There’s always a cause for celebration in New Orleans and for the more culinary minded one of the biggest is just on the horizon: the 2010 New Orleans Food and Wine Experience, a four-day festival (held May 26 through May 29) celebrating fine wine and Southern cuisine. Scheduled to speak at this year’s festival (in a Charmed by Charcuterie seminar) is Donald Link, James Beard Award-winning chef and author of Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link’s Louisana.
A Cajun Country native, Link fondly recalls—and specifically did so at a suckling pig seminar at last year’s New Orleans Food and Wine Experience—boyhood family gatherings at the hog pit. Today he’s channeled that love into Cochon (French for pig), an authentic Cajun restaurant serving up Deep South specialties. Think gumbo, catfish, crawfish pie and (as the name suggests) an array of swine-centered dishes including fried pig’s ears, boudin, pork ribs and, for the more intrepid carnivores among us, head cheese, a meat jelly made from pieces of the head. Link and co-owner Stephen Stryjewski even receive their hogs whole though roasting these days is done in special on-site cookers rather than backyard pits. Though opening Cochon was his ultimate dream, Link also made his mark on the city’s dining scene manning the helm at Creole restaurant Herbsaint and, more recently, Cochon Butcher, an artisanal meat market-cum-wine bar.
If you can’t make it down this year, or just want to get yourself in the Cajun mood, listed below, is Link’s recipe for Pork and Blackeye Gumbo.
- 1 ½ cup flour
- 1 ½ cup oil
- 2 cup diced onion
- 1 cup diced green pepper
- 1 cup diced celery
- 3 Tablespoon chopped garlic
- 1 ½ gallon pork or chicken stock
- 1 ½ pound okra sliced crosswise ½ inch wide and seared in lard until lightly browned
- 2 cups cooked blackeyed peas (cook in chicken stock with large pieces of mirepoix that can be removed after cooking)
- 2 cups bacon braised greens (collards or mustards cooked in bacon and onions with sugar, vinegar, hot sauce and salt and pepper
- 2-3# Pork butt (raw weight) fully smoked and chopped
- File 2 Tablespoons
- Thyme 1 Tablespoon
- Chile powder 1 Tablespoon
- Paprika 1 Tablespoon
- White pepper 1 Tablespoon
- Black pepper 2 Tablespoon
- Cayenne pepper 1 Tablespoon
- Bay leaves 3 each
Make a dark roux using the oil and flour. (Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen has some good roux techniques, advice and gumbo recipes.)
As soon roux is the right color (just past red and turning back to brown but not scorched or smelling really burnt) add the diced vegetables and garlic
Add the stock and stirring very frequently bring up to a simmer. Simmer for about 1hour stirring lots. Skim all of the fat that separates out.
Taste the gumbo. It should not taste pasty and like the roux anymore. If it does you may need to add more stock up to ½ gallon. This is different every time depending on the exact measurement of flour, strength of starch in the flour, degree of cooking of the roux among other things so add the stock in stages and let it cook and come together before adding more.
When the gumbo is the right consistency add the okra, blackeyed peas, greens, pork and seasoning. Allow to return to a simmer and adjust the seasoning. Serve with steamed rice or potato salad.