I was carousing around the streets of Charleston today. I had and hankering and began looking for some gumbo when I stumbled upon Charleston Cooks. It’s another one of those epicurean storefronts that I can’t just pass by. I went in and while wandering around I was amused by the usual array of kitchen gadgets that the newbies can’t live without.
However, what I did find was an adjacent room containing a commercial kitchen where instructional and hands-on classes were held. I asked about them and was informed that today’s class started in a mere half hour. It just happened to be a presentation of chicken and sausage gumbo over toasted Carolina aromatic rice, accompanied by apple upside down cake. Well, sign me up sweetie.
The class would last for almost two hours so I exited to feed enough quarters to my famished parking meter. There were ten of us in the class and the youthful instructor proved to be one of the best teachers I’ve experienced. Our seats were appointed with water and wine glasses, silverware and linens. This was going to be a first class operation. I almost felt as we were up front and center of a celebrity cook’s show.
I learned some neat new tactics on utilization of a knife, that red peppers are much sweeter than green, and toasting rice, (heating it bare in a frying pan prior to adding the water and boiling), gives it a much better taste. A camera was on the instructor at all times streamed to an overhead large screen so we could see her every move from a high vantage point. Upon conclusion she doled out ten bowls of the gumbo.
We were served our choice of merlot or chardonnay. A serving of the apple upside down cake topped off the presentation. This experienced proved well worth the twenty dollar matriculation fee. Another case of finding a gem when you least expect it.
In case you may be interested I’ve put the recipe below:
Toasted Aromatic Rice
1. Heat a saute pan over high heat. Add rice (long grain preferred) and cook until rice starts to brown.
2. Add the waster and salt. Bring to a boil.
3. Reduce heat to low and cook covered for 9 minutes.
4. Remove from heat, set aside undisturbed for 10 minutes and fluff with a fork prior to serving.
Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
Olive oil…1/4 lb. boneless chicken thighs cut into 1″ cubes…1 tblsp. blackening seasoning…4 tblsp. unsalted butter…1 diced yellow onion…5 grated garlic cloves…3 celery stalks diced….1 diced red bell pepper…2 tblsp. all purpose flour…2 cups chicken stock…16 0z. diced tomatoes…2 tblsp. chopped thyme…1/4 lb. mild Italian sausage cut into half moons…1/2 diced zucchini or 8 okra….kernels removed from 1 ear of corn…sugar…Worcestershire sauce…bunch scallions thinly sliced.
1. Heat stock pot over medium high heat. When hot, add enough oil to coat bottom of pan without tilting.
2. Add chicken and seasonings to pan. Allow chicken to brown on both sides, 3-5 mins. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
3. Reduce heat to medium. Add butter, onions, garlic and a pinch of salt to pan. Cook without stirring until browning begins. 1-2 mins.
4. Add celery and peppers to the pan. Cook until softened. 3-5 mins.
5. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until flour loses its raw smell, about 3 mins.
6. Add chicken and any accumulated juices back to the pot. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, sausage and thyme.
7. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid coats the back of a spoon, about 5 mins.
8. Add zucchini or okra and corn to the pan stirring to incorporate. Simmer until vegetables are cooked. Remove pan from heat.
9. Season to taste with sugar, salt and pepper, Worcestershire sauce and/or hot sauce. Serve over cooked rice. Garnish with scallions.
Apple Upside Down Cake
6 tblsp. unsalted butter melted and cooled…1/2 cup light brown sugar…Splash of rum or brandy…1/8 teaspoon grated ginger…1 cup gala apples diced…1 1/4 cups all purpose flour…2 tsp.baking powder…1/2 tsp. salt…1 stick butter, room temp….1/2 cup white sugar… 1 large egg…1/2 cup whole milk…1/4 cup sweetened cream, whipped to firm peaks.
1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.
2. In small bowl, combine melted butter, brown sugar, liquor, ginger, and apples.
3. Divide the apple misture among 12 greased muffin cups.
4. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
5. In another bowl, cream together the room temp. butter and white sugar until light and fluffy. About 6 mins.
6. Add the egg and stir to combine. Add the flour in 3 additions alternating with 2 addition of milk, stirring to combine after each addition.
7. Divide the mixutre among the muffin cups.
8. Bake until cake springs back to the touch, about 22 mins., invert immediately. Allow to cool to room temp. and serve topped with whipped cream.