Sometimes I can be obsessive about things. Not about keeping a spotless house (unfortunately) but mostly about researching random topics…I just want to know more! If I watch a documentary or read a nonfiction book—or even a fiction book with any basis in reality, for that matter—I won't stop, even after I turn the last page. I'll hop online and search for photos of the characters; I'll do in-depth “research” about the story’s era or location, and I’ll find out everything that Wikipedia and Google will tell me about local customs and cultural nuances. This will inevitably lead me down a totally random tangent, full of more information and research…new things for me to become obsessed with. The Internet is a crazy place, I tell ya!
I follow this same crazy process when it comes to food and throwing parties. For Mardi Gras, I hosted a Fat Tuesday dinner party that started out with a search for menu ideas, then led to a last minute French lesson and an in-depth study of Cajun culture and the Big Easy, and finally culminated in me watching Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Trust me, there's a logical chain of events that led to me spending a Saturday night with Liz Taylor and Paul Newman (followed by more “research” about Tennessee Williams).
Adapted from Bon Appetit
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup flour
2 ½ onions, chopped
2 green and 1 red bell pepper, chopped
5 celery stalks, chopped
8 garlic cloves, chopped
1.5 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
Few shakes Louisiana hot sauce
½ cup white wine
½ cup chopped fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
28-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
1 8-ounce bottle clam juice
2 cups chicken broth
2 pounds andouille sausage, sliced
3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or equivalent thighs) cut in bite size pieces
24 ounces sliced frozen okra (two 12 ounce packages)
2 pounds peeled deveined medium shrimp
Make Ahead: For roux, heat oil in a stock pot over medium-high until very hot. Add flour and stir constantly until darkish brown (about 5 minutes). Add the trinity—onions, bell peppers, and celery—and cook, stirring frequently, 15-20 minutes. Add garlic, cayenne, Old Bay, and hot sauce, and cook 2 minutes. Add wine, thyme, and bay leaves; bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes with juice, clam juice, broth, sausage, and chicken—simmer until chicken is cooked (about 15 minutes). Add okra, cook 10 minutes. If you’re making ahead, let cool, and refrigerate. Bring to a light boil before adding shrimp.
Before Serving: Add shrimp and cook until just opaque, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, as needed.