Lent. So much more somber than Mardi Gras. As TheUpperRoom.org puts it:
“Lent is a season of the Christian Year where Christians focus on simple living, prayer, and fasting in order to grow closer to God. In earlier times, people used Lent as a time of fasting and repentance. Since they didn’t want to be tempted by sweets, meat and other distractions in the house, they cleaned out their cabinets. They used up all the sugar and yeast in sweet breads before the Lent season started, and fixed meals with all the meat available. It was a great feast! Through the years Mardi Gras has evolved (in some places) into a pretty wild party with little to do with preparing for the Lenten season of repentance and simplicity. Oh well. But Christians still know it’s origin, and hang onto the true Spirit of the season.”
As for me and my family, we always enjoy the bit of celebration that signifies Mardi Gras, once again spent at home and not reveling in the streets. The dish for this year was the savory, slowly developed flavors of Gumbo.
It’s all about the mis-en-place. Here are the basic ingredients for developing a savory broth to be used in the Gumbo: bacon, chicken, onion, carrot & celery chunks, bay leaf and salt, plus water.
The additional broth ingredients are added to the chicken, brought to a boil, then reduced to simmer for 35 minutes, uncovered.
1/3 cup oil is heated over low heat in a heavy saucepan. Then 1/2 cup flour is whisked in until smooth and cooked, stirring frequently, until medium brown, about 30 minutes.
This was my first time taking my time to develop a nice roux. And the pumped-up flavor of the finished gumbo reflected this darker roux, darker than the traditional French roux.
Once the chicken and broth is finished, the chicken is removed, cooled, and cut into cubes. The broth is strained and returned to the pot. The darkened roux is stirred in. The chicken, crisped bacon, and remaining ingredients, except shrimp, are stirred in.
- Canned Tomatoes
- Garlic Cloves
- Bottled Red Pepper Sauce, yep, Tabasco
All these delicious ingredients are stirred in and simmered, covered, for about 1-1/2 hours. This extended simmering time really lets the flavors develop, along with the from-scratch broth and that nice darkened roux.
Shrimp is added and simmered for about 10 minutes. Then you can dish your Gumbo into a soup bowl or pile it onto a scoop of rice, like we did. A savory and satisfying dish to welcome Lent. Oh, and a wedge of muffaletta and an Abita. ‘Til next year, cheers!