CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I know it isn't soup weather yet, but the temperatures will drop from the steady 90 to 100 degrees soon. Won't they? Please?
I was inspired to try my hand at gumbo after helping judge Chef Linda Coulter's gumbo showdown at Huck Finn's Restaurant on one of those 100-degree days in June.
As host, Coulter couldn't compete in the challenge, but the gumbo she prepared that day for fun had every element to take first place. The same gumbo (now on her menu) later prevailed as the newspaper critics' choice as best dish at the Taste-Of-All Charleston. (Daily Mail food writer Steve Keith and I were the judges.)
I tried today's recipe, looking to reduce or eliminate the butter, bacon grease or oil, which is a major component of the roux that is the base upon which gumbo is built.
It was intriguing because there isn't any added fat, which is probably a major transgression in the eyes of the true gumbo-makin' fanatic.
However, the recipe dispelled the "it can't be done" notion. The finished product turned out flavorful and satisfying.
It can be made vegetarian by switching chicken broth to vegetable broth, omit chicken, sausage and instant bouillon and instead use one can of beans, rinsed and drained, and 1 to 2 cups diced squash, or any vegetable combo desired. Grab what's freshest in the garden or at farmer's markets this time of year.
Here's a little cooking tip and product info to pass along: There is a bag of frozen chopped vegetables (onion, celery, bell pepper and parsley) labeled "seasoning mix" on the package that I use instead of chopping fresh. It saves time and work when recipes call for those ingredients, and it incorporates well into my soups, some tomato sauces and casseroles.
Just total the amount of onion, celery, or pepper called for in a recipe and use that much of the frozen mixture. In the gumbo's case, use 1 1/2 cups frozen seasoning mix.
Another favorite timesaver of mine is to purchase a small rotisserie chicken from the grocery deli for cooked chicken in recipes.
Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
Makes about 4 (1 cup) servings.
1/3 cup flour
1 14-ounce can chicken broth
2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast
8 ounces turkey smoked sausage, sliced
1 12-ounce package frozen vegetable mix for gumbo (Kroger carries)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery