Yesterday was Labor Day and alas, Dear Daughter had to go to school. It seems that even though she attends an American school, the holidays align to a more European schedule. It seemed a bit odd to send her on her way to school and then for Dear Husband and me to have the rest of the day together. We decided to do a bit more exploring and the town of Gent (or Ghent) was on our itinerary for the day.
Wow, what a gem! Located only an hour away (via car or train), it is similar in some ways to Brugge but without the throngs of tourists. It is also home to one of the largest universities in Europe, so the town had a nice vibe to it. Together with the beautiful blue skies, we quickly fell in love with the town. We wondered along the cobbled streets and admired the beautiful architecture. It seemed that with each corner we took, a new and impressive square awaited us. Since many of the shops are open on Sunday, that meant that they were closed on Monday. Perhaps that was for the best but I did manage to drag my dear one into a small soap shop that looked so charming from the windows. Upon entering, we were greeted by the owner, who then spent five minutes explaining all of the different types of soaps. He gave us a bit of time to look around and once we had made a choice, he spent the next ten minutes telling us all about Ghent - why it is better than Brugge - where the best restaurants were - when was the best time to come... He was truly delightful and he sold a wonderful product - and not just the soap!
We relaxed at an outdoor cafe and sampled a Belgian Trappist beer that we had not yet had. We found the recommended restaurants and vowed to return. We even found a popular sushi restaurant that we knew would capture Dear Daughter's attention. And of course, we found several great picnic spots. I think that we could have stayed much longer but Dear Daughter's school bus was calling. It was a nice day. It was nice to share it with DH. It was nice to be enchanted by a town. It was nice to know that we would definitely return.
Now for food. I have had this recipe for nearly four years now. I downloaded it from Food and Wine and have made it so many times that the pages are spotted with sauce and smudged fingerprints. I have not written too many notes on it...at the top of the page in big black letters - I wrote "GREAT" and to me, it is. It isn't authentic to Louisiana but it is tasty, easy to make and you can make it ahead of time. In fact, I just finished making it - and sampling it - and it is only 9:00 a.m. I cannot wait for dinner tonight!
Sausage and Chicken Gumbo
Adapted from a recipe which appeared on www.foodandwine.com
Bone-in chicken breasts with skin (I used 2)
Salt and pepper
1 lb andouille sausage
2 celery ribs, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 Tbsp tomato paste
4 cups chicken broth
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
3 scallions, thinly sliced
Tabasco or other hot sauce for serving
Note: Andouille sausage is popular in Cajun/Creole cooking. If you cannot find it, then substitute with kielbasa. It may not be as tasty but it is still good.
1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Coat a heavy pot with vegetable oil and heat over moderately high heat until shimmering. Add the chicken, skin side down and brown for approximately 5 minutes. DO NOT move the chicken. Once browned, turn and cook on the other side for 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
2. In the same pan, brown the sausages for about 5 minutes. I just took the two large links and cut them in half but you can also slice them into serving pieces first. Transfer to a plate with the chicken.
3. Keep 1 Tbsp of fat in the pot (add more if you need to). Add the Holy Trinity (celery, bell pepper and onion) and lower the heat to moderate and cook for 10 minutes. DO NOT speed up this process. Stir every minute or so to keep the vegetables from sticking to the pan. Once softened and browned, add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine. Then add the flour and cook, stirring continuously for about five minutes. Do not let the flour mixture burn but let it darken. Add the broth and stir to deglaze the pan a bit - scraping to get all the good stuff from the bottom of the pan. Add the diced tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
4. Add the chicken and sausages to the pot; cover and simmer on low heat until cooked through.
5. Transfer the chicken and sausages and cut into bite-sized pieces. Return to pot.
To serve, spoon rice into bowls. Top with Gumbo and garnish with sliced scallions. Season with salt and pepper and serve with Tabasco.