Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Chicken and sausage Gumbo*

Stock ingredients:

1 whole chicken (I usually get a 3 -4 lbs chicken)

1 yellow onion sliced in half

2 or 3 stalks of celery (I just break them in half and throw them in)

2 or 3 bay leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

Gumbo ingredients:

Trinity: (plus garlic)

1 medium bell pepper diced

1 medium onion diced

3 stalks of celery diced

2 or 3 cloves of garlic minced

1lb okra sliced  (I usually use frozen okra which comes pre-sliced. If you are using fresh okra slice it into ½ inch pieces

1lb sausage or andouille Cut into ½ inch pieces (I’m partial to the Conecuh brand of smoked sausage. It is a spicy smoked sausage. Use a sausage that has some spice to it. Not Italian sausage.)

1 can whole kernel corn drained

Roux ingredients:

1/2c AP flour (do not use self rising flour. A roux will not thicken with self rising flour.)

1/2c vegetable oil

Herbs und spices:

1t thyme

1t coriander

1 – 2t Cajun seasoning (I’m partial to Tony Chacheres’ brand Cajun seasoning)

Salt and pepper

Stock:

I do not use a specific amount of water. I have a large stock pot that I put enough water in to cover the chicken and seasonings. I boil the stock until the chicken is completely cooked. I think the pot holds about 8 quarts but I only fill it about 2/3s full.

Remove the chicken from the stock and allow to cool. De-bone and shred the chicken and set aside. Remove the onions, celery, and bay leaves from the stock.

Set stock to the side.

While the stock is cooking dice up all the seasonings.

Once the seasonings are diced stock is finished begin the roux.

Making the roux:

A roux is nothing more than fat and flour, but a roux for gumbo is something special. Purists believe a gumbo roux must be made in a cast iron skillet. I do not have a preference for cast iron versus a different pot/pan to create a roux.

Put flour and oil into your pan. Make sure the pan is dry. There shouldn’t be any water or condensation in the pan. Turn the burner to medium/low heat. Start combining the flour and oil.

You cannot ignore a roux. You must stand over it and keep stirring it. The roux will begin to dark. Do not let it stick and do not let it burn. If it burns you must start over.

Keep stirring. It will continue to dark. The rule of thumb is the roux must reach the color of a new penny. That is the rule my grandmother told me. Many people do darken the roux a bit more. That is totally acceptable, but be careful not to burn it.

Once the roux has reached the ideal color add the onion, bell pepper and celery. Let those cook down a bit. Keep stirring. Do not add the garlic yet. It could burn and you don’t want that burnt garlic flavor.

In Cajun/creole cooking, the trinity (onion, bell pepper, celery) is treated as seasoning. They are cooked down to nothing pretty much. You should not see chunks of trinity in the finished product.

I cook my roux in my large “gumbo pot” so I can combine everything into one pot and not have to transfer ingredients much or dirty too many dishes.

When the seasonings begin to break down add the garlic.

Begin adding in the chicken stock.  This will cause it to produce lots of steam so be careful. It will be very hot.

Keep stirring and adding stock so it will not clump up. Once all the stock has been added into the roux add in the chicken and sausage.

Add the herbs and spices

Allow the gumbo to come to a boil then turn down to low heat.

Add the can of corn (drained)

Add okra. The okra acts as a thickener. It should be added toward the end or else it will completely fall apart and the gumbo will look less than desirable. Trust me on that.

(When it is done you may want to skim some of the oil off of the top.  You really need the oil for the roux but at the end it may be necessary to remove as much of the oil that has collected on the top as possible.)

Serve over rice.

Some people add gumbo file into each serving of gumbo has been served. Feel free to do so. Do not add the file to the pot of gumbo.

*I think a gumbo can easily be made vegan. A veggie stock can replace the chicken stock. Quorn chicken cutlets can be diced and brown in a pan before adding to the gumbo. There are also good vegan sausage replacements. Brown those as well and remove from pan. Add the vegan chicken and sausage toward the end so it will not totally break down during the cooking process.

Also there are some wonderful recipes online of Green Gumbo (gumbo z’herbes) which incorporates collard greens, turnip greens, kale etc.

Caro Emerald

Y’all I’m not getting anything done today. I was piddling around on the intarwebs as one does when one should be finishing a solo trombone work.

I came across the singer Caro Emerald as I was searching for something else. I enjoy her voice. I’ve now downloaded both of her albums and am listening now. She’s my latest singer crush. She hasn’t totally replaced my current/previous singer crushes of Janelle Monae and Imelda May but she’s fantastic.

She has a great band backing her up. (A great baritone saxophonist which is always a plus.) Her voice is reminiscent of jazz singers of the 40s and 50s.

Give her a chance. Take a listen to her song Tangled Up.

My Earle Brown Story

In the summer of 1999 I was finishing up planning the material for my senior recital in the spring of 2000. I was flipping through Jean-Marie Londiex’s 150 Years of Saxophone which is a catalogue of the vast majority of music for saxophone.

The book has a listing for a saxophone sonata by Earle Brown. I got excited. I was really getting into modern music at the time and my idea of modern music was very narrow and didn’t really include any music of the previous 20 years. Cage, Brown, and Boulez (not even late Boulez, pre-Sur Incise stuff) were my idea of modern music. I had no clue about later and crazier stuff. No clue at all.

So I began making lots of calls trying to track down a score for this alleged Earle Brown Sax Sonata.

After three weeks, I ended up leaving a message with a guy at a music store in (I think) Tampa. I don’t remember how this guy became the one on my list of people to call but he did.

A week later he returned my message and gave me a phone number to call Earle Brown.

So I mustered up the courage to call Earle Brown, but didn’t have enough damned sense to think of what I’d say if he answered.

A man answered the phone.

I told him who I was and the reason for my call. He confirmed that he was in fact Earle Brown.

I froze.

I couldn’t figure out what to say. I suddenly became star struck over the phone.

Here’s what I was finally able to blurt out:  “THE EARLE BROWN?! The composer Earle brown?! The really cool Earle Brown that hung out with John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Robert Rauschenberg?!”

I really did blurt it out. More like half-yelled, half-I don’t know what, but suddenly I realized I just accosted an old man over the phone.

I was such a dumbass.

He began laughing.  Pretty much laughing his ass off.  “Yes, thats me.” He said.

It still took me a moment to calm down.  He was familiar with the Londiex “150 Years” book.

He told me that there were two composers with his name. Earle Brown and Earl Browne. Earl Browne (not the cool one) had written a sax sonata.  He told me Earl Brown was a “Hollywood composer”.

We talked for about 10 minutes and he was really kind and very patient with me.

He talked about how he had tried to write a sax quartet in the sixties or seventies and it didn’t work out.

That’s my Earle Brown story.

I was incredibly naïve. He got a great laugh out of it and I got a great story.

Now his music has become such an influence on my own work. At that time I’d yet to begin composing.

Try and try again.

About 4 years ago i started a couple pieces. One for piano and another for flute and saxophone which i’m still fiddling around with. At the time, I was working a couple different jobs. Outside of one job I walked past a wall of wisteria and another job seemed to exist inside an area encased in the aroma of honeysuckle. My two favorite thHoneysuckle motiveings about spring are honeysuckle and wisteria. I find the smell of those flowers completely intoxicating. Which is kind of funny because i’m allergic to every other grass, tree, and plant that grows here in Mississippi. Damn plants and their pollen.

The flute and saxophone was named Wisteria Blooms and the piano work was Honeysuckle Variations. Perhaps I was listening to too much Takemitsu and was in a pastoral mood. (There’s no such thing as too much Takemitsu.)

I finished the piano work. At least at the time I felt i had finished the piano work. It was a set of variations. The Honeysuckle Variations. I remember the night that i wrote it i felt it was some of the prettiest music I ever composed. And a week later I felt some parts of it were the most beautiful thing I’ve ever composed. A few months later I really loved a few of the variations.
I decided it needed something. That the piece felt incomplete.

So I added a string quartet because I love piano quintets and have always wanted to write one. The Quintet for piano and strings by Elliott Carter and Akea by Xenakis are to of my favorite works of all time.
I added the strings and worked out some things and felt the piece was complete. (This was about 2 1/2 years ago.)
A few months ago, I started looking at the versions I had of the piece. Also in between those two versions I tried working out some of the ideas for two pianos with no luck. The material didn’t seem to shine in those earlier versions. They still needed something.

[Side note: I only feel like I’ve figured out how to properly develop musical material last year. It was while I was composing Constructions for saxophone quartet that it seemed to click. Hopefully it continues to “click” and I can keep making piles of stuff out of the material at hand.]

So nowHoneysuckle Nocturne pic I’ve started on the latest version of the piece. It is for piano and twelve winds (fl,ob, bsn, cl, Bcl, asx, bsx, 2tpts, hn, tbn, tuba). I’ve been able to elaborate on some of the ideas and realize others in new voices which changes the character. The piece seems to be flexing its muscles. growing wings, or whatever metaphor is most appropriate for such occasions. I have about 2’30″ composed. The beginning and ending sections. I have a clear path in my head about the inner sections which i do not always have when composing. The title is no longer Honeysuckle Variations since the material is blending together  and expanding and the formal structure has changed. Honeysuckle Nocturne for piano and twelve winds is the current title.

This ensemble is the largest group I’ve ever composed for. I’m composing this work for the desire i have to see this musical material stretched to its limits.

I hope it turns out well. I’ve never had a piece go through this many interpretations. I want to finish the work by the holidays and hopefully I didn’t jinx it by talking about it.

30 seconds of music

Over a decade ago, I began a work for alto saxophone and cello which never totally came to fruition. One small movement was completed. It was only 30 seconds of music. I’ve always had a soft spot for this small piece, so I finally made a PDF file of the work and now I’m offering the work to whoever wants it.

If you are interested in the piece feel free to download the score from the link provided below.

 Download Allegro Scorrevole for alto saxophone and cello

Open Piece No. 5 for organ

Open Piece No. 5 for organ

My latest work is part of my ongoing series of Open Pieces. Carson Cooman is performing on this recording. He is a wonderful, sensitive musician. This work was composed for the very talented organist and composer Carson Cooman. Please take a moment to listen to his fine performance. 

Open means the pieces have an indeterminate duration and can be performed by any group or instruments. 

If you want to learn more about Carson please go over to his website: carsoncooman.com

Jambalaya

Jambalaya

 

1lb sausage* (I prefer Conecuh Brand sausage. It has a good bit of spice to it.)

1lb boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs*

2c white long grain rice

 

Trinity

1 medium onion

1 medium bell pepper

3 stalks celery

3 or 4 cloves of garlic

Spices

1tsp thyme

½tsp coriander

2 bay leaves

1tsp Tony Chachere’s Cajun seasoning or whatever Cajun seasoning you prefer

Salt and pepper to taste

 

 

Cut chicken into small cubes and sausage into short segments. Dice onion, bell pepper, celery into small pieces. Mince the garlic (please don’t use the nasty jarred garlic). Veggies should be diced into small pieces so that they cook down in the pan. Onion, bell pepper and celery are referred to as The Trinity. Garlic is pretty much considered part of the The Trinity as well.

Put olive oil in pot and put on medium heat. Put sausage and chicken in and cook until browned. Stir regularly. Make sure the meats are well browned before adding veggies.  Add veggies. Keep stirring. Add spices. Veggies should cook down for a while. The final product should not have large chunks of veggies. Trinity is viewed as a ‘seasoning’ so it should be cooked until it breaks down into smaller bits.  This will take a while. Trust me it’s worth it. If you rush this, you may end up with a dish you enjoy but the depth of flavors may not be there.

Rinse the rice well. Rinse until the water becomes clear. Drain well.

Add rice to the pot and stir well.

Add 3 ¾ cups water. (Play around with this. There are usually already liquid from the veggies so adding the normal 2:1 ratio of water:rice can be excessive)

Stir to make sure the ingredients are covered by the water. You don’t want any clumps of rice lingering above the water line.

Bring to a boil. Cover and turn down to a simmer.

DO NOT STIR IT AFTER THIS POINT OR YOU WILL END UP WITH UNDERCOOKED RICE!

This part doesn’t take that long. The rice will absorb the water. Check it after about 8 or 9 minutes. Nobody likes overcooked rice.

 

*You can make a vegetarian version. Quorn makes wonderful faux chicken breasts that can be used in place of chicken. Also there are faux sausages. Pick one that has a bit of spice to it.

When I’ve cooked veggie sausage in the past it can fall apart if it is cooked in a dish (especially if it’s in a liquid: soup, beans etc), so brown it and remove it from the pan then place it in the pot when you bring it to a simmer.  You could also try browning mushrooms and adding those back in later.

Conecuh Sausage is a brand of sausage from Alabama primarily sold in the South, but I just checked out their website and it is now available in the Midwest.