IMG_0217IMG_0214IMG_0223IMG_0236It’s cold.  It’s February.  It’s winter in New England. It’s time.  It’s soup! And, it is Mardi Gras season.

This is an easy, as in “Big Easy” soup recipe.  It is a gumbo because it is made with a roux as a base, which adds thickness and flavor.  A roux is made with equal parts flour and oil or butter cooked over a low heat until the desired colored is achieved.  It can be  anywhere from a golden brown, to the color of dark chocolate, depending on the recipe.  I cheated a little by using a precooked chicken from the grocery store, because I thought it would have more flavor than a poached chicken, but mainly because it saved time!

I live in New England, but lived in New Orleans for many years, and I still visit the “Big Easy” often.  Of all the different places I have lived and visited, learning about the local food scene, and how to enjoy and prepare it has helped me assimilate and appreciate the culture.

The recipe:

1 store bought cooked rotisserie chicken, meat removed and sliced

1 med inion, chopped

1 cup chopped celery,  (3 – 4 sticks)

1 cup chopped green pepper

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 cups chopped carrots

1 large sweet potato, cubed

1 32 oz container low sodium chicken or vegetable broth

8 oz warm beer (optional)

1 tsp Creole seasoning (such as Tony’s)

1 tsp cayenne pepper

salt and pepper to taste

few sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems and chopped

chopped fresh cilantro

1 tsp gumbo file, plus more when serving  (Zatarans)

Cooked rice

For the Roux:

2 tbsp flour

2 tbsp oil (such as sunflower, canola, olive)

In Large dutch oven, over med low heat, add oil, when hot, slowly add flour stirring constantly with whisk.  Stir continuously until until roux becomes a golden brown color (color of caramel).  Lower heat if roux starts to burn.  This will take about 20 to 25 minutes.  Helpful hint … Be patient, put on some music and pour yourself a glass of wine to keep you occupied while stirring!  When roux has browned, add onions, peppers.   Stir.   Cook 3-4 minutes, add garlic, cook 1 minute.  Add celery and carrots, cook 3-4 minutes more.  Add sweet potatoes, cook 2-3 minutes more.  Add vegetable  or chicken broth and beer, bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.  Add chicken, simmer 30 minutes more.  Add cilantro, creole seasoning, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, thyme.  Simmer 5-10 minutes.  Add gumbo file just before serving and serve over cooked rice.  Have extra file available at the table for sprinkling.

File is made from ground sassafras leaves. It was used by Native Americans.  It is added to gumbo or soup just before serving to thicken and adds a sweet, delicate flavor.



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