Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Savory Ham Gumbo

Oh my gosh, where did summer go? Don't get me wrong, I am SO excited that it is fall, but I can't believe it's October already.  Silver lining: it's time to break out the dutch oven.  Although you can certainly use your dutch oven for all types of things in the summer, it's just something that says warm comfort food to me.

While recently organizing the contents of the freezer, I came face to face with a hunk of ham I had been ignoring since Easter.  I really dislike beans, so all of the traditional soups and stews that you make with ham were out of the question for me.  I had it in my head that I wanted to make gumbo with the ham, so I went on a hunt for recipe.

Surprisingly, using solely ham is not a common approach to making gumbo, but after trolling through lots of different recipes, I came up with an amalgam of my own that in the end was pretty darn tootin tasty, if I do say so myself.  The thing about gumbo is that it's more of an approach to cooking than it is a specific list of ingredients.  You make a roux (just fat and flour cooked together), you add veggies, meat, seasoning, and liquid, and let it all cook til it's thick. Boom. Done.

My hunk of ham included a ham bone, so I made ham stock before I made the gumbo to use in place of store bought stock.  If you don't have a ham bone, don't stress-- you can use a combo of chicken and beef stock and be a-okay.  If you have a ham bone, great-- you can save some money by making your stock! I've included the recipe for the stock below.

Also, for my creole seasoning, I made Essence of Emeril spice blend.  You probably have the ingredients in your pantry, and I'd encourage you to make your own batch.  Store bought blends tend to be mostly salt and aren't as good a value as making your own.  If you don't want to do that, though, you can find creole or Cajun spice blends at the grocery store instead.

This is a great recipe to make as the weather start to cool off and you want a warm bowl of something for dinner.  It also makes a ton, so you'll have plenty for the week ahead and to freeze off for a rainy (or snowy) day.

Savory Ham Gumbo

1 c flour
1 c vegetable oil
1 large/2 small onions
4 ribs celery
1 green pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 lb kielbasa
3 qts ham stock (or chicken/beef)
1 t salt
1 1/2 T creole seasoning
4 bay leaves
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T sugar
1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes
4 c cubed ham

In a large pot or dutch oven, add the oil over medium heat.  Gradually add the flour, stirring it in as you go. Cook the roux for about 20-30 minutes, stirring constantly.

It will go from a light tan color...

to a dark brown color like milk chocolate.  This is what you are aiming for.

While keeping a close eye on your roux, dice up your celery, pepper, and onion.  (Fun fact: this is known as the holy trinity in Cajun cuisine, and is a variation on the traditional French mirepoix of carrots, celery, and onion.)  Also mince up your garlic.

Once the roux has darkened, add the veggies and the let cook for a few minutes, then add the garlic.

Slice your kielbasa into 1/2 inch pieces and add those into the pot.  Remember to keep stirring what's already in the pot.

Next, trim the skin and fat off your ham if there is any, like so.

Dice the ham into bite size cubes, about 1/2 an inch. Add it to the pot.  Keep stirring!

Next, add in all the other stuff! This is your salt, creole seasoning, bay leaves, Worcestershire, sugar, and tomatoes.

If you made your stock ahead of time and had it in the fridge, scoop off the fat that congealed on top.  You don't need to get it all, but skim over the top with a spoon and get what you can.

Add the stock!

As you can see, my pot barely held it all! Cover, bring to a boil, and then remove the lid and reduce to a simmer.

Cook uncovered for an hour and a half, until the gumbo thickens.  Remember to taste it and season if needed.  Serve over rice and dig in!  The rice to gumbo ratio isn't scientific, but I like mine swimming.

Ham Stock
ham bone
2 smashed cloves garlic
pinch salt
1-2 bay leaves

Put the ingredients in a large soup pot and fill with water.  Cover, bring to boil, then reduce to simmer.  Cook for 5-6 hours, topping up water as needed.  Use immediately or store for another time.

Essence or Emeril Creole Seasoning
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Yields 2/3 cup.

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