By Tim H. Martin (based on recipe by Doris Landry)
Sometimes I buy a cookbook just for one or two recipes. When I heard about "Cooking Up a Storm," I knew there would be dozens of recipes I'd like, which proved to be true.
After Hurricane Katrina, there was risk of losing much of the old Louisiana food culture, including classic recipes. But The Times-Picayune of New Orleans became a place for people to find and swap recipes they thought were lost forever. "Cooking Up a Storm" was compiled and edited to restore and preserve them.
On page 153, I took one look at Doris Landry's Creole Chicken with Okra recipe and knew it was a winner. It was literally a winner when it took first prize in The Times' 1989 recipe contest.
My recipe is loosely based on hers. Reluctantly, I made a few adjustments to make it healthier and arguably better, such as using roasted chicken instead of frying it in butter, and using chicken broth instead of water. I also altered the roux and added spices.
Okra lovers, you'll appreciate the tip I included for de-sliming okra.
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1 whole chicken, roasted, meat pulled or chopped
2 lbs. okra, entire pods, stems removed
1/4 cup apple cider or white wine vinegar, for de-sliming okra
1/2 stick butter
1 1/2 Tbls. chicken drippings from roasting pan
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped (Use bulbs for the roux and 1/3 cup chopped green stems. Use remaining chopped stems for garnish)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
kosher salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
cayenne pepper, to taste
Your favorite hot sauce, to taste
1 Tbls. Creole seasoning such as Tony Chachere's or Emeril's
White rice or noodles for serving
Total prep and cooking time is about three hours.
1. Roast chicken 385 to 400-degrees for about 70 to 80 minutes. Before roasting, coat the chicken in olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. De-slime the okra by heating 1/4 cup vinegar over medium heat in a medium-sized pot. Put okra in vinegar and cook for about 15 minutes, tossing often. Remove and drain.
3. Chop the green onions and onion, mince garlic
4. Remove chicken from oven and cool. Reserve bits of roasted skin and 1 1/2 Tbls. drippings from roasting pan.
5. Make a roux. In a large, heavy pan or cast iron skillet, heat butter and chicken drippings on medium-high heat, sprinkle in flour and stir for about 8 minutes, until it becomes a paste.
6. Add onions, green onion bulbs, 1/3 cup chopped stems and garlic. Stir about eight more minutes, until tender.
7. Add tomatoes and simmer another five minutes, uncovered.
8. Add chicken broth, bay leaves, thyme, cayenne pepper, Creole seasoning, salt and pepper, heating in uncovered pot.
9. Pull or chop the chicken meat. I use two sets of tongs to pull the meat while it's hot. Adding bits of the tasty skin to the pot enhances flavor.
10. Add chicken to pot and cook 10 minutes before adding the okra.
11. Place whole okra pods in pot, on top of sauce, and cook for 30-40 more minutes while you cook the rice. Stir sparingly or not at all. Okra pods become fragile while cooking, but steam well by sitting on top.
Serve over white rice and garnish with chopped green onion stems and hot sauce. Toasted, buttered Italian or French bread or biscuits are a must for sopping up the savory sauce.
Step 3: Bring to a low boil, then lower heat and simmer at least 20 minutes. For thicker tomato gravy, give it about 40 minutes to cook without a lid.