Saturday, April 09, 2011

Enhancing the flavor of packaged gumbo mix

While I focus on scratch cooking at work, one or two flavor combinations elude me. The chicken and sausage gumbo, which I menu once in four weeks, is one such dish. Instead of taking the time to prepare a dark Cajun roux, I rely on a packaged gumbo mix.

To prepare the spicy stew, one that most residents enjoy, I combine the contents of two (5-ounce) packages of Louisiana Cajun Gumbo Mix with 4 quarts cold water in a large stockpot. Following the instruction on the package, I bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

Four pounds of diced chicken bread and 2 pounds of sliced Polish sausage provide the protein component of the dish. For the first year on the job I served the gumbo as is -- chicken, sausage and gravy. Since the residents enjoyed the stew, I was pleased with the results.

Two months ago I garnished the finished dish with sauteed vegetables. I hadn't done any research to determine the appropriate vegetables to use. I figured a mixture of celery and green and red and green sweet peppers would work. (Though ubiquitous, I avoid onions because a couple residents suffer from an allergic reaction.)

To prepare, I quickly sauteed 5 celery ribs, cut on the bias, 1 red and 2 green sweet peppers, cut into strips, and added them to the gumbo just before serving. I didn't want the vegetables to stew in the gumbo, but to present them in full color and crisp.

I received several compliments for the garnish. Although one or two residents always turn their collective noses at anything vegetable, I've added the garnish to my recipe for the gumbo. My next move will be to practice making the roux and create a scratch-made gumbo.

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