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Soups and stews for a winter’s day

Gumbo is the best example of classic comfort soups and stews.
Gumbo is the best example of classic comfort soups and stews. Special to the Sun Herald

What is the most satisfying thing to eat on a winter’s day?

A hot cup of soup or stew.

There are countless good recipes for hearty soups, gumbos and stews, but it is a category that hardly needs a recipe.

Take a look in the refrigerator and see what leftovers you might have. Do you have half a baked chicken? Add it to the pot. Left over sausages? Toss them in as well.

Almost any vegetable will do as well, but make sure to add onions and bell peppers as a base.

Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips and almost any other root vegetable will do nicely, too.

Just make it, serve it piping hot in small bowls.

At my own peril, I am including a gumbo recipe.

As the saying goes in South Mississippi, if you want to pick a fight, talk about gumbo.

Everyone has their own recipe and everyone thinks theirs is the best. This is a recipe I have worked on for countless years, but it is only a suggestion.

If you have a better one, I am so glad for you and hope that you will share it on Facebook.

Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo

1 whole chicken

1 pound smoked sausage

2-3 chopped onions

1 cup chopped celery

1-2 chopped green bell peppers

1 pound large shrimp

2-3 tablespoons flour and twice that amount oil or butter (clarified is best)

Red pepper flakes, freshly ground black pepper, Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning

Optional: 2-3 gumbo crabs

Sear the chicken in hot oil, add to a large pot with half the onions, season aggressively, fill with water and simmer on low for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken and debone, return the carcass to the pot and simmer on low until the stock is needed.

Sauté the chopped sausage until well-browned, remove, set aside. Season the shrimp with Tony Cachere’s, turn the heat up and cook for 1 minute, stirring and turning often, remove the shrimp and set aside. Now add the vegetables to the same pot. Add oil if necessary, season and sauté for at least 20 minutes over low heat. Make the roux by combining the flour and oil/butter in a heavy bottom pot and stir on low heat for 10-15 minutes. The color should be dark brown and the roux should be very thick. Add the stock and sausage and whisk in the roux, simmer for 30 minutes, add the chicken and cook for 10 minutes (add the crabs now if you are going to use them), add the shrimp and cook 5 minutes more. Serve with steamed rice or potato salad.

Sausage, Chicken and Spinach Stew

1 roasted chicken, de-boned

1-2 cups sausage, well-browned

1 chopped onion

¼ cup chopped carrot

1 chopped bell pepper

1 bag spinach

Make a stock with the chicken carcass, simmering in water for 30 to 45 minutes, remove the bones and discard. Sauté the vegetables in a large pot in butter for 10 minutes, add the chicken, sausage and stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and re-season as necessary. Just before serving add as much spinach as you like, stir until wilted, then serve at once. Garnish with curls of Parmesan.

Goulash

3 tablespoons oil

2 chopped onions

2 pounds stew meat

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

1/2 tablespoon caraway seeds

3 tablespoons paprika

1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 large chopped green bell peppers

3 large chopped red bell peppers

1 16-ounce can tomato puree

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth

Slowly cook onions in a sauté pan, along with a little oil, until well caramelized. Take your time and get it right. In a separate heavy bottom pot, add oil and heat to medium hot, season the beef well and sauté until well-browned. Add the caramelized onions, garlic and caraway seeds, cook briefly then add the paprika, cayenne powder, salt and pepper. Now add the green and red peppers and cook for 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree, tomato paste, and vegetable broth and 1 cup water, stirring to deglaze the pan. Simmer for 1 ½ hours. Serve with rice, German style spätzle noodles or dumplings.

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