So I cooked Gumbo yesterday for a little football party. Normally I like to cook the signature food from the city that my beloved New York Giants are playing that day and sort of eat them in ritual fashion as the Giants devour them on the field. Yesterday they played the Kansas City Chiefs and Kansas City is all about BBQ but I don’t have a pit and besides, I think that Texas BBQ is far better than Kansas City BBQ anyway. The rebuilding Chiefs weren’t going to be much of a threat and I didn’t think that the Giant’s would need my MoJo to push them over the edge so I abandoned one of my football rituals for the day and made a big pot of Seafood Gumbo. We got back from New Orleans last week and I had tried about 10 different gumbos and just had a hankering to whip up a batch of my own design. Man, was it good… seriously good…it was Killer Delicious if I do say so myself. At the end of the afternoon when all of my guests had eaten their fill there was a little more than one sorry serving left. That happens with a big pot of Gumbo, people just naturally ladle all of the good stuff first and when it gets down to the bottom there is like one lonely shrimp, a forlorn oyster and 3 or 4 loitering pieces of sausage, but it was floating in the Gumbo itself, which is the nutroot core of the experience. It’s all about the broth, the silky brown magic that whatever your main ingredients it allows them to assume the mantle of greatness.
So I get home from work tonight and need something for dinner. I knew that there was the underpopulated Gumbo in the fridge, and there were a few pieces of rotisserie chicken from the other night when we had to finish our taxes, so I cut up the chicken and threw it in a pot with the leftover gumbo juice, reserving the one lonely shrimp, the forlorn oyster and 3 or 4 loitering pieces of sausage for later. I let the chicken come up to a simmer in the gumbo juice and wondered what kind of vegetable matter I could throw in the pot, because that is what a gumbo really is. It is the dark roux, the trinity of onion, celery and green bell pepper, some garlic and cayenne, a few simple herbs, thyme and bay and maybe some parsley, some kind of liquid, water will do in a pinch if you have a ham hock or some sausage, and anything else that you have available to throw in the pot. Possum Gumbo – if you cook the possum long enough heck yea. Smoked squirrel gumbo – with the little squirrel heads floating it and everything – bring it on. Nutria gumbo and snake & gator gumbo and crawfish gumbo in season. If you live close to the coast you have a lot of seafood gumbo, in Northwest Louisiana it is more chicken and sausage, or duck or game. Every family has it’s own style and not really a recipe because gumbo is more a process then a recipe that can be followed – or good gumbo is.
So I have the chicken in the gumbo juice with the reserved lonely shrimp, forlorn oyster and 3 or 4 loitering pieces of sausage sitting off to the side and I remembered that I had some leftover turnip and beet hash from Friday night and thought that a cajun grandma might just throw some turnips in the pot so I dug it out of the fridge and dumped a good handful of the hash in the pot and man man, is it good… seriously good…it’s Killer Delicious.
Now I seem to be getting ahead of myself with this leftover gumbo. I really need to talk to you about the Turnip and Beet Hash.
Turnip and Beet Hash
1 large turnip cut in small dice, about a cup
1 large golden beet cut in small dice, about a cup
greens from turnip if available, about a cup chopped and packed
6 ounces of tasso ham, cut in small dice (andouille or other smoked sausage can be substituted for the tasso)
1 small onion, chopped
2 tbs of bacon fat or other fat for saute
splash of apple cider vinegar
We planted turnips this spring as kind of a throw away to fill a spot in the garden and because we had the seeds. We love greens and figured we would harvest the young greens until the height of summer, when they would die of sunstroke. We must have gotten an ornery batch of turnips because we harvested the greens for months and then started getting little stunted turnips. Quite frankly I am sick to death of cleaning turnip greens and peeling tiny turnips so this was going to be my last big batch of turnips. We had enough bulbs for a nice meal and I was looking for something to do with them. I had diced some up the other night with some tasso ham we brought back from Louisiana and then my friend Kevin started talking about hash and BINGO a recipe was born.
I suggest buying largish turnips and golden beets, less peeling is always a good thing, and cut them into smallish dice. Throw them into 4 quarts of salted boiling water and cook for a few minutes. If your beets or turnips have their greens wash them thoroughly and chop them up. After the turnip and beet has a chance to par boil throw in the greens and boil until the roots are tender, about 15 minutes. While all this is going on put some bacon fat or oil in a skillet and saute your onions and the tasso or sausage. By the time the onions are translucent and the meat gives up it’s goodness the turnips should be done. Drain them, reserving a little of the cooking liquid and throw them into the pan with the onion and ham and just a splash of apple cider vinegar and a bit of the cooking water to deglaze the pan. Turn the flame up to high and cook until all of the liquid is evaporated and you start to get a little bubble and squeak kind of browning action. We served this with some traditional Boudin that we also got at the Boudin and Cracklin’ Shop in Southwest Louisiana and it couldn’t be beat.
So now that you know a little of the back story on the Turnip Hash thing we can get back to the Lumpy Gumbo. I had some of this Turnip and Beet hash leftover, with the tasso and all. Tasso is the smoked spiced ham that the cajuns use to make andouille sausage and to flavor soups and stews and gumbos so I figured it would fit. So I threw in a few handfuls of the hash with the gumbo juice and the rotisserie chicken and when it was nice and hot I added the one lonely shrimp, the forlorn oyster and 3 or 4 loitering pieces of sausage and turned off the heat. Something magical happened right then. The lonely shrimp wasn’t lonely anymore ’cause it was surrounded by friends, and the forlorn oyster perked up and realized his full potential and the 3 or 4 loitering pieces of sausage joined in and became the life of the party. Now that’s what I call Phase 3 of Lumpy Gumbo.