“Barbecue may not be the road to world peace but it’s a start.”- Anthony Bourdain

Welcome back to a rather frosty Uncle Tom’s Corner. This March has certainly come in like a lion. As much as I enjoy the four very distinct seasons I’m already looking forward to the “going out like a lamb” part.

For starters and a reference to the supposed theme of this column, perhaps they should have had Korean barbecue on the menu last week in Viet Nam. World peace indeed. But enough of that.

Tuesday, March 5th, is Fat Tuesday…Mardi Gras. Whether or not your observance of the day involves throwing beads is for you to decide. More importantly, it’s a day of feasting before beginning the fast for Lent. And deciding what you’re going to deprive yourself of during Lent. I, an avid observer of Lent, am giving up skinny dipping (there are precious few occasions where I appear in the same sentence as “skinny”) in Sloan’s Lake or nude skiing in Breckenridge. I know you’re wondering if there is no end to my self-deprivation. Truly, I don’t know where the bottom is.

On the more serious note of feasting and Mardi Gras, the mere mention conjures up visions of Cajun and Creole food. I’d like to share a couple of “holiday-themed” recipes designed to tickle your taste buds and stimulate the salivary glands.

There are several basics of Cajun or Creole cooking:

  • Pepper sauce (Tabasco)
  • Okra
  • Mirepoix (8 oz. onion, 4 oz. carrot, 4 oz. celery, 2 oz. bell pepper) and I add garlic just because I like garlic
  • Andouille sausage
  • Various fish-shrimp, crawdads, catfish

Since this is supposed to be about barbecue I’ll start with a Cajun barbecue sauce. I’ve only tried it on pork chops but I think it might work just fine on chicken as well.

Cajun barbecue sauce

1 tsp finely ground sea salt

½ tsp pepper

1 Tbsp paprika

4 Tbsp dark brown sugar

1 med. onion-minced

1 cup tomato sauce

¼ cup butter

½ cup boiling water

2 dashes Worcestershire sauce

4 splashes of Tabasco sauce (or more to taste)

Combine ingredients, heat to boiling, simmer for 2 hours. Slather half on the meat about 10 prior to removing from the grill. Give it another coating just before removing from the grill. Let the meat rest a few minutes before serving.

Gumbo A staple of Cajun cuisine is gumbo. Here’s a recipe for chicken, shrimp (or crawdad) and andouille sausage gumbo.

½ lb. chicken thigh meat (bone removed)

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp black pepper (or more to taste)

1 qts. chicken broth

1 ham hock

½ cup all-purpose flour

5 ½ Tbsp vegetable or canola oil

1 ½ onions-large dice

3 celery stalks, diced

1 green bell pepper-diced

1 bay leaf

½ Tsp dried thyme

Pinch of cayenne pepper

4 garlic cloves

1 15 oz. can chopped tomatoes w/juice

½ lb. andouille sausage cut into ¼ in. pieces

3 plum tomatoes seeded and diced

1 Tsp. Tobasco sauce

½ lb. shrimp-peeled and deveined

4 cups cooked rice

3 green onions sliced thin

Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Bake at 350⁰for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, remove the skin and cut into large dice pieces.

While the chicken bakes bring the chicken broth and ham hock to a simmer in a 4 qt. saucepan over med. heat. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the ham hock.

In a 6 qt. pot (cast iron if you have one) over med. heat combine the flour and 4 ½ Tbsp. of the oil to form a roux. Continue cooking the roux over med. to med.-high heat, stirring frequently, until it turns the color of dark roast coffee.

Add half the onions, half the celery and half the green pepper to the roux. Stir frequently for about 5 minutes.

Add the chicken stock to the roux mix and bring to a simmer. Add the bay leaf, dried thyme and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

In a separate pan add the rest of the oil and sauté the remaining onion, pepper and celery. After about 5 minutes add the garlic. About 5 minutes later add the canned tomatoes w/juice. Stir to mix. Add this mixture to the simmering stock and roux.

Put the sauté pan back on the med.-high heat and add the andouille. Sauté until the sausage begins to render out some of the oil.  Add the diced chicken to the pan and stir to coat the chicken with the oil from the andouille. Add the fresh tomatoes and stir to scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the sauté pan. Add this (sausage, chicken, tomatoes and brown bits) to the simmering stock mixture.

Simmer the gumbo gently for about 45 more minutes until the vegetables are tender. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Tobasco. When nearly ready to serve turn off the heat and add the shrimp allowing the mixture to gently cook the shrimp.

Serve over a bed of rice.

Red bean & rice

1 lb. dried red beans

3 Tbsp. olive oil

¼ cup chopped ham

1 ½ cups chopped yellow onions

¼ cup chopped celery

¼ cup chopped green peppers

½ Tsp. salt

½ Tsp. black pepper

Pinch of cayenne

3 bay leaves

2 Tbsp. fresh Italian parsley

1 lb. andouille or smoked kielbasa split in half lengthwise and then cut inti 1 inch pieces.

3 cloves minced garlic

10 cups chicken stock or water

4 cups cooked rice

¼ cup chopped green onions

Soak the beans in a covered pot for 8 hours or over night

In a large stock pot heat th oil over med.-high heat. Add the ham and cook, stirring for about a minute. Add the onions, celery and green peppers. Season with salt, pepper & cayenne, stirring until the vegetables are soft.  Add the bay leaves, parsley, thyme, sausage. Stir until the sausage is browned. Add the sausage and cook for another couple of minutes.

Add the beans and chicken stock or water, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to med.-low and simmer uncovered, stirring frequently until the beans are tender and the mixture begins to thicken…about 2 hours. If the beans become too thick and dry add water about ¼ cup at a time.

Remove the bay leaves and garnish with green onions. Serve over rice.

So there you have it. This will keep you busy slaving over a hot stove for a day or so. Wash it down with some back woods moonshine, throw some beads around and get ready for the onset of Lent. And enjoy!

On that note, I’m finished for this episode. Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you through the smoke.