File Gumbo

Merideth and I share a lot of the same tastes in food including, as we discussed over one of our recent Distance Dishes dinners, food that can be served in bowls! For me, this is mostly for convenience (read: laziness), but combining food in one pot also gives the flavors a chance to blend together.

This dinner happened to fall right before Mardi Gras, so I thought something Creole would be fun! Plus, it gave me an excuse to go spice shopping (I have the Room of Requirement of spices) to get file powder. File powder is ground sassafras root that serves as a thickener stirred in just before serving and adds a sweet flavor. I also used homemade seafood stock with the peeled shells of the shrimp I needed and vegetable scraps (carrot tops, onion skins, celery hearts) that I save in the freezer. Store bought works as well, but homemade has better sodium content and makes me feel good for upcycling kitchen scraps!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups vegetable or seafood stock (homemade recipe here)
  • 2 tbs canola oil
  • 2-3 diced medium onions (about 1 cup)
  • 4 diced celery stalks
  • 2 chopped bell peppers
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp hot sauce, or more to taste
  • 1 tbs creole mix seasoning
  • 3/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 lb crab meat
  • 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (reserve shells for seafood stock, if making homemade)
  • 1 1/2 tbs file powder

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Instructions

  1. Heat oil in large pot. Add onions, celery, and green pepper and saute until onions brown lightly.
  2. Add garlic, hot pepper sauce, and creole seasoning. Stir frequently and saute for 4 minutes.
  3. Add tomato sauce and simmer for 3 minutes. Add stock and summer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add shrimp and crab meat. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Just before serving, add file powder and stir to combine.

Wine Pairing: Just before I made this recipe, I received my seasonal subscription from my local winery! I signed up for a mixed shipment hoping to broaden my horizons past red wine, and one of the white wines, a Viognier, was just what I needed for the gumbo. It has a little bit of the rich oak taste that makes wines like Chardonnay pair so well with shellfish, but has a fruitness that tones down the spice from the hot sauce. Refreshing!

Roasted Acorn Squash Bowl with Mushroom Risotto

Happy Thanksgiving! This holiday weekend has been full of much needed rest, family time, and good food! Our Thanksgiving meal tradition is turkey and canned cranberry sauce (as in the can-shaped cranberry sauce). Yum!

I’ve never made risotto, despite Merideth and I’s religious watching of Gordon Ramsay shows, and this seemed like a fun way to dress up Thanksgiving dinner! Risotto isn’t so much difficult as it is tedious a little, and this took about 30 minutes of active work to complete. However- it is probably one of my favorite dishes so far, and is so rich it could stand as a meal on its own. The squash bowl made the dish extra fun and savory!

For this, I used powdered porcini mushrooms from The Spice House of Chicago, and could be substituted for chopped mushrooms in the saute stage. This ingredient is optional, but I really enjoyed the depth of flavor the mushrooms added.

Ingredients

Squash Bowl

1 acorn squash, halved and with seeds removed

2 tbs butter

1 tbs brown sugar

1 tbs bourbon or whiskey (optional)

Risotto

1 small onion

3 cloves garlic

1 tbs powdered porcini mushrooms or 1/2 cup porcini mushrooms, chopped (optional)

3 tbs butter

2 cups arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine (I have used Grüner Veltliner or Chardonnay)

6-8 cups chicken broth

1 cup Parmesan cheese

Instructions

Squash Bowl

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Melt butter in microwave and combine with brown sugar and bourbon.
  3. Brush butter mixture onto inside of squash and cook for 45-60 minutes, or until flesh can be pierced with fork.
  4. Once cooked, set aside.

Risotto

  1. Melt butter in large saucepan. Once melted, add chopped onions and minced garlic, as well as mushrooms or mushroom powder (if using). Cook until fragrant and onions become translucent.
  2. Warm chicken broth in separate saucepan.
  3. Stir rice into butter mixture, coating rice thoroughly. Cook rice for 3-5 minutes, or until edges of rice become translucent.
  4. Add 1/2 cup of wine to saucepan and stir to deglaze pan. Simmer until wine is absorbed.
  5. Add chicken broth one ladle at a time to rice, simmering and waiting until liquid is absorbed before adding more broth. Adding the broth gradually is key!
  6. Taste rice after about half of the broth has been added for proper consistency. Risotto should be the consistency of thick porridge, and broth will be absorbed more slowly.
  7. Add one final ladle of broth and the parmesan cheese to the risotto and stire until melted.
  8. Serve immediately in roasted acorn squash bowls.