When the weather turns colder and the trees turn bare, there is nothing better than a warm meal to chase away the chill. If you want to see a smile on my face give me a delicious hot cup of soup after a day of raking leaves, or any other outdoor activity for that matter, the hotter the soup the better. Some may say a mug of hot chocolate or tea is the ticket to chase away the chill, but for me a mug full of hot, salty goodness is a game changer. From the first sip to the last gulp, drinking in a flavorful helping of soup transports me back under a blanket on the couch at my mom’s house. In today’s new normal I long for those simple moments sitting on my family’s couch watching TV with my mom. She never cared what was on, she just liked having the people she loved around. I can remember as a newly wed going over to her house weekly to watch the Sopranos, and of course to do laundry with my new bride, Kristin. I don’t think she even really enjoyed the Sopranos, which was even more obvious when she fell asleep during the show on more than one occasion, but she was always very happy to see us, and there was always a delicious meal waiting for us when we arrived. In the colder months, that often meant mom’s chicken noodle soup. She would cook for the better part of an afternoon getting ready for us. Starting with slowly simmering multiple chickens to make stock, she would start from scratch. When I was younger I was always amazed when she didn’t use those chickens for the soup. She would always use them for something else like chicken salad that she would add seasoning to, but in her words “all the flavor was in the broth”. She would roast two more chickens to add to that delicious broth along with healthy portions of celery, and onions. My mothers version of this traditional meal was always more noodles than broth. On numerous occasions you could stand a spoon up in the pot there were so many noodles. I have never been able to do my moms chicken noodle justice. I just can’t get that noodle to broth ratio quite right.
The Maryland Vergis crew has replaced Chicken noodle with Gumbo. I don’t remember when, or how it happened, but the go to “soup” in my house now has shrimp, chicken, and kielbasa in it. There are still healthy portions of celery, and onion, but the broth now includes cayenne pepper, and tabasco. Mind you, never too much heat, but just enough to remind you what you are eating. I must admit that I don’t make my own stock, and to be even more honest, I buy already cooked rotisserie chickens for my gumbo. It is still a full afternoon of prep, and cooking, but not quite as long as my mom took on her soup. When I make Gumbo I make a lot of Gumbo. I always make at least two dinners, and multiple lunches worth for my family, and usually a few other folks.
2 Rotisserie chickens pulled and chopped
3 lbs peeled and deviened shrimp
2 kielbasas sliced
4 green peppers chopped
2 medium onions chopped
4 chopped garlic cloves fine chopped
6 celery stalks chopped
4 32oz containers of chicken stock (low salt)
2 28oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp file powder
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup flour
Tabasco to taste
In a large pot add onions, celery, and peppers to heated vegetable oil, and cook until tender continuously stir approximately 5 minutes. Add garlic and continue stirring for 5 more minutes.
Add salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, file powder, and thyme to vegetable mix. Be sure to mix spices in well.
Add chicken stock, tabasco, kielbasa, chicken, and crushed tomato’s, and simmer for 20 minutes until hot.
Add cleaned shrimp, and stir until shrimp are fully cooked.
In a small sauté pan over medium heat add flour and continuously stir until flour turns light brown, and gives off a nutty aroma.
Add browned flour to Gumbo utilizing a sifter to avoid any lumps ending up in the Gumbo. Stir until Gumbo thickens
Serve over rice.