Quick Note: What to Drink with Gumbo!

So, chef, what wine do you drink with gumbo?

Gumbo is dark, earthy and rich and I’ll bet your first instinct is to break out the big Cab to pair with this, right? Well, that could work, but it could also be a case of two thunderbuck rams butting heads. If your Cab is as big as the gumbo is big, you may have a great success…maybe. You also may encounter a situation where your wine’s nuances are lost in the spices of the gumbo. Such a waste of good wine is hard to bear.

I recommend a bright, acidic red, served cool. Go for a cold-weather red like a Finger Lakes or Oregon Pinot Noir, or a quality Gamay from Morgon or a Spanish Grenache. I happen to LOVE Gamay with Cajun food! 

Serve the wine at true cellar temperature, which is 55-60 degrees farenheit. If the wine is too warm, drop an ice cube in it. Go ahead, be daring, yow, you are an iconoclast! There is no true rule on what temperature a table wine should be served at.

After all, it’s your table.

Ric Orlando's Chicken Gumbo Recipe

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This Creole Chicken Gumbo is a slowly cooked, dark and earthy, OMG-delish stew.  The real deal, baby!

Makes enough for 4 to eat twice

Vegetable oil
½ pound andouille sausage, sliced
3 pounds natural or local chicken thighs
2 cups each: medium dice bell peppers, celery, and onion
1/2 cup scallions
1/2 cup parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning mix (have you tried my CAGE yet?)
1 tablespoon dry thyme
Tabasco
Worcestershire sauce
2 cups okra, sliced
6 cups chicken cooking liquid (see below)
4 cups tomato juice
1 can generic round tomatoes, squished
salt and pepper
2 cups long grain white or brown rice.

The braising will take at least 2 hours, so make time!

Put the chicken in a pot. Cover with lightly salted water. Bring to a boil. Skim any skim that may accumulate. Once it boils, reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes or until cooked. Remove chicken from broth and let cool. Reserve the broth and the bird. Once cooked, pull all the meat from the chicken and roughly chop.  Set aside.

In a heavy casserole pan, add the sausage and ham and lightly brown. Add the veggies and wilt until soft but not brown. And the thyme and Cajun seasoning and stir to coat. Cook a few minutes and then add tomato juice and reserved chicken broth. After an hour of cooking, add the tomatoes and the okra and cook for another 20 minutes. Pick up the palate by adding dashes of Worcestershire and Tabasco to taste. Now stir in 1 cup of roux. Cook gently another 15-20 minutes to thicken. 

Simple Rice

In a decent pot add a drizzle of vegetable oil. Add the 2 cups of rice and 2 teaspoons salt. Heat until you begin to hear a sizzle. Stir once. Add 3 cups of water. Stir once more. Bring to a boil. Cover snugly. No more stirring. Reduce heat to very low and allow to steam for 15-20 minutes. Turn off heat and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes.  Done!


Making Cajun Roux, my way.

There are plenty of ways to make dark, chocolaty roux. Most are a pain but this is a pretty simple technique. 

1 ½ cups flour
2 cups pork lard, duck fat, clarified butter or vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 475 F.

*Remember that dark roux is as hot as caramel, reaching 400-500 degrees. Don't touch it!*

In a heavy, oven-safe skillet melt the fat. Add the flour and whisk in until smooth. Cook for a few minutes to make sure all of the flour is amalgamated with the fat.

Now put the entire pan in the hot oven and set a timer for 20 minutes. When the timer goes off, carefully whisk the mix. It should be getting golden. Repeat this procedure, cutting back the time each time until your roux resembles mild chocolate.

Once you've made the roux, you should carefully add some of it to the warm stew. Bring the stew back to a boil. Add a little more of the roux until you have reached the desired thickness. The stew will thicken as it boils. Be patient.

You can and should reserve any leftover roux, refrigerated, for up to 3 months.




Ric Orlando's Mardi Gras Mussels

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Mardi Gras Mussels are an easy celebration dish, with classic flavors. These take no longer than 20 minutes to make! Nice, right? This makes a tasty little pasta dish as well, if you are thinking linguine!

Serves 4

2-3 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1 each red, green, and yellow peppers, neatly diced
1 bunch scallions, chopped end to end
2 large fresh tomatoes, cored and diced
Cajun seasoning to taste
½ cup Pernod or Herbsaint liqueur
12 oz clam juice
½ stick (or less) of butter, diced small
splash of heavy cream, optional

Do a nice job dicing the peppers. (A great opportunity to learn the world brunoise.)
Use a heavy pan or Dutch oven with a tight filling lid...This is quick restaurant style sauté stuff here!

Put pan on high heat. In quick sequence, add the mussels, toss, add the peppers, toss, add the tomatoes, toss, add half of the scallions, toss. Shake the pan well to mix. Now sprinkle with some Cajun seasoning and toss some more. Pour the Pernod into the pan until it flares up and cook that alcohol down. When the flame subsides add the clam juice, butter and cream. Cover the pan and let cook 3 minutes or until the mussels are all open.

Serve right away, in bowls with plenty of the cooking liquid. Garnish with the remaining scallions and a little sprinkling of Cajun seasoning!

Peppered Shrimp! Ric Orlando's Mardi Gras 2014 Recipes

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Cajun Peppered Shrimp is one the great messy dishes of New Orleans. I still eat these shrimp a couple of times a week and I've been making them for many years. Yes, they are hot and sloppy, but what's wrong with that?

The sexiest way to eat peppered shrimp is with your significant other.  Lift the shrimp by the tail with your fingers and suck off all of the sauce.  Get the good stuff that clings to the shrimp's legs, too.  Now peel the shrimp and swish the meat around in the sauce again. Suck it clean one more time before you bite! Dunk slices of baguette or other crusty bread into the sauce, too, or spoon it over rice. Get ready for a wonderful evening!

Head-on shrimp are traditional for this dish, but medium-large (16-20 or 21-25 per pound), unpeeled, headless shrimp work well too. I prefer the briny flavor and reliable quality of Gulf shrimp; ask your fishmonger for his best. Avoid tiger shrimp; not only are they bland, but often they are cultivated in water you wouldn't wash your car with.   

Try the sauce, too, with cooked crabs, crawfish and lobster tails. Serve with PLENTY of bread for sopping up the sauce!
Ric-ter Scale:  8
Serves 4

1/2 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup black peppercorns
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried savory
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon cayenne
1 tablespoon salt
8 cloves garlic
1/4 cup white wine (or a bit more, as needed)
1-1/2 pounds unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups shrimp stock, clam juice or chicken stock (canned broth is okay, but find one without MSG or preservatives)
1-2 pounds medium-large (21-25-count per pound) Gulf shrimp, unpeeled

Heat the lemon juice in a small pot until just hot. Add the peppercorns. Cover, remove from the heat, and let the peppercorns soak for one hour or overnight.

In a blender, puree the peppercorn mix with the herbs, spices, salt, garlic and wine. This should make a ruddy, muddy-looking paste. If it is too dry to puree smoothly, add a bit more wine.

In a large, heavy saucepan, melt the butter in the stock. When it begins to simmer, stir in the spice paste. Use a wooden spoon and stir gently for about 5 minutes or until the sauce becomes golden.

Add all the shrimp and stir gently. Let the shrimp cook in the sauce for 3 - 5 minutes or until just pink. 

Remove the shrimp from the sauce with a slotted spoon and pile them into a big, rustic-looking bowl. Ladle about 1/3 to 1/2 of the sauce over them and garnish with lemon wedges. Put the bowl in the center of the table and dig in. (You can also serve in individual bowls with sauce ladled on and garnished with lemon.) Be sure to supply bowls for the discarded shrimp shells.

The remaining sauce should be refrigerated in a reheatable container (not plastic). The butter will form a hard cap when it cools. As long as the cap is intact, the sauce will keep up to one month.  Just reheat and use again.

Drink a bright and fruity white with these shrimp. A Riesling or Pinot Gris will do the trick. Here in the Hudson Valley, Millbrook makes a great Tocai Friulano. Also, you can't lose with a cold, crisp, simple beer like Dixie, Lagunitas Pils or even Rolling Rock ponies served on ice.