Just before Christmas, I was listening to MPR and heard a snippet about a cookbook called Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from the Times-Picayune of New Orleans. I was immediately intrigued. Apparently, I was not the only one because the book was out of stock everywhere I looked. It wasn’t even available from the publisher. After Christmas, I finally found a lone Amazon seller who had a copy and I pounced.
It arrived in the mail today and I have never been so hungry in my life. As far as cookbooks go these days, it is fairly lo-fi. No glossy photos, no detailed techniques. It’s more like a treasure trove of recipes from your grandma. If your grandma is from Louisiana, that is.
I grew up in Tennessee, but have a deep and abiding love for the food that comes from Cajun country. My grandmother, of Cajun lineage, was born in Louisiana and grew up in SE Texas. I really cannot think of my grandma without thinking of food. She embodied home cooking. Smothered potatoes, chicken fried steak, creamed corn, pie, pie and pie. But it is her gumbo recipe that has been passed down like an heirloom.
Gumbo is one of the only things my Daddy cooks (gumbo and Saturday morning pancakes). He learned from his mom and she learned from hers. It all starts with the roux. Not the light, butter-based roux of French cuisine. This is dark roux, cooked over medium heat for half an hour. Roux the color of chocolate. Roux is the heart and soul of gumbo. If you don’t cook it long enough, the gumbo ends up weak and flavorless. If you cook it too long, it is bitter and worthless. Get it just right and it is the taste of home (my home, at least).
This is actually a shade or two lighter than it was by the end of cooking.
If you manage to track down a copy of Cooking Up a Storm, you should try the “Turkey Bone Gumbo” (p. 74). It’s pretty close to my family’s recipe. It won’t be as good as mine, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy it almost as much. 😉
Meanwhile, I’ll be busy trying out beignets, grillades and grits, red beans and rice, Mr. B’s crawfish risotto, praline cookies, and at least a couple of the 6 different bread pudding recipes.
Laissez les bon temps roulez! Let the good times roll! (I may be rolling too after all this good food!)
P.S. In case you were wondering, now you have an idea of where the blog name came from.