Friday, July 31, 2009


Might as well start with a picture of the finished product.

People stop me on the street and ask, "What's you secret to great gumbo?" I get that ALL the time.

Can't hardly step out of my house without the paparazzi flashing in my face and shouting for gumbo recipes. "Bill! Bill! Show us your gumboes!"

If it gets any worse I'll be forced to live in a bunker at an undisclosed location.


So, anyway, here's my secret, but I'm telling you in advance you're not going to like it. Most people when they think about a Secret Recipe assume it has a Secret Ingredient, like monarch butterfly tongues or porcupine spleen or Kate Gosselin's bathwater. But, that's just hogwash.

The world has asked for it so here it is.

The secret to my World Famous Gumbo is: patience.

Yeah, I knew you'd be disappointed. I can hear the sighs from here; either that or it's the burrito I had for lunch.

But, really, that's it. Patience. You can't rush a good gumbo. It takes 2-3 hours to make a gumbo and if you try to bang one out in seven minutes you're only going to get a heap of disappointment.

The basis of a good gumbo, however, is different than the secret of a good gumbo. The basis of a good gumbo is the roux. And a successful roux requires, you guessed it, patience.

Lately I've been using Danno's recipe for a roux which is three-quarters of a cup of white flour mixed with a half cup of oil. I've been using peanut oil with good success.

In a cast iron pot over a medium heat whisk (pronounced 'Hwhisk') until smooth and cook slowly until the roux is done.

What is done?

Well, that depends on how dark you want your gumbo. A gumbo will only be as dark as the roux and there are several stages: light, blonde, peanut, light chocolate, dark chocolate and mahogany. Oh, I suppose there's "burnt," too.

A roux requires patience because you have to stir it constantly while it's cooking. No slacking off and letting it sit for a while because it will scorch and once that happens it's ruined. There is no way to fix a scorched roux except to pretend you like scorched gumbo.

There's probably a reason why we haven't seen Doritos with Extra Scorch Flavor on the shelves.

Or the McSneaker. Now with extra Scorching! Not only does it have that great Burned Tennis Shoe smell but it tastes like one too!

The bottom line is that it takes about 40 minutes to get a roux to the chocolate stage, like the gumbo in the picture.

Once the roux is ready you can add in the other ingredients in sequence: sausage and the Trinity.

The Trinity is the basis for a lot of Southern cooking: onion, celery and bell pepper. You can use any kind of onion, Spanish, yellow or white, and any kind of bell pepper, green, red, yellow or orange, depending on what kind of color combination you want in your gumbo.

After the vegetables have softened, add the stock, some spices, cover and let it simmer for 90 minutes to two hours. This is the time the gumbo works its magic, the flavors mingle and it develops character.

How do you know it's working? After an hour or so someone in the house should call out, "Hey, what's that wonderful smell?" Unless you scorched the roux in which case they're likely to say, "Aw, man, sneakers again?"

Here's the blueprint directly from Danno with modifications made by me because I didn't have some of the ingredients but I had other stuff and, anyway, gumbo is an art not a science.

Danno's Gumbo Recipe

Okra Gumbo with Chicken & Andouille Sausage

1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil

3/4 Cup All Purpose Flour

4 Tbsp Creole Seasoning

1 Cup Onions, diced

1/2 Cup Red Bell Pepper, diced

1/2 Cup Celery, Diced

1 1/2 Cups Andouille Sausage, diced

3 Tbsp Garlic, chopped

1 Cup Okra, trimmed and sliced
 (didn't have okra)
6 Cups cold Chicken Stock (I used hot chicken stock made with Knorr Chicken Stock cubes.)

3 Fresh Bay Leaves

4 Chicken Thighs, deboned, cut into 1 inch cubes and seasoned liberally with Creole Seasoning
 (I used fresh shrimp, frozen bay scallops and fresh tilapia)
2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

Hot Sauce to taste

Kosher Salt to taste, if necessary

2 Tablespoons Italian Parsley, chopped

1/4 Cup Thinly Sliced Green Onions

Creole Boiled Rice
 (My rice cooker did the job.)
Fresh French Bread (I made corn bread, instead)

Mix your onion, celery, and bell pepper together: The Holy Trinity.

Heat the oil in a cast iron dutch oven over medium heat. Whisk in the flour to make a milk chocolate Roux

Add the Andouille, 1 Tbsp of Seasoning, and 3/4 of the Holy Trinity, cook, stirring often, for about ten minutes or until the vegetables soften. Add the cold stock, remaining seasoning, okra, remaining trinity, and Garlic.

Bring to a Boil. Bring this down to a simmer, add the thigh meat and let it go for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

(For seafood gumbo I let the sausage and Trinity cook for 90 minutes. Then I throw in pealed shrimp (B flat or C major), chopped or not. It's up to you. After 30 minutes more I add the scallops and fish because they don't need much cooking and if you overcook them they will simply fall apart.)

About 10-15 minutes before you’re ready to serve, remove the Chicken from the bone and add the meat back to the pot. Add the Worcestershire, Hot Sauce, and 1/2 of the Green Onions.

Serve with Creole Boiled Rice, crusty French Bread, and a good cold beer (I like Dixie or Abita Amber).
Garnish with green onions, and the parsley.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Death of a Chefsman

It is with great and profound sadness that I report the death by cancer of my friend Bill Moran.

I knew that Bill had been ill for several years and travelled from his home in south Texas to Houston for treatment. We planned many lunch dates only to be broken by extended treatment schedules or other inconvenient circumstances and, in fact, we never met one-to-one.

Regardless, I considered Bill a friend, confident, mentor and collaborator for all things food-related. We traded recipes, gave tips on new restaurants and discussed several books we would write about southwestern cuisine.

Now, that's all gone like blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. Where there was light and laughter only smoke remains.

I don't know how long Bill's website, The Texas Chef will be up but it's worth a visit to read his recipes and get a sense of who the man was. He was passionate about that unique combination of Mexico and food and his love for flavorful, homestyle cooking will hopefully live on.

Happy trails, Bill, and pay attention when they say "the plate is hot."

Your friend forever,


Sunday, July 12, 2009

We're Number One!

Twelve Two Two Fondue is back on top, Google Number One hit for the phrase:

rent a snake

We had dropped to Number Two after a real snake rental shop in Zaire made a brief foray into the Intertubes. However, as of today the competition has slithered off into the brush.

We're Number One!

We're Number One!

Hey, don't knock it. At least we're Number One in something!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

United Makes It Right

Kudos from Twelve Two Two Fondue to United Airlines for making things right with Dave Carroll (see below) and his broken guitar saga.

United Airlines will donate $3000 to a musical charity helping kids.

Dave sought no personal compensation.

Furthermore and unexpectedly, Taylor Guitars is making a personal donation to Dave and the Sons of Maxwell in the form of a few musical instruments. Good on you, Taylor, you were the good guys all along!

Dave Carroll, we are not worthy. You asked yourself the question "What can I do about this situation" and came up with a solution that highlighted the problem, put forth your point of view and left the "answer" wide open.


Now, if it's not too much to ask, do you think you could write a song about a Barky Dog?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

United Breaks Guitars

They say that Revenge is a dish best served cold, but here's an example that's sweet and hot.

Here's the story:

Musician Dave Carroll with the Sons of Maxwell were traveling on United Airlines to Nebraska via Chicago O'Hare when passengers noticed baggage handlers throwing guitar cases.

Turns out they broke Dave's guitar and his heart.

United Airlines admitted fault, but Dave was finally told after a year of chasing red herrings and wild geese that he would not be compensated for his loss.

So, Dave promised the last person to finally say "no" to compensation (Ms. Irlweg) that he would write and produce three songs chronicling his experience.

Hello, United Airlines, they say that any publicity is good publicity. I'm not so sure about that!