• Cherie Claire

Gumbo for the time-impaired


In "Gone Pecan," the third book of my Cajun Embassy series, Dewey Hennessey writes a popular food blog called "Louisiana Simple" to explain how to create Cajun and Creole specialities without using a lot of ingredients — and time. This aspect of my main character's personality is autobiographical because I'm not one to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

That's why I've included both Michael's and Dewey's gumbo recipes in "Gone Pecan." Michael Arceneaux enjoys making a gumbo the traditional way, lovingly creating a roux from scratch (a roux is a mixture of flour and oil that's slowly mixed over a low heat) and then adding ingredients such as chicken and sausage or seafood. Traditionalists will also cut up the "Cajun Trinity" of celery, bell peppers and onions. Dewey, on the other hand, prefers store-bought roux and a container of Guidry's Creole Seasoning mix (the Trinity) which cuts the cooking time by two-thirds.

Here's how it's done — and my preferred way of making gumbo that turns out as delicious as if you spent half an hour stirring a roux. I purchase a 16-ounce container of Guidry's and a 32-ounce jar of Cajun Power Chicken Gumbo starter. All I need to do is add the sauteed chicken and sausage and any seasoning I prefer and viola! Add Louisiana rice to the bowl upon serving and green onions on top and voila, a delicious but easy-to-make gumbo. The following is Dewey's recipe but for Thanksgiving weekend when the weather turned chilly I added Richard's andouille sausage.

Dewey’s Louisiana Simple Chicken Gumbo

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 pound chicken, cut into small pieces

1 (16-ounce) Guidry’s Creole Seasoning mix*

1 (32-ounce) jar Cajun Power Chicken Gumbo*

Hot sauce, as needed

2 cups cooked Louisiana rice

Green onions, chopped, for garnish

Directions: In a large soup pot sauté the chicken pieces in vegetable oil over medium-high heat until browned. Add half of the Guidry’s Creole Seasoning mix (one cup measured or more to your liking) and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes until onions are translucent and celery and bell peppers are soft. Drain out the oil. Add the entire jar of Cajun Power Chicken Gumbo. Fill the empty jar with water and add to the pot, twice. Stir well over medium-high heat until all is blended and there are no lumps in the roux (what came out of the jar). Add hot sauce if needed. When gumbo starts to bubble, reduce heat to simmer and let cook for about 45 minutes. Serve gumbo over rice and garnish with chopped green onions.

*Walmart carries Guidry’s Creole Seasoning mix, which consists of the Cajun Holy Trinity of onions, bell peppers and celery. Cajun Power is Dewey’s personal favorite, available in select stores and online at http://www.cajunpowersauce.com/. Other “roux in a jar” products include Savoie’s, Richard’s and Tony Chachere.

About the Book

By the way, the title of Gone Pecan, (gȯn pē-kan) refers to a South Louisiana expression meaning to split, to leave. Dewey Hennessey left Louisiana and Michael Arceneaux, the love of her life, with so many questions unanswered. Now, fourteen years after Dewey went “gone pecan,” her grandmother delivers an ultimatum — return to Louisiana and make things right or she’ll never speak to her again. Can Dewey leave her high profile job in Hollywood, even if it means restoring her broken heart? And even though Michael has forged ahead with his life, he can’t deny having Dewey back in town will make his life complete. But can he get past the pain she caused fourteen long years ago. The Cajun Embassy series follows three Columbia journalism coeds homesick for Louisiana who find comfort in a bowl of Cajun gumbo. Each book — Ticket to Paradise, Damn Yankees and Gone Pecan — follows these dedicated friends as they make their way into the world. Because love — and a good gumbo — cures everything.

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