Friday, March 16, 2012

Leftover Chicken Dilemma

Frugality without creativity is deprivation. –Amy Dacyczyn

A typical question as you clean up after a roast chicken dinner, is what in the world to do with the carcass: throw it away (wasteful) or make soup (typical). Making use of the carcass, though, is a must when cooking on a budget. And there are so many creative ways to use that leftover chicken. A favorite of ours is gumbo. Many years ago we befriended another old timey fiddle player, whom we met at a festival, and who made us his version of chicken and sausage gumbo in exchange for coming over and jamming with him. Personally, I think we got the better end of the deal, but I know he sure appreciated the chance to create a little music with newfound friends. I have to admit, it was hard to concentrate on the music with the delicious smell permeating the air. Anyway, he sent me the recipe via mail (the old days!), neatly typed on an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper, which I carefully folded and placed in my recipe box. After so many years the creases are close to tearing and the paper is splotched with oil, attesting to the many times we have made this recipe since we first met James. He's since moved off Long Island and out of our lives, but whenever we make this meal we remember fun times as we sat around making music, only stopping to eat some warm and delicious homemade gumbo.
In our younger days!

A salad and some cornbread make this a super filling and absolutely delicious meal. 

1 large onion
1 large green pepper
2 celery stalks
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup flour
1 can whole peeled tomatoes
2 – 8 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 kielbasa
leftover chicken (or you can buy and cook some chicken just for this, if you want)
chicken broth (either from simmering the leftover chicken or chicken bouillon cubes)
1 bay leaf
chopped fresh parsley
dash of cayenne (anywhere from 1/2 tsp. to 1 tsp. depending on taste)

1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder


1. Put leftover chicken carcass in a large stockpot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat and simmer for 4 hours. Strain the broth into a bowl and save. Remove the chicken meat off the bones and set aside. 

2. Before you make the roux, chop the onion, green pepper, and celery. Set aside.

3. Slice and cook the kielbasa in a frying pan (I slice the kielbasa on the thinner side). Set cooked kielbasa aside. 

4. Time to make the roux. Roux is made from equal parts fat and flour. In a large pot heat 1/2 cup oil on medium heat. Stir in the flour. Keep stirring. Do not leave the pot alone. You want the roux to turn a reddish brown and be smooth. As soon as it's a good color, turn off the heat. Roux is said to be the soul of the gumbo, so treat this step with care. In his instructions, James said to stir the roux, without stopping, for the time it takes to drink two cans of beer. Well, I never did drink beer to test that out, but I'm guessing I would have to stir for two days since I drink beer pretty darn slow. If you want to drink beer, let me know the results time-wise!

5. As soon as you turn off the flame, put all the vegetables into the pot. Stir them around until the roux stops sizzling.

6. Add the can of tomatoes, squeezing and crushing the tomatoes with your hands as you add them in. (Be careful not to squirt the juice all over the place like I usually do, creating a Jackson Pollack tomato painting on my walls.) Add some salt, pepper, the bay leaf, the chopped garlic, and the individual teaspoons of herbs listed above. Add the chicken broth—either what you simmered the leftover chicken in or use water and chicken bouillon. I never measure the liquid amounts, so use your own judgment. 

7. Bring to a boil, then lower and simmer until the vegetables soften. (I never remember to actually time this step.)

8. While that's simmering, get some rice cooking. And mix up some cornbread and pop that in the oven, too.

9. Back to the gumbo! After the veggies have softened, add the kielbasa and chicken. 

10. At this point you can add more chicken broth if you need it. Check your seasoning (oh, go ahead and taste it). Adjust the amount of seasonings and broth and tomatoes until it suits you. Keep simmering to blend flavors. 

11. When everything is done, put some rice into a bowl and ladle the gumbo over it. Enjoy.

No comments:

Post a Comment