May 11 2010

Birthday Gumbo

Published by at 3:21 pm under Dinner,Entertaining

I turned 24 yesterday, and I spent a big chunk of the day doing exactly what I wanted to do: overseeing a huge pot of gumbo to serve some friends who stopped by for the festivities. I chose gumbo for the birthday meal because I wanted something that would feed a group of 8 to 10 people easily and pay tribute to my Mississippi roots — and might also be a little different from the usual Sunday night fare. 

It ended up being a perfect choice because I was able to drink wine, make biscuits, clean the kitchen and socialize with friends on the balcony, all while my gumbo simmered. Efficient! And the apartment smelled amazing all night. (Special thanks to my assistant for offering up his space for the get-together.)

Even though I was raised on seafood gumbo, I made mine with chicken and sausage because it was a bit cheaper. But if you’re willing to splurge, shrimp, crabmeat, crawfish and the like would make great additions. 

As for those biscuits I mentioned. I thought it would be fun to serve those instead of regular French bread, just for some extra personality. They were super fast to make, a big hit with the guests (every one gone 15 minutes into the meal) and ideal for dipping in the bowls. I spiced mine up with buttermilk, parmesan cheese and chives, but I think cheddar might have added even more flavor. 

My wonderful friends all did their part to contribute to the munchies, too. We had cheese and crackers for appetizers, a fancy bloody mary bar (with homemade pickles!), ice cream, and two varieties of cupcakes: carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and Irish Car Bomb cupcakes. Yes, they are a real thing, and they’re actually made with Guinness. 

I ate more cupcakes than I’d care to specify, but what are birthdays for?


Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo

Ingredients (Serves 8 to 10):

4 links andouille sausage, sliced into 1/2-inch discs

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup flour

3 leeks, trimmed and chopped

1 yellow onion, diced

3 bell peppers, diced (I used one green, one yellow and one orange for variety)

5 stalks celery, trimmed and diced

1 clove garlic*

About 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed

16 oz. canned tomatoes, chopped and undrained

2 qt. chicken stock

3 bay leaves

3 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp. Tabasco sauce (or more if you like it spicier)

2 tsp. salt (plus more to taste)

2 cups dry long-grain white rice

Brown sausage over medium heat in large pot until fully cooked, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove sausage from pot, but leave drippings. Add oil and flour to pot, whisking constantly to make a roux. Continue cooking roux for about 30 minutes (they say until it turns the color of peanut butter or caramel). 

Add leeks and onion, and cook for 10 minutes, or until they are transparent. Add peppers, celery and garlic and cook for another 30 minutes. If at any point the mixture becomes too thick to cook the vegetables, just add a bit of water and stir (I had to do this a few times). 

While the vegetables are cooking, heat about a tablespoon of oil in a separate, large skillet and add chicken cubes. Cook on one side on high heat for about 3 minutes, flip, and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes. Chicken should be cooked, but not completely done.

Add tomatoes and tomato juice to the vegetable pot, then add stock, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco and salt. Add sausage to the pot, too. Simmer for about an hour and a half, stirring occasionally. Add chicken and simmer for another 10 minutes or so. 

Cook rice in 3 cups of water, covered. Serve a small scoop of rice in each bowl, then fill bowl with gumbo.

*Most gumbo recipes include okra, but they didn’t have it at either market I went to.


Buttermilk Chive Biscuits

*Recipe adapted from a Blueberry Buttermilk Biscuit recipe in the cookbook Come On In, from the Jackson, Mississippi Junior League.

Ingredients (Makes about 15 biscuits):

2 cups flour

1 tbsp. baking power

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

8 tbsp. chilled butter (1 stick)

2/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1 egg

3/4 cup buttermilk (I used 1%)

1/2 cup chives, chopped finely

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir. Chop butter a bit to make it easier to mix, then add it to dry ingredients. I used my hands to mix it all together, until it has a kind of coarse, cornmeal consistency. Add parmesan cheese and toss. 

In a small bowl, whisk egg and pour in buttermilk. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, and stir until fully integrated, and dough becomes sticky. Add in chives and stir to distribute throughout the dough. 

On a lightly floured surface, pat dough flat, until it’s about 1/2-inch thick. Use a round cookie-cutter or a wine glass with a diameter of about 2 inches to cut circles in the dough. 

Place circles on a lightly greased baking sheet and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the tops and edges turn a golden brown color.


Here are some more snapshots of the guest contributions — thanks for a fabulous birthday!

A mid-afternoon Bloody Mary = the stuff of birthday dreams.  

The cupcakes used to say “Happy Birthday Olivia!” but we must have eaten them rather haphazardly.

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