Previous month:
September 2012
Next month:
November 2012

October 2012

Very Scary Times

Hurricane Sandy just put us through a scary few days. We spent Tuesday night with gusts of wind rattling the windows and the sounds of sirens echoing in the darkness. Twitter was ablaze with devastating pictures and nerve-rattling rumors--at one point the New York Stock Exchange was reportedly under three feet of water. That turned out to be a falsehood, but much of the city was flooded terribly. Large numbers of people are still without power and all of the city is without its mass-transit lifeblood. But thanks to the hard work of the police and fire departments, and the good management of the mayor's office and the dedication of the city's employees, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. And it is almost Halloween. Pinta wanted the mouth wanted the mouth of the Jack O' Lantern to say "Boo!" Like everyone over the past few days, I did the best I could. And here is something sweet, if that's what you need now.

Quick and Easy Pumpkin Custard Dessert

  • one 15 oz. can pumpkin
  • 2/3 cup 1% milk (or whole or skim)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • 1/4 t ginger
  • 1/4 t cloves
  • 1/4 t salt
  • ¼ cup sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a 9-inch pie or tart dish. Or use individual ramekins. This will probably make about twelve, three-inch ramekins.

Bake approximately 30 minutes in oven at 350 degrees.  Let cool 10-15 minutes. Garnish with whipped cream.


Strange Days Indeed: An Oatmeal Cookie Recipe from Back in the Day and Man with A Pan in Chinese

Hurricane Sandy is bearing down on New York City, and no matter what the storm ends up doing, it has already started to disrupt life here. The transit authority has announced that it will be shutting down subway service this evening as a precaution. The city without a subway is impossible to imagine, kind of like cornflakes without the milk, as Oran “Juice” Jones put it back in 1986 with his one hit, “The Rain.”

The rain is coming, and so is a storm surge, and probably some wind, so much of today has been spent scrambling to get ready. I’ve been hunting high and low for my battery-powered AM radio, dealing with colleagues about work that needs to be done tomorrow, and generally not doing much cooking at all (except for making a pot of stock—seems prudent, no?).

Having to deal with two hurricanes in two years isn’t the only strange thing to happen around here. I just learned that “Man with a Pan” is being published in China! That’s a copy of the cover above.

And in honor of Hurricane Sandy, here’s the Oatmeal Cookie recipe I posted last year, when Hurricane Irene was on its way. 

Hurricane Watch Oatmeal Cookies

  • 1 c. good butter, softened (not melted)
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1 c. flour
  • ¾ t baking soda
  • ½ t salt
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ t vanilla
  • 2 c. rolled oats

Cream butter and sugar; add egg and vanilla;  mix or sift together flour, cinnamon, soda, salt; stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Then add the oats. Bake about 10 minutes in a 350 degree pre-heated oven.

Makes at least 4 dozen – enough for you and the neighbors and even enough to freeze a log for a future playdate.

Discovering Arsenic in my Rice

For me, discovering new things is one the best aspects of home cooking. There’s always a new recipe, a new ingredient, a new wine to be had (there's a reason why I christened my kids and wife Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria for this blog), but there are also times when a new discovery is most unwanted, and it recently came to my attention that much of the rice grown in this country is full of arsenic.

How much arsenic, I can’t really tell. Arsenic is typically measured in “parts per billion,” and I’m about comfortable with big numbers as a young voter might be contemplating all the zeros in the Federal deficit figure (I think it’s six zeros, as the Treasury Department calculates the debt in “millions of dollars”: the latest figure is, therefore, $16,066,241,000,000, for those keeping score). One thing I do know—that arsenic is bad for you, and bad for your kids.

(Consumer Reports and the FDA, who have analyzed and revealed this issue, have the exact numbers, for the rest of you keeping score.) Rice, unfortunately, is a major staple of our diet. The only thing I can do—besides trying to quantify the risk of eating it by breaking out my calculator and consulting the EPA—is to cut back on it. 

I don’t think we can eliminate rice entirely, and there are some nuances that effect exposure: brown rice has more than white (because the husk, which was previously considered so healthy, is where the plant holds much of it), and rinsing the rice before cooking it can cut down on the amount of arsenic ingested. Those links above, to the Consumer Reports article, contain specific recommendations.

The other thing I can do to decrease my risk is to diversify my grains. So I’ve started to eat more quinoa. A few weeks ago, back when I made the amazing Crispy Chorizo, Brussels Sprout and Quinoa salad, I cooked a big old pot of the mother grain. I thought I might turn the leftover grains into a breakfast cereal, but I never got around to it. Instead, I started eating the quinoa with my chili, and more recently, with my Green Olive Beef Tagine. The quinoa kept for a long while in the fridge, after it was cooked, and it tasted just fine beneath those flavorful dishes.

What kind of other grains do you incorporate in your diet? I have the feeling I need to discover some new ones. 

Green Olive Beef Tagine

  • 1 1/2 lbs braising beef
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne (or less; to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  •  4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  •  4 shallots (or more), quartered
  • 1 large potato cut into small cubes
  • 2 large carrots, cut into small cubes
  • 1 28oz. can peeled plum tomatoes, chopped, liquid reserved
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives, sliced in half

Trim the beef and cut into 1-inch pieces. Mix together the five spices with the garlic, two tablespoons of olive oil and the tomato puree. Turn the beef in this mixture and leave, covered, in the refrigerator overnight (or longer).

Heat the remaining oil in the tagine base. Fry the shallots, potatoes and carrots until they begin to colour, lift out.

Fry the marinated beef until sealed on all sides. Return the vegetables with the chopped tomatoes any remaining marinade, the parsley and a little salt.

Cover and cook over a low heat for 3-4 hours, or until the beef is tender.

Stir the olives into the dish and allow 15 minutes to heat through.

Serve with couscous (or quinoa!)

Note: The recipe can be doubled, and that is what I have been doing lately—making big batches of chili or stew on the weekend and getting multiple lunches and dinners out of them all week. I doubled using a Dutch Oven and poured all the tomato juice (from the two cans) into that pot. 

Coq au Vin Recipe in the House

One of Nina’s first favorite dishes was Coq au Vin, the French, chicken-in-wine, one-pot wonder, that’s full of mushrooms and rich flavor. Some of her first words, I am often reminding her, were “Quak o Van," which was her way of rendering “Coq au Vin,” but, as she is often reminding me, she has changed. She does not like mushrooms now (though what was recently a near-phobia has dropped to mere dislike, thankfully).

I bring this up because I made Coq au Vin on Saturday, and when I was looking through this blog for the recipe, I realized that despite often mentioning the dish and its family lore, I have not posted the recipe.

Before starting the dish, I knew that Nina and Pinta would spurn it, so I broke down and made them fresh flounder. I’m usually opposed to doing the whole short-order cook, make-a-million-meals-to-keep-everyone-happy thing, but in this case I caved. Call me weak if you will, but I just wanted everyone to be happy. I know I was happy with my Coq au Vin—it is one of my favorite dishes (there’s a reason Nina’s first words included its name).

Coq au Vin

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 chicken, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup or so of flour, for dredging
  • Olive or other vegetable oil
  • 1 strip of bacon, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot diced
  • 1 small stalk celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • ½ to ¾ cup of cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, or a good shake of dried
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ cup minced parsley

In a small sauce pot, bring to a boil enough red wine to cover the porcinis. Once the wine is boiling, drop the dried mushrooms in the pot, cover, and turn the heat off. Allow to soak while performing the next steps, and/or at least 20 minutes.

In a good-sized Dutch Oven, heat on medium some of the olive oil.

Dredge the pieces of chicken in flour, seasoned with salt and pepper, and then brown them in the pot, working in batches if necessary.

Once the chicken is browned, remove it from the pot and set aside.

Drain any excess oil and then sauté the bacon, onion, carrot, and celery.

Once those are soft (after about ten minutes, at least), add the garlic and cook about two minutes more.

Add the cremini mushrooms, and cook until brown and/or soft.

Drain the porcinis, reserving the liquid, chop them a bit, and add them to the pot.

Strain the porcini liquid through a couple of layers of cheese cloth and add it to the pot.

Add the chicken, the wine, and herbs; cover and bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Keep on the heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes more.

Serve over couscous, garnished with more chopped parsley.

How to Stretch a Meal

Just the other day, I overheard a friend at work talking on the phone to his out-of-town spouse. He was complaining that his teenage daughter had brought a last-minute friend to dinner the night before, and there wasn’t enough food for everyone to eat. His story made me wish I had put this post up sooner. I know he follows this blog and he might have benefited from a similar experience I just had.

Recently, Santa Maria invited the daughter of an old friend over for dinner. The daughter was fresh out of college and was visiting New York. After a bit of back and forth, she was set to come to dinner one Saturday night. We invited two other friends and their elementary-school-age son over too, to make a bit of a party out of the evening. An hour or so before the dinner, Santa Maria got a text from the out-of-town daughter: she wanted to know if she could bring three friends.

Santa Maria, one of the softest-hearted people this side of the Rio Grande (she married me, after all) told her “yes,” and said to me, “what can you say in a situation like that?” In the interest of marital harmony, I kept my response to myself.

And just like that, I needed to stretch the dinner I had made, but I wasn’t concerned. A few years ago, something like this would have caused a spike in my blood pressure and have stressed me out, but I've learned a lot since then.The biggest thing I've learned is to stop fighting reality. Plus, I had a few tricks up my sleeve. I was serving corn on the cob, and though I had counted out enough ears for the original group, by breaking each one in half I instantly doubled the amount of corn I could offer.

I took some black beans out of the freezer (the three additional guests, I had been told were vegetarians, though what showed up was two extra meat-eaters and a libertarian) and I carefully arranged the other things I was serving: Chicken Tikka Masala, Kale Salad, and Dahl.

I arranged everything on a counter in the kitchen, for people to serve themselves. I was a bit short on the chicken (times being what they are, especially in publishing, of course), so I put that dish at the end of the line. If people started with the kale salad, then moved on to the rice and beans and dahl, and put an ear (or half an ear as the case might have been) of corn on their plate, they wouldn’t really have any room for the chicken. It worked brilliantly. Everyone was forced to go back for seconds, and the slower people eat, the more full they feel. If I had been really pressed for food, I could also have boiled a couple of eggs and served those, too. That trick worked well this summer.

In the end, I didn’t mind at all that so many people showed up. In fact, I reveled in it. It’s not often that I get to eat with some bright young people with such wide political leanings. I was honored to feed them. As always, youth must be served.

Chicken Tikka Masala


  • 8 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • One 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup water
  • one can (28 oz) peeled tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • a touch of cayene pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 to 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs (or breasts) cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro (optional)

        In a blender, puree the garlic and the ginger with the water until smooth.

        Heat the oil in a thick-bottomed pot and cook the minced onions over high heat until softened and golden.

        Add the garlic and ginger puree and cook stirring until golden and fragrant, about two minutes.

        Pour the can of tomatoes into the blender, and puree.

        Add the remaining oil and the spices, cook stirring constantly until lightly toasted, about one minute.

        Add the tomatoes and cook until thickened, about ten minutes.

        Add the chicken and season with salt. Reduce the heat and cook through. Add the cilantro. Serve over rice.

New Cookbook: Small Plates & Sweet Treats: My Family's Journey to Gluten-Free Cooking

As Santa Maria mentioned recently, we had friends over for brunch this weekend, and I made a new salad. The salad was a big hit, and I wanted to share the recipe with you. But first, a bit about where the recipe comes from: “Small Plates & Sweet Treats: My Family's Journey to Gluten-Free Cooking” a great new cookbook coming out at the end of the month.

The book is a collection of gluten-free recipes, but I have to say that flavor, more than anything else, seems to be its driving force. Written (and lovingly photographed) by Aran Goyoaga, of the blog Cannelle et Vanille, the book is a rare combination of the practical and the aspirational. I can tell from reading it (and from having met Aran) that she cooks for her family on a regular basis. Unlike some other folks who I know who cook for their families and blog about it (ahem, I mean me), she’s actually qualified. She’s a culinary school graduate, and she comes from an old-world family (she grew up in Spanish Basque country, and when she was a child her grandparents raised their own pigs to make their own chorizo.) I mean, she is serious about good taste.

And—here’s where the book gets aspirational—she an amazing photographer. Unlike other bloggers who can’t do better than to muster a quick snapshot (ahem, me again), she’s a professional. I met Aran on my recent trip to Alaska, and she was one of the many women on that trip who routinely carried more cameras than your average A.P. pool photographer—they turned every meal there into a Presidential press conference, snapping endless shots of salmon, crab, and oysters as if the fate of the free world depended upon it.

Her photos in this book will stop you in your tracks. Santa Maria, who loves Basque cuisine, and I recently spent a rare hour of leisure the other night just flipping through its pages. The book is organized by season, and it shows that a lot of time and effort went into its creation. She must have been photographing for years to come up with the captivating images in here.

I haven’t attempted any of the baked recipes, but based on her general approach, I’m confident that they will be great, too. If you make any, please let me know how they go. In the meantime, here is the recipe for the salad, thanks to Aran.

Warm Roasted Brussels Sprout, Black Quinoa, Pear, and Crispy Chorizo Salad

  • ½ cup black quinoa, rinsed
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed and halved
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 ounces dry Spanish chorizo, sliced into ¼ inch pieces
  • 2 Anjou or Bosc pears, cored and thinly sliced
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ cup arugla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Put quinoa in 1 cup of water with a ¼ teaspoon of salt, cover, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer; cook about twenty minutes, and/or until fluffy.

Toss the Brussels sprouts with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt. Spread them out on a baking sheet (or two, if necessary) and roast for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

In a small saucepan, heat a bit of the oil, add the sliced chorizo, and cook on a medium-high heat until the edges are crispy (I then took the sausage off the pan and drained on paper towel).

In a large bowl, toss the quinoa, roasted Brussels sprouts, chorizo, sliced pears, lemon juice, and arugula. Serve warm.

A few notes: I couldn’t find black quinoa, so I used red quinoa, and it was great. My oven was set at 375, becaues it's being balky again, but it didn't matter. Also, I sliced the chorizo in half lengthwise before cutting into ¼ inch slices, figuring that I wanted to spread the flavor around the salad. It was a good choice. And I ended up using baby Brussels sprouts because that is all that I could find. Another good choice. And, finally, I decided to dress it with more olive oil and lemon.

Also, I cooked a cup of quinoa so I would have some extra left over (more on that later) and I didn’t measure how much I used in the salad. I was actually making two versions for the party; one without the chorizo and one with, so I was winging it. The nice thing about a recipe like this is that it has such an inspired combination of ingredients that it is almost impossible to mess up. And it was a great party dish—easy to make ahead of time and good looking on the table. We ate it all up, obviously. 

Mouthwatering New Cookbook

I’ve had a rewarding but exhausting weekend (compounded somewhat by multiple margaritas at a dear friend’s fiftieth birthday party on Saturday night) and Santa Maria kindly volunteered to write the lastest post, about a little brunch we threw on Sunday, a great new cookbook, and a stellar salad. I hope you enjoy it.

Stay at Stove Dad recently met the lovely author of the forthcoming cookbook “Small Plates and Sweet Treats," the gluten-free chef par excellence Aran Goyoaga, and for our pleasure cooked one of her superb salads today:

 “Warm Roasted Brussels Sprout, Black Quinoa, Pear and Crispy Chorizo Salad.” 

The occasion for the salad: Over a year ago, friends invited us over for a brunch the morning after our move into the neighborhood, correctly surmising that we would be exhausted and have a bare larder.

In their honor, SASD created a brunch to appeal to both carnivorous and vegetarian palates:  scrambled eggs with fresh dill; fresh Brooklyn bagels and cream cheese; and Aran’s yummy salad. It may have taken a while for us to get around to hosting the brunch, but, perhaps, this salad made up for it.

What is so amazing about the salad:  it’s ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS (granted, I’ve spent many years addicted to his other quinoa salad preparations). It has a point/counterpoint marriage of sweet (pear) and salty (chorizo), crunchy (quinoa) and tender (roasted Brussels sprouts) and the slightly bitter vegetal surprise of arugula.  Plus, it’s high protein, gluten-free (if that is important to you), eye-catching, and incredibly nourishing. Quinoa, a staple of ancient Incas and modern Brooklynites alike, has the highest protein of any grain. It is known as the “Mother Grain.”

I’m going to check with my friend Aran about posting the recipe. In the meantime, I strongly suggest you order a copy of her book. It’s a remarkable cookbook, and I’ll have more to say about it shortly, I'm certain.

Salmon, A Bit More of the Story



I learned a great deal about salmon on my recent trip to Alaska. Some of what I learned about I thought that I knew before (isn't every school child taught that salmon are born in rivers, spend their lives in the ocean, and then return to the river to spawn and die?) but book knowledge is one thing, and seeing that process actually happen is another.

There is, for example, the smell. This is nominally a parenting blog, so I feel okay about the comparison I’m about to make. If you’re a bit squeamish, though, and are here just for the recipes, you might want to skip to the next paragraph. On our trip to Sitka, we took a walk along Indian River, which like all the rivers in Alaska during the summer, was full of spawning salmon. We strolled beside rushing waters, past moss-covered trees with roots the size of a Brooklyn brownstone building, and in the swift-moving water at our feet, the spawning and dying were continually taking place. Actually, where we were on the river, close to its mouth, there was less spawning and more dying (many of the fish don’t make it up the river), and the air was filled with a curiously familiar, but slightly unpleasant, smell. The aroma was exactly like that of a pee-filled diaper that has spent too much time in the living-room wastebasket. Ever have one of those days with an infant in the house when you forgot to empty the trash? That’s what the salmon rivers can smell like, as the fish carcasses decay, caught in the tree branches at the water’s edge.

This is not to take anything away from the majesty of the process. In fact, for me, the visceral scent drove home the profundity of the moment. Those salmon were literally dying from the inside out in their effort to reproduce. Watching them swim relentlessly, waving their tails back and forth as they fought the current, made me think that we humans have it somewhat easy (sleepless nights and emergency room visits aside).

It is, in fact, quite beautiful, as the New York Times photographer Seth Casteel demonstrated recently with his underwater shots of sockeye salmon in the Bristol Bay region. If you haven’t seen them yet, you must check them out (the shot at the top of this post is from the series).

After returning home, Casteel conducted an interview with the Times Magazine’s blog, and he remarked upon the difficulties and wonders of being in Alaska:

The biggest challenge of this assignment was to tell the story of this extraordinary journey of the salmon, and also live to tell about it. That sounds kind of dramatic! Alaska is the most amazing place I’ve ever seen, but it occurs to you out there how wild it really is, and the potential dangers lurk just meters away. Hiking through the rain in absolute wilderness with 60-pounds of gear, dangling off slippery cliffs of rock above a rushing 37 degree Russian River, discovering half-eaten salmon along the way, wondering, “Hmm, where exactly is this bear now?” But then the sun comes out, the river slows enough where you can get in safely and you think, “WOW, THIS is quite relaxing.”

Alaska is a magical place, quite unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been. I encourage you to go and visit. In the meantime, the next best thing to going there is to make frozen, sustainable, Alaskan salmon part of your regular repertoire. I’ve been doing so for a while, and I recently improved upon the salmon recipe I wrote about earlier this year. I added scallions, and dropped the egg. It was a simple change that freshened everything up, and made a quick weeknight dinner into something slightly more engaging.

Quick Salmon Broccoli Stir Fry

  • 1 cup or more of cooked rice (this is a quick recipe if you’ve made the rice ahead of time; feel free to use frozen cooked rice)
  • ½ a head or so of fresh broccoli, cut into florets and steamed but still crunchy
  • 1 lb salmon fillet, cooked—which means undercooked—in a frying pan, and broken into pieces
  • 3-4 scallions, sliced into rounds
  • 1-2 inches of fresh ginger, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 chili pepper (optional)
  • 1 dash of soy sauce, to taste

In a large frying pan, sauté the scallions, garlic, ginger, and pepper in a bit of canola oil.

Add the rice, the salmon, the broccoli, and soy sauce, and serve.

For about Alaskan salmon, the environmental threats facing them, and what it’s like to fish those rivers, take a look at my friend Paul Greenberg’s entries on Mark Bittman’s blog, from this summer, “Chasing the Sockeye Salmon Migration” and here.

Smoky Chili Recipe

I didn’t spend much time in the kitchen before Santa Maria and I had children, but I did like to cook from time to time. It was an era of seductive dishes—sautéed soft-shell crabs, flaming Provencal beef daubes, and Moroccan pigeon pastillas—that I have had little time for in recent years. As my children start to grow up, though, I getting my life organized a little better, and I’m starting to return to some of the dishes of our early married life.

One of them—an intensely mouthwatering and faintly smoky three-bean-and-beef chili—happens to be somewhat well suited to life with children. I was willing to bet that they would eat it, given that it has many similar components to what my girls like to eat already—ground beef and tomatoes, for example, are akin to their beloved Bolognese and the black beans speak for themselves.

The other reason that it’s well suited for life with children, is that it can be made in large batches. The pot I cooked up last Sunday lasted us almost all week, if various lunches and last minute dinners were to be included. I love any dish that can do so much work around the house.

But let me get back to the flavor. This chili is a little different than most chilis that I’ve had before, because I make it with Spanish paprika that has a rich smoky flavor. The paprika is the key ingredient, so don’t omit it. I used a dulce Spanish paprika, because I didn’t want the chili to be too hot. If you want it spicy, try a picante one (The Kitchn has a good explanation of various paprikas), but whatever you do, make sure it’s a smoky one.

I made the dish on a Sunday, with the intention of serving it the following night. It was to be the first time that Nina and Pinta would be trying it. I was a bit anxious about how it would go, but I tried to remember one key thing about getting kids to eat new foods—they won’t starve if they don’t eat it.

I thought about talking up the dish’s similarities with the things they have had before, but I decided against it. Sometimes, you just have to let the dish speak for itself. I got the usual protestations, but they were surprisingly muted. I’d set the table with some toppings—a generous bowl of grated cheddar, some sliced scallions—and Nina put copious amounts of cheese on hers as she ate it. I thought she might be eating more cheese than chili, but that was fine by me. Pinta didn’t want to bother with it much at all, and let her eat rice and butter, and she was fine, too. As for me, I was able to savor the flavor, relax, and enjoy the meal.

Smoky Chili

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 strips of bacon, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • ½ cup dry white or red wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • One 28-ounce can peeled plum tomatoes, run through a blender or otherwise chopped
  • 16 ounces each of cooked black beans, garbanzo beans, and kidney beans (I made my own, but you can certainly used canned ones)
  • 1 tablespoons ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon thyme
  • 2 bay leaves

In a bit of olive oil, sauté the onion, bacon, carrot, and celery, until the onion is soft and the bacon fat rendered.

Add the garlic and sauté a moment more.

Add the beef and cook until brown, breaking it up with a wooden spoon (or a potato masher).

After the beef is browned, add the wine, and reduce.

Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, canned tomatoes, beans, and all the spices and herbs.

Bring to a boil and simmer as long as you feel like it. It doesn’t need much more cooking at this point.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with rice, garnished with grated cheddar cheese, sliced scallions, cream cheese, and/or any topping of your choice.

Here's a photo of the finished dish:


Stunned by Gumbo: The Follow-Up

As I mentioned earlier, I was stunned by the gumbo I made for Santa Maria’s party. So stunned, that I forgot to photograph the finished dish, which was not nearly as large a crime as the fact that I missed out on her sour-cream coffee cake that she made for the occasion; I forgot to take a bite at the start of the party, and then it was gone before I could seek it out, finished off by some (uninvited) teenagers, but that’s another story.

I’ve been longing to make a gumbo ever since I first visited New Orleans, many years ago. Everything I ate in that city, and I mean everything, was so delicious that I couldn’t believe it. Gumbo came up when I was interviewing fathers for my book, “Man with a Pan.” I was introduced to David Olivier, a native of NOLA, who shared his family’s recipe and methods. I say methods, because how you make the roux is a key part of its extravagant flavor—an unprecedented, at least in my kitchen, combination of earthy and vaguely Asian aromas filled the house as it cooked—and Olivier had a lot to say about making a roux, which is a combination of fat and flour:

How to best make a roux is an earnestly discussed topic. I find it's very easy as long as one obeys the key principal (emphatically and repeatedly proclaimed to me when I was a small child): Don't do anything else while you're making it. Just stand there, stirring the oil and flour over medium to medium-high heat for as long as it takes (typically 20-30 minutes) until it reaches the desired color. Again, the preferred color is a matter of some discussion. I like a darker roux, milk chocolate tending towards dark chocolate.

He also cautioned me about burning the roux—apparently, it can go from good to bad in a second—so I was a little nervous as I made the dish. His note about not doing anything else also weighed on my mind. I was making it the night before the party, and Santa Maria was out. The girls were asleep and I had the house to myself. Everything was perfect for making the roux, unless one of my daughters needed something, a glass of water or another kiss. As I stirred the flour and oil, I held my breath. Luck for me, they slept soundly, and I got that good and dark color and flavor that makes the dish so remarkable.

Because it was my first time making the recipe, I prepped all the ingredients before I started.


I cut up the chicken.

 I sliced the Andouille sausage.


I diced the garlic.


I chopped the onion.

I made sure the scallions were ready.

And prepped the parsley.


And so on and so on, until I was ready to go. I made the dish without incident that night, and even managed to cook and stir the roux for a good fifteen minutes, before I panicked and moved on. I certainly didn't want to burn it. The next morning I opened the oysters and added them to the dish. It was a huge hit, and I’ll be making it again soon. I hope Santa Maria makes the coffee cake, too. When she does, I’ll be sure to have some before it is all gone.

David Olivier’s Chicken Sausage and Oyster Gumbo

He says  “Chicken and sausage gumbo is a pretty standard dish. The addition of oysters is my own preference, undoubtedly influenced by the chicken and oyster gumbo my mother used to make. (Hers was very different in style from mine - and fairly atypical in general, very brothy, I don't think she used a roux at all - but I love the addition of oysters to the standard combination. It adds a lovely complexity. And oysters just generally make most things better.)

  • 2/3 c. vegetable oil [note: next time I would use ½ cup]
  • 3-4 lb. chicken, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 lb. (or a bit more) Andouille sausage, sliced into 1/2 in. discs [I had under a pound and it was still good]
  • 1 large onion, chopped [I used a red onion, because that’s what I had in the house]
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2-3 scallions, sliced thin
  • 2-3 Tbs. parsley, minced fine
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced fine 
  • 2 qts. chicken stock [I used homemade stock, and I think it made a huge difference]
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pt. shucked oysters
  • 2-3 cups cooked long-grain rice
  • 3 Tbs. filé powder (ground sassafras) [note: I couldn’t find this, and it wasn’t missed]

Heat the oil in a large pot over high heat. Add the chicken and brown. (Don't cook through.) Remove the chicken and set aside. Scrape up any remaining browned bits, then gradually add the flour to make the roux.

Stir the oil and flour over medium to medium-high heat for as long as it takes (typically 20-30 minutes) until it reaches the desired color. Again, the preferred color is a matter of some discussion. I like a darker roux, milk chocolate tending towards dark chocolate.

As soon as the roux is ready (if you dally, the roux will burn), add the sausage, onion, green pepper, scallion, parsley and garlic. Continue to cook over low heat for about ten more minutes, until the vegetables have softened and the onions have turned translucent. (You can see a photo of his gumbo at this stage on his blog.)

Add chicken stock, chicken pieces, cayenne, thyme, bay leaves, salt, and pepper and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 1 hour, until chicken is tender.

At this point, I like to let the gumbo cool, then refrigerate overnight, primarily because it improves the flavor but also because I typically make gumbo for dinner parties and, when entertaining, I like to do most of the cooking ahead of time so that when the guests arrive I have time for more important things—like mixing cocktails.

The next day, skim off any fat. Remove the chicken, strip the meat, tearing it into coarse chunks, and return it to the pot. Gradually heat the gumbo. Shortly before serving, add the oysters along with the oyster liquor. Continue to simmer just long enough to cook oysters through. Just before serving, add the filé powder.

Ladle gumbo into individual serving bowls. Add a generous spoonful of rice, and serve. (Provide Crystal, Louisiana, Tabasco, or other hot sauce at the table for individual doctoring.)

Note: For more food from his hometown, Olivier recommends a couple of local cookbooks: The New Orleans Cookbook by Rima and Richard Collin and New Orleans Food by Tom Fitzmorris. And to learn more about the gumbos he grew up with, check out this amazing interview with his aunt, which even has some nice photos of the finished dish: