New Year’s Eve in New Orleans!

January 5, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

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It’s been several years since we owned our Creole cottage on Ursulines Street in the Lower French Quarter in New Orleans…but every year as the holidays roll around, I get an irresistible urge to make “my” gumbo.

Actually, there is no “official” recipe for this dish…families have handed down their ingredients and techniques for generations.  I developed my own version when I spent a few years there researching and then writing Midnight on Julia Street, and created a chicken-and-sausage gumbo that evolved over the years from a recipe I found in Emeril LaGasse’s wonderful cookbook, Emerl’s Creole Christmas.   His used quail, and since that wasn’t always handy, I subsituted small Rock Cornish Game Hens.  His used alot of cayenne and spicey andouille sausage, but my Western-raised family liked smokey flavors that wouldn’t burn your tongue, so I made a few more adaptations.

During this same period, my husband Tony and I became great friends with another historical novelist, Michael Llewellyn who’d written a wonderful novel, also set in New Orleans, called Twelfth Night and who made the best chicken gumbo I ever tasted.  He shared a few secrets with me which altered and refined my “morphing” version until I thought I’d reached pretty much perfection, and stopped messing with it.

Enter my wonderful pal from my KABC Radio days in Los Angeles, Diane Rossen Worthington, author of some twenty-two cookbooks (a number of them in the Williams-Sonoma series–but probably her best known and best loved is the classic:  Seriously Simple).  She now writes a syndicated column for The Chicago Tribune and we were chatting on the phone this autumn about holiday fare.  I mentioned how I loved to make my gumbo, stirring the roux –which is made from slowly combining oil and flour together and takes about 45 minutes to attain a rich, dark, chocolately color–while thinking of all the friends and family members I love.

“Can I use that in my column?” asked Diane.

“Sure,” I replied. “I can email you the recipe and you can put your own spin on it.”

“Oh, no, thanks,” she said. “I have my own seafood version I’ve been doing for years.  I just want to borrow the part about you thinking of family and friends while you’re stirring the roux!”

Well, she did just that in December, and guess what?  I’d completely forgotten about our conversation and suddenly I hear from the publicist Beth Pehlke at my publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, that Diane’s piece, kindly mentioning my 2011 release of Midnight on Julia Street, had hit tons of newspapers all over the country.  So, here’s a link to Diane’s article and version of seafood holiday gumbo–which makes a great Winter meal anytime it’s cold outside.  And if there’s interest, I’ll post my chicken and kilbasa sausage version in a later blog.


Meanwhile, Happy New Year, everybody…and for 2012, Laisser Les Bons Temps Rouler, y’all!