Friday, March 19, 2004

My old Louisiana home...

An article about a planned Tabasco museum has stirred up a flurry of Louisiana memories in my heart and soul.

I spent four years of my life in Shreveport, Louisiana. My high school years; really, some of the happiest, most pleasant and carefree years of my life. I was sad recently to learn that my neighborhood, which was lovely back in the Brady-Bunch-era 70's, has deteriorated, and that my beloved alma mater, Woodlawn High School, might actually have to close. That school, the wonderful teachers, the awesome pep rallies and exciting football games, were the scene of a lot of happy memories for me.

But back to Tabasco. From my earliest memories, there has been a bottle of Tabasco or the very similar Louisiana Hot Sauce on the table at my home. That's because my dad has always needed a bottle handy to add to whatever he happened to be eating, from breakfast to soup or sandwiches or casseroles...well, just about anything! My dad was born in Louisiana, and fittingly, he's always been called "Pepper"...although that's a whole 'nother story, that has nothing to do with hot sauce.

I've always been able to withstand fairly hot and spicy foods, myself...a trait I apparently inherited from my father, along with many other traits. Some of my favorite food memories (do other people have cherished food memories, or is it just me?!?) revolve around incredibly delicious jambalaya, gumbo and other Cajun dishes our family used to enjoy while living in Louisiana, and before that, nearby East Texas.

I remember once when I was in high school, we went to visit my Aunt Billie, who lived in New Orleans. She and her husband took us out to eat at a restaurant in a place that, if I remember rightly, was called "Bayou Gauche." The restaurant started with an "R"--"Ravenna'" or something like that. I remember, the restaurant didn't look like much, but there were newspaper articles from food critics on the walls, singing its praises to the skies. For good reason. I had the best chicken gumbo there that I've ever had in my life, and may ever have again. Amazing.

I miss Lousiana. I would love to visit there again someday. And as always, any talk of New Orleans, Louisiana, or Tabasco, makes me think of my friend Don Elbourne. Don, who designed my website and taught me what little I know about HTML, lives in New Orleans, pastors Lakeshore Baptist Church in nearby Mississippi, is on the verge of getting his doctorate from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and is rumored to be a Cajun chef "par excellence."

Below is Don's recipe for Chicken and Andouille Gumbo, which I actually made (with fear and trembling, because I had never made a "roux" before) and it turned out incredibly delicious! As Don would say, "Bon appetit!"

Don Elbourne's Chicken & Andouille Gumbo

1 Chicken
2 lbs. Andouille Sausage
4 Onions
2 Green Bell Peppers
7 Stalks Celery
1/4 cup minced garlic
2 10 oz cans of Rotel Diced tomatoes and Green Chilies
2 13 oz cans of sliced mushrooms
4 lbs. cut Okra
1 bunch of Green Onions
2 cups vegetable oil
2 cups flour
4 Tablespoons Tabasco Sauce
Creole Seasonings (I use Zatarain's)

Boil chicken with Creole seasonings. De-bone the chicken and set aside the meat and the chicken stock.

The Roux: In a 12 quart pot, heat the vegetable oil over a medium heat and stir in the flour. Stir with flat wooden spoon continually for about 30 minutes, never allowing the roux to sit for longer than a few seconds at a time. Cook until dark brown, but not black! If black specks begin to appear, discard and start over.

Add the chopped onions, bell peppers, celery and garlic to the roux. Stir, allowing the roux to adhere to the vegetables. Allow the roux and the vegetables to get to know each other for a few minutes as you stir. Stir in the rotel tomatoes and the mushrooms. Allow the vegetables to cook down a bit. Add the chicken stock and bring to a low boil. Add the chicken, sausage, okra, hot sauce and about 1/8 cup Creole seasonings. Let simmer at a low rolling boil for about 2 hours. Add water as needed. About 20 minutes before serving add another 2 lbs of cut okra and finely chopped green onions.

Serve in deep bowls over steamed white rice. serve with potato salad.

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