Gumbo jumble: Play with ingredients

Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009 1:25 AM

Ingredients for Seafood Gumbo include, clockwise from top: chopped frog legs, oysters, scallions, parsley, shrimp and chopped alligator meat.

Todd Escudier, Rylee Mac's executive chef, demonstrated three dishes for the "Stews & Gumbos" class Thursday night: Chicken & Sausage Gumbo, Crawfish Stew and Seafood (Swamp) Gumbo.

The latter had a few surprises in the ingredient list, including frog legs and alligator meat. Alligator tastes like chewy, salty pork, and Escudier enigmatically says it also has an "amphibious flavor."  These exotic meats, along with a lobster paste and filé powder (ground sassafras) can be hard to come by in Durango, but Escudier said they can be special ordered by Rylee Mac's, or substituted, or omitted.

He also is quick to encourage people to substitute ingredients for convenience, such as using canned clam juice instead of making fish stock from scratch.

"We're not cooking in a professional kitchen; you're cooking at home. Use what technology has given us. I'm not going to feel bad if I use the tricks and someone says 'you cheated.' It's not a competition."

During the Thursday class, Escudier offered a handful of tips on soups, stews and other assorted culinary issues.  "Thirty years of cooking, and I'm gonna give you all my secrets tonight," he said, laughing.

Here are his tips:•For a stew, get your sauce to the right consistency before you add proteins.

•When you add cold foods to a hot soup, bring the pot back up to a boil to kill any bacteria.

•Chill onions in the refrigerator for an hour before chopping to prevent eye sting.

•Lobster paste or concentrated chicken paste will add a layer of flavor to stock.

•If you want to add color, use Kitchen Bouquet for brown and tomato paste for red.

•Make a stew or gumbo and serve it the next day, after the flavors have merged.

•Season with salt and pepper as a finishing process to balance out salty stock or meat.

Chicken & Sausage Gumbo

2 large chickens

2 large onions, chopped

1 cup celery, chopped

1 cup green pepper, chopped

Chopped garlic

2 cups vegetable oil

2 cups flour

Two 10-ounce packages frozen chopped okra (optional)

2-3 pounds smoked sausage (cut in cubes)



1½ gallons chicken broth

Cayenne pepper

Salt & pepper

Worcestershire sauce

Cooked white rice

Filé powder (ground sassafras leaves)

First, make a roux as follows: In a heavy pan, heat the oil on medium-high heat and then add the flour slowly, stirring constantly. Cook on medium-high heat until brown (at least 5 minutes). Set aside to cool.

Rinse chickens. Put chicken in a large pot and cover with chicken broth. Bring to a boil.

Simmer about one hour until chicken is tender.

Strain and save broth to use as your liquid in the gumbo. Debone the chicken and set aside.

Sweat (or sauté) onion, celery and green peppers and garlic in a soup kettle on medium to low heat. Once vegetables are soft, add broth and bring to a boil.

Next add the cool or cold roux and stir until the roux is fully incorporated into broth, and bring back to a boil.

All of the roux may not be used, and some of the broth may be reserved for later (if needed to thin soup). Thickness is dependent on personal taste.

Now add okra (optional), sausage and chicken and bring back to a boil, then turn down heat to a simmer and add parsley and scallions.

Season with cayenne, salt and black pepper to taste.

A little Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce could be added at this time. Serve over warm rice and garnish with filé powder.

Recipe courtesy of Todd Escudier.

Seafood (Swamp) Gumbo

1 cup of oil

1 cup of flour

2 large onions, chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

Garlic, chopped

One 10-ounce can stewed tomatoes

Tomato paste (optional)

3 quarts fish stock (or canned clam juice)

2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 pound crabmeat

1 pint oysters (optional)

3 pairs frog legs, cooked, deboned and chopped (optional)

1 pound alligator meat, cooked and cubed (optional)



2 bay leaves

1 cup scallions, chopped

½ cup parsley, chopped

Cooked rice

Filé powder (ground sassafras leaves)

Salt & pepper

First, make a roux as follows: In a heavy pan, heat the oil on medium-high heat and then add the flour slowly, stirring constantly. Cook on medium-high heat until brown (at least 5 minutes). Set aside to cool.

Sweat (or sauté) the onion, celery, bell peppers and garlic until soft. Add the roux and mix thoroughly. Stir in the stewed tomatoes and tomato paste, then cook for 2 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil, making sure the liquid is somewhat thick. Add the seafood and simmer for 5 minutes.

Season to taste with Tabasco, Worcestershire and salt & pepper. Garnish with scallions and parsley. Serve in large soup bowls over warm rice and top with filé.

Recipe courtesy of Todd Escudier.