipes, and figured I better start a new thread because I have a lot to say about it, LOL. Possibly I should have opened this in the Debate section, because people who make gumbo tend to be very passionate about it. It is just such a great example of how the crown jewel of American cuisine has some humble beginnings, in the kitchens of slaves and swamp Cajuns, and with the kinds of cheap foods that poor people could afford.

First my gumbo recipe, then bread pudding, and then an awesome soup from Julia Child.

GUMBO!!!

My base recipe is just the one from the New Orleans School of Cooking, but I have my own variations on it. (The spring before Hurricane Katrina, my husband went to NOLA for a week-long conference, and I tagged along and just roamed the city and went on all the tours and took a half-day course at the cooking school…it changed my life…or at least my ability to cook really cool things!)

http://www.neworleans.com/restaurants/new-orleans-school-of-cooking-gumbo/

Here are my variations:

--Although the classic first step to gumbo is the roux, I start the day before with a chicken (or at least a bunch of chicken leg quarters, which I can get 10 lbs for 6 dollars): cooking it about an hour or so in a stock pot, then pulling it out and removing all the meat that I need for the gumbo or that I want to use for other recipes, then returning the bones to the pot and simmering for several hours with onions, thyme, celery, and carrots (mirepoix) (these can be scraps, skins and leaves that you save in the freezer for stock day; and in fact you can freeze chicken bones and carcasses for stock day as well) to make the stock. I skim off any foam, but I try to leave as much fat in the stock as possible. If I am feeling really fancy, I will drive to a farm nearly an hour away and get one of the Poulet Rouge chickens raised by a Lutheran pastor. (I am very serious about my stock!) But if expense is a consideration, leg quarters are PERFECT. You can freeze any leftover stock for other soup recipes, chicken and noodles, etc.

--For the roux, I take it to dark chocolate brown; you’re supposed to do it over very, very low heat, but ain’t nobody got time for that! Once I learned what I was doing, I have always had good results making a faster roux over medium heat, but making sure to stir CONSTANTLY and use a flat-edged wooden utensil to ensure the bottom of the pot is constantly being scraped (but the first few times I did gumbo I made a very slow roux till I knew what I was doing). Also, I do not cook my sausage in my big gumbo pot because I don’t want to take the chance with food scraps burning the roux. For an andouille gumbo, I use lard as the oil (I would use butter and take the roux to peanut butter brown for a seafood gumbo). Bacon grease saved in a tin can under the sink (or in my case, a Ball jar in the fridge) would also be a great pork base.

--I special order my andouille from a local butcher. The classic standard is to use more of a cured/harder andouille, but I really love the softer, more crumbly type they make. It is a little more expensive, but this is an ingredient you don't want to cheap out on.

--Celery, bell pepper and onions are the holy trinity of Creole cooking! If you are trying to get more veg in, you can increase the amount used here. If peppers are expensive, you don't have to add as much, and you can add more onion or celery, but be aware that this will have some effect on the flavor profile, but it is all good! Oh yeah….instead of a tablespoon of garlic, I add a couple of heaping spoonfuls of the pre-minced stuff you can buy, probably a quarter cup or more. Celery, onions and bell peppers are the Trinity, and garlic is the Pope!

--Traditionally you are just supposed to use one thickener: roux, okra, or gumbo filé, but I use all three. Okra is gross but it cooks down so much you don’t even notice it, and I feel like it’s a nice tip of the hat to the slaves who smuggle the seeds from Africa and preserved them within American cuisine. I will add one cup of okra to this recipe. The roux is a result of French influence, and the gumbo filé is Native American. I also add rice directly to the gumbo, and use Tony Chachere’s seasoning to taste, and a lot of Frank’s (although I supposed tabasco would be more appropriate) when I am cooking for gumbo aficionados who like it kicked up a notch.

--If money is tight, or I need to extend the gumbo to feed a big crowd, I add a bunch of cooked rice--maybe a couple of cups or so? I just kind of eyeball it. A huge bag of rice is so cheap, and it can really stretch a pot of gumbo a long way. Also, you can eat it on the side. You get extra credit for using gizzards and other random pieces and parts to make some dirty rice.

GUMBO Z'HERBES

This is a vegetative variation, but I would use your homemade chicken stock, bacon grease roux, and thrown in a couple of ham hocks (shred them when they are fully cooked and throw away the skin and bones). I love that you can use up beet greens, turnip greens, and carrot tops with this--stuff that most people throw away. You could probably even forage nettles, garlic mustard, and dandelion greens for this in the spring. Free food!!

http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Gumbo-zHerbes

BANANAS FOSTER BREAD PUDDING

Our teacher at the school said this is the perfect white trash recipe (he being very proud of his trash roots) because it traditionally used stale bread, sour milk and old eggs (along with a ton of good Louisiana sugar and super-cheap bananas). Note: pasteurized milk does not sour, it rots, so under NO circumstances use that! I have raw milk that I use up this way). I have made all different kinds of bread puddings but the one that really blows everyone away is Emeril's recipe:

http://emerils.com/127128/bananas-foster-bread-pudding-vanilla-ice-cream-and-caramel-sauce

I will often slice additional bananas on top, just to get more fruit in so I can say it is healthy. :p

JULIA CHILD

I was probably 11 or 12 when I discovered a mini Julia Child book in my mom's cookbook cupboard; it was apparently a Dove soap giveaway. I immediately got to work making all kinds of oeufs and mousseline au chocolat, and it was all amazing and delicious and so very, very simple. "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" contains everything you need to get started with classic French recipes. She walks you through all the details, and of course you can easily find her shows on youtube, which are such a treasure.

This is one of my favorite recipes today; it is SO simple and classic, using basically 4 ingredients plus water. It also calls for some garnish, but I usually just saute some thinly sliced leeks and crack on some black pepper. Also, if leeks are too expensive, you can just use milder onions. You can use most if not all of the leek, and remember to save the scraps for the next time you make stock!

http://www.food.com/recipe/potage-parmentier-potato-leek-soup-julia-child-270731

If anyone else has some favorite, cheap recipes, I would love to hear them!

Replies

  • shaybee377
    shaybee377 Posts: 42 Member
    As someone who went to college in Louisiana, has every family member living here, and is currently living in the New Orleans area, I highly approve of this post.
  • French_Peasant
    French_Peasant Posts: 1,634 Member
    shaybee377 wrote: »
    As someone who went to college in Louisiana, has every family member living here, and is currently living in the New Orleans area, I highly approve of this post.

    NOLA is such a special city--I love it dearly! I haven't been there since I had kids, but I can't wait to take them there someday. We watch Princess and the Frog a lot in the meantime. :)