Lunch Lady Cookbook Mumbo Jumbo Chicken Gumbo
Hey there boys and girls! This is The Lunch Laddie, Michael Gillan Maxwell comin’ at ya with a new installment of The Lunch Lady Cookbook. As the waning days of October bring crisp temperatures and frost on the pumpkin, it’s time we turn our attention to heartier fare while exploring a rich, multi-cultural tradition. The Lunch Lady Cookbook is proud to present Lunch Lady Cookbook Mumbo Jumbo Chicken Gumbo.
Folklore has it that gumbo originated in southern Louisiana in the 18th century. 18th century Louisiana was the ultimate cultural melting pot, so it seems fitting that this dish would be a melting pot in its own right. Gumbo is like a greatest hits album of ingredients and culinary practices of several cultures, including West African, French, Spanish, German, Choctaw and Public School Cafeterias. Gumbo shares much in common with other one-dish meals like stew, goulash, paella and bouillabaisse. The beauty of it is that there is no single “right” way of making it, you can’t mess it up and you can toss in just about any ingredient you want and call it gumbo. This helps make it a go-to dish for festive gatherings like Cajun fiddle contests, barn raisings and 7th grade lunch periods.
3 Chicken Breasts (boneless, skinless)
1 Green Pepper (large)
Green beans (from last nights dinner)
1 Onion (Large, sweet)
2 Scallions Baby carrots (Maybe a dozen or so ~ they’re little ~ after all, they’re only babies)
Red baby potatoes (Same as above)
Mushrooms (Ginormous handful)
Diced tomatoes (Fresh is good, but I used 2 8 oz cans)
Cream of Mushroom soup ( all purpose secret sauce)
Garlic ( 2 or 3 cloves ~ diced)
Worcester sauce (dash or 2)
Red wine (1/2 cup. Actually pour 2 cups, add 1/2 cup to the gumbo and chug the rest)
Salt (freshly ground sea salt)
Pepper (freshly ground)
Red Pepper flakes
Garlic Powder (freshly ground)
Rosemary (just a pinch ~ this stuff can take over a dish)
Bay leaf (if ya got it)
How we do it:
Combine tomatoes, mushroom soup and about 2 cups of water in stock pot. Heat slowly.
Slice, dice, bend, spindle, mutilate and chop garlic, onion, green pepper, scallions and mushrooms.
Sauté lightly in olive oil (extra virgin please) over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Ease up on this part. You just want to give these veggies a jump start. Add to stock pot.
Slice, dice, bend, spindle, mutilate and chop potatoes and carrots and add to stock pot.
Slice, dice, bend, spindle, mutilate and chop chicken breasts.
Sauté lightly in olive oil (extra virgin please), garlic and Worcester sauce until brown.
Add spices at this point, turning chicken frequently until brown.
Add to stock pot. Cover and let simmer for up to four hours, stirring frequently while reciting voodoo incantations. (Although singing along to a good playlist is acceptable)
Hey genius! It fogs the lens when you hold the camera directly over a steaming vat of gumbo!
This dish can be ready eat sooner than that, but a long, slow simmer really gets the juices flowing and unlocks the flavor of the ingredients. Since watched pots never boil, this is a good time to throw in a load of laundry, split a pile of firewood and print out that manuscript you’ve been working on for the final proof read.
But for God’s sake, before you do any of these things, clean up that Godawful mess you’ve just made in the kitchen before Mom comes home!
Garnish with Romano cheese and sour cream and serve by itself or over rice. Crusty French bread is great for dipping and mopping the gumbo off your chin.
Cajun music, of course. (Frankly, I’m surprised you had to ask) Anything by Clifton Chenier, Preston Frank, Walter Mouton and the original “Alligator man” Doug Kershaw will move this along in a lively manner. If you’re really ambitious, this is a great time to start to learn to play the Cajun accordion, or Cajun box as it is known. Just don’t drop it in the gumbo. Suggested Wine Pairing: This dish owes a lot to French Acadian and Cajun roots, so the Lunch Laddie’s preference is a robust and smooth French Rhone. A good friend of mine with a nose for wine once told me that a “good Rhone should taste like dirt!” In my opinion, this is the perfect wine for an earthy dish like gumbo.
For God’s sake man. Pour it in a glass. We’re not savages here!
So without further adieu, I must bid you au revoir. Until next time, this is The Lunch Laddie, Michael Gillan Maxwell signing off for The Lunch Lady Cookbook. Happy slurping!