Saturday is pretty much defined by answering one of three options: Are we in town? Do the kids have some kind of game? -or- Where, outside, am I going?
Today was one of those days that fell into the ‘kids have a game” (in fact two) categories. So we’re in town and frankly it’s too damn cold to do much outside. Also frankly, it’s cold inside so I decided to start a fire and spend a bit of time whipping up something hearty for those chilled bones. This is a gumbo with some of the Pheasants we took back in October. For those of you not familiar with Pheasant, it is like super chicken. It is not gamey, in has a rich and magnificent flavor– but you have to be pretty slick about how you cook it or it can get tough and stringy. Pheasant is the ultimate free range chicken, it is virtually fat-free compared to its yard-bird cousin. I typically let a bird season by hanging it up with its feathers still-on for a couple of days (think: olde world market). This lets some of the oils in the feather-coat lard the meat.
Okay, I’m not a Cajun. I have to think that there is a body of cooking that is just “New-Southern” and that’s pretty much the majority of what we cook and eat in my family- it is ethnic food and that’s my ethnicity (there’s a reason all the Scots in the South picked up on the good eats of the black folk around, Haggis just isn’t that good.) So if I don’t do something your French-Zambo grandmomma used to do down in the Bayou, all apologies. Gumbo is a good thing to use the pheasant for. It adds a rich flavor and is a good receipt for avoiding turning that precious meat your dog walked down with you into a piece of shoe leather.
*Please note: I hate measurements, recipes, sticking to the list– cooking is being creative. This is what was in this batch.
Whole pheasant, quartered. (I know- I know . . . use a chicken.)
About a Pound of Put-up Garden Okra
A bag of Grocery Store Frozen Corn
A 1/2 bag of Grocery Store Frozen Limas
Big jar of good canned tomatoes.
About a pound of Good Andouille Sausage
Long Grain Rice
A big Yellow Onion, diced
Four Good Stalks of Celery, diced
Salt and Pepper, Garlic Clove, Two Bay Leaves
A good handful of Fresh Peppers (Serrano), sliced
I rendered the Sausage in a large saute pan till it browned up real good. Then I tossed in the celery, peppers, onions and let them brown up in the sausage drippings. I transferred this into a stock pot with the tomatoes (and their juice) and the chicken stock, I also put the corn and limas in there.
In the saute pan, I added a little olive oil to the sausage grease that was left and browned the pheasant in it about three minutes a side. Then I threw the pheasant in the stock pot with the now covered and low simmering stuff. (Note: I did this with the bones still on, beware of little bones. I just think there is too much flavor there to get rid of them at that point- maybe a wiser man would put the pieces in a cloth bag?)
In the saute pan, I added enough olive oil to bring it up to about one cup. I slowly added in about 3/4 cup of flour, whisking constantly for over low heat. This is the ROUX. If you don’t get this right, the gumbo suffers. Eventually the roux will become a light mahogany, takes about 25 minutes– your elbow will get tired (maybe that’s why those old women cooks have those ham-hock arms?). At this point I transfer it into the stock pot.
With the saute pan relatively clean, I drop in the okra. The sticky, slime that is okra is what makes the foundation of good gumbo (along with the roux). In fact, Gumbo is an African word for okra, which they brought over in the ole days. Stir that okra around, it will remind you of stirring rice crispies into marshmallows when you were a kid. Dump that in the stock pot. You probably left some good flavor behind in the saute pan, so deglaze it with 1/4 cup of white wine, reduce it in half (drink the rest of the bottle optional), dump it in stock pot.
Let it simmer as long as you can stand it.
Remove bay leaves and bones and serve over rice with cornbread and an ice-cold-beer.