Soup

Mrs. Saundra’s Mardi Gras Gumbo

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It’s Mardi Gras in New Orleans. People from all over are flying, driving and catching trains to this magical city. Locals are finalizing their costumes for each of their favorite parades and marking their spots to camp out for Fat Tuesday. It is so unfortunate that many tourists don’t get to see the variety of the parades. Many tourists think that Mardi Gras is getting plastered, flashing your ta ta’s and maneuvering your way down Bourbon street with the massive crowd. Mardi Gras is so much more! It is for families. It is a torchbearer of traditions for the Mardi Gras Indians. It is a time where we all come together to see our friends and family parade in a krewe or in a school band. It is one of my favorite times of the year.

Even if you can’t be here for Mardi Gras or if you have never been, you can have your own Mardi Gras parade at home with friends. In some cities, they actually do try to re-create the look and feel of Mardi Gras which I think is awesome. New Orleans is contagious and spreads good karma throughout the world!

So you can’t be here, but you can make a pot of gumbo for Fat Tuesday and listen to music from Rebirth Brass Band, Kermit Ruffin or oldies like Fats Domino’s. Dress up! Wear your tu tu with pride and laugh until it hurts. It will give the neighbors something to talk about. 🙂 As my favorite movie character said, “Life is a banquet and too many poor sucka’s are starving to death! Live. Live. Live.”- Auntie Mame

I am sharing with you a recipe that was passed down to me by the sweetest Creole woman named Mrs. Saundra. Mrs. Saundra was a cooking teacher at the New Orleans Cooking School in the French Quarter. Every day she would come to work and teach tourists and some locals about the culinary history of New Orleans. She would present live cooking demos and include some of New Orleans most famous dishes- Jambalaya, Bananas Foster, New Orleans BBQ Shrimp, Bread Pudding and of course Gumbo! Mrs. Saundra would greet everyone with a sweet smile and a “Hey my babbby”. She was a doll. Miss Saundra was a mentor to me. She wasn’t a trained chef but she was a Creole grandmother and that deserves huge respect! Mrs. Saundra gave me her gumbo recipe and I want to share it with you. I kept up with Mrs. Saundra for quite some time. Even after her bout with breast cancer. I lost contact with her. I pray she is fully recovered, with her grandbabies, cooking a pot of gumbo and sharing New Orleans culinary tales. So as Mrs. Saundra would say, “Enjoy my babyy!” Happy Mardi Gras 2014 y’all!

Makes 10 servings

Ingredients:

2 pound cooked chicken (Thighs if available, bite size)

2 tsp. of Cajun/ Creole Seasoning

1 cup of oil (I prefer peanut oil)                                                     

1/4 cup of salted butter

½ teaspoon of fresh thyme

1 cup of flour (all purpose)

1 bay leaf (optional)

2 cups of finely chopped yellow onions

1 cup of finely chopped celery

1 cup of finely chopped seeded green bell pepper,

1 ½ pounds of sliced smoked sausage (Andouille if possible)

2 pounds of medium sized raw peeled (head removed) shrimp (Gulf Coast Shrimp preferably. It is sweeter and local)

8 cups chicken stock, hot

5 green onion stalks, chopped finely

3 minced garlic cloves

3 tablespoons of chopped parsley

Gumbo Filé powder, add at table

Cooked rice

*Now, if you are a meat lover and can get access to other types of Louisiana sausages. Add Creole Chaurice, a spicy hot sausage. (1 lb. cooked and sliced) and 1 smoked turkey neck.

Preparation:

Season chicken pieces with Cajun-Creole seasoning. Add ¼ cup water in pan. Bake in 350 degree oven until cooked. About 40 to 45 minutes. Save juice in bottom of pan. Heat oil in a heavy cast iron skillet until hot. Stir in flour to make roux.  Continue to cook, stirring constantly over medium heat until roux is dark brown. Add onions, celery, bell pepper and butter. Cook until the onions are translucent or clear. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Transfer to a large pot (Dutch Oven).

Add stock, thyme, and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Slice sausage and brown in a pan with a little oil. Add a little stock or water to deglaze the pan. That means to stir the brown bites in the bottom with liquid. Add chicken and sausage to the large pot. Add the liquid in the bottom of pan that you cooked the chicken in. Simmer for 1 ½ hours.

Turn the heat off, add shrimp and cover. This will prevent you from overcooking the shrimp. Let it sit covered for about ten minutes. The shrimp should turn a nice pink. Adjust seasonings to taste and skim fat before serving. Serve over hot rice. Garnish with green onion and parsley.  Add filé powder and your favorite hot sauce at the table. (Crystal is my favorite)

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Entree

Turkey Sausage with Savoury Basil Cilantro Thyme Tomato Salsa over Couscous

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My beloved grandmother used to always tell me to treat yourself as a guest. She would make sure that I sat at the table with a napkin in my lap, posture straight and a proper table setting. I used to think she was old fashioned but now I am so grateful that she taught me proper etiquette so when I eat at fine dining establishments I know what to do. I can still hear her say,”Elbows off the table!”

Tonight I’m just eating at home and a little tired from a long week but I still want to end my day by treating myself like a guest!

Ingredients:

5 turkey sausage links
2 cans of Spanish style tomato sauce
4 sprigs of thyme
1/3 cup of chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup of chopped fresh basil
1 minced clove of garlic
2 tbs. of coconut oil
1 tbs. of agave nectar
1 tsp. of fresh ground black pepper
2 boxes of herbed couscous

Preparation:

Grill turkey sausage. (George Foreman 🙂 ) Cut sausages into small pieces. Set aside. Sauté garlic and thyme in coconut oil in a medium size stockpot at medium low heat. Add tomato sauce and a half can of water. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. Add fresh herbs and sausages. Simmer on low medium heat for 30 minutes. Serve with herbed couscous. (Follow box instructions for herbed couscous) Buen Provecho!

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Do you know who Chef Adolfo Garcia is?

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If you don’t know who Chef Adolfo Garcia is you need to know. He was voted Top Latino Chef by a host of organizations, magazines and newspapers. A James Beard Winner and the baddest restaurateur I know!

When I was working on my book, I had to have him in my book. I rode my bike to his restaurant A Mano in the New Orleans Warehouse District and told him about my project. He said, “Sure baby. Whatever you need,” with his Latino New Orleanian accent. He became my godfather and has delivered on everything I needed to make this cookbook a reality.

I interviewed him and his firecracker Dominican wife Margarita. They shared with me their story, their laughter, their food and practically adopted me lol. In my book New Orleans con Sabor Latino: The History and Passion of Latino Cooking, Margarita said, “We were still living in New York when I was pregnant and Adolfo was finishing up his schooling at the Culinary Institute of America. I went into labor in a middle of a snowstorm. Adolfo called for an ambulance and he said, “Please come get my wife. She’s in labor and I’m from New Orleans. I don’t know how to drive in the snow!”

Today, Chef Adolfo Garcia owns 4 restaurants in New Orleans, A Mano, Gusto, High Hat Cafe and La Boca. Yet he is so humble about his career. Soooo many approached him to be in their book or to ghost write a cookbook for him but he said yes to me and I’m grateful. Read the foreword in my book. He wrote it and it’s pure Latino Who Dat Nation! Thank you Chef! Mil Gracias! http://nbclatino.com/2013/10/10/chef-spotlight-adolfo-garcia-on-advancing-latin-cuisine-in-new-orleans/

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It’s Thursday Night!!! SCANDAL!!! Making a pot of Gumbo

Making Mrs. Saundra’s Famous Gumbo!!! We used to work together at the New Orleans School of Cooking. What an amazing woman and the best gumbo I have ever had next to my paw paw. I wish I had his recipe. Gumbo and Scandal..Le Bon Temps Rouler!

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Support Local Bookstores! Signed copies available at Octavia Books

Octavia Books in New Orleans has been so awesome to me! I really appreciate their support. To order a signed copy of New Orleans con Sabor Latino: The History and Passion of Latino Cooking visit Octavia Books, New Orleans a own online. Great Xmas present and most of the chefs including me signed copies. http://www.octaviabooks.com/event/zella-palmer-cuadra-new-orleans-con-sabor-latino

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