Chris Hastings is genius with food-my opinion. He and his wife Ide have such a passion for cooking, preserving food history, and sharing local ingredients on the plates at Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, Alabama, while celebrating all farmers and fisherman that bring them the best products. This 17 year collaboration between the couple has shifted the perception of Southern cuisine across the globe from fried to refined, with the James Beard Foundation taking note and honoring Chef Chris Hastings with the highly acclaimed Best Chef South medal in 2012.
In an interview with Eatocracy, Hastings said, “ I grow concerned when some of the most influential voices of our time discourage the farm-to-table philosophy to the next generation of young thinkers, chefs, restaurateurs and, most importantly, leaders. At Hot and Hot Fish Club, we can, and do, use suppliers from any and all sources around the world, as I see fit. We also choose to plant a seed that one day will grow and provide great shade for generations to come. Leadership, I hope, will be our legacy.”
The recipe below is from Hot and Hot Fish Club, and I highly recommend using Conecuh Sausage in the dish. It is a family favorite, as we once lived in Brewton, Alabama, not far from Evergreen where the sausage is made, so we were able to enjoy it often. Flavorful and delicious, it adds just the right amount of smoke to the Gumbo. It is also great on the grill, and tossed into pasta. I sometimes add andouille and/or tasso as well.
If a local or tourist to the South Walton area, make sure to head over to the 24th Annual Sandestin Gumbo Festival taking place Saturday, February 16th. This winter festival is a favorite, with area restaurants and chefs sharing their top secret recipes. Enjoy light and dark roux’s, Chichen & Sausage, and Seafood Gumbo while voting on the “People’s Choice Award.” Celebrity judges (I’ll be there!) will be on hand voting as well, and entertainment is provided. Tickets are $20 in advance/ $25 the day of.
Chicken and Conecuh Sausage Gumbo
Serves 10 to 12 (about 16 cups)
1 cup peanut oil
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups diced onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup seeded and diced red bell pepper
1 cup seeded and diced poblano pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 (12-ounce) bottle light beer
7 cups Chicken Stock
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 pound Conecuh brand smoked sausage or other spicy smoked sausage such as
3/4 pound sliced okra (fresh or frozen and thawed)
2 cups seeded and diced tomatoes
11/2 pounds cooked chicken, pulled into 2-inch pieces
1 cup chopped green onion tops
4 to 5 cups cooked rice, for serving
Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottomed (preferably cast-iron) skillet over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture darkens to a rich, reddish-brown color, 30 to 35 minutes. (Be careful not to let the flour burn or the gumbo will taste burned.)
Once the roux reaches the desired color, add the onion, celery, and peppers and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaves and thyme and cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the beer, stirring to scrape any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet. Transfer the roux mixture to a large Dutch oven or stockpot, over medium-high heat. Add the chicken stock, salt, pepper, and cayenne and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer the gumbo for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the gumbo is simmering, slice the sausage lengthwise and then make crosswise cuts, forming 1/2-inch thick half-moons. Place the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is rendered and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a paper towel-lined plate and pat dry.
Add the cooked sausage, okra and tomatoes to the gumbo and simmer an additional 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the chicken and cook an additional 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more salt or pepper, if needed. Just before serving, remove and discard the bay leaves and stir in the green onions. Ladle the Gumbo into warmed soup bowls and top with cooked rice. Serve hot with a dash of Tabasco on the side.