LUCY BURDETTE: Hayley Snow, the food critic character in DEATH IN FOUR COURSES, eats a lot of meals out in restaurants. So when she's at home on her houseboat, I imagine she prefers to cook home-style food that's not too fancy but still delicious. She cooks when she's hungry, she cooks when she's anxious, and she cooks when she wants to connect with friends. Or, for that matter, squeeze information from potential sources!
So far, most of the recipes in the back of my mysteries have come from my own kitchen. But I'm always on the look-out for something delicious that Hayley could borrow. Two years ago at a get-together with friends in Key West, we ate a fabulous meal--a sort of Creole stew crossed with a jambalaya. I just had to have the recipe and I've made it many times since. It feeds a crowd, especially when served over rice. All you might need on the side is a salad. The recipe is courtesy of Mary K Hyde, who did not like the concept of having to make an old-fashioned roux, but relished the results.
MK’s Screw the Roux Stew
*1 large onion, chopped
*2–3 garlic cloves, minced
*1 large green pepper, chopped (in this case I used several colors of pepper!)
*2 stalks celery, chopped
*½ cup flour
*1–1½ Tbsp. Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning
*28-oz. can chopped tomatoes, with juice, or crushed tomatoes
*28-oz. box organic chicken broth
*Shredded meat from 1 rotisserie chicken or baked chicken
*10–14 oz. smoked chicken or turkey sausage, sliced
*12 oz. frozen chopped okra
*¾ lb. Key West pink shrimp if desired
*Brown rice, cooked
Sauté the vegetables in olive oil until soft. (In the pictures above, I chopped fresh okra--but that's only because we grow it in our garden. A package of frozen okra works just fine. And don't get weirded out by the concept of okra--it's not the least bit slimy in this recipe, and it thickens the stew. And it's really really delicious...)
In a separate frying pan, toast the dry flour over medium-low heat until browned. Stir this almost constantly so it doesn’t burn. (This is the only tricky part of the recipe--you need to be a little patient. This step might take 15 minutes.)
When the flour is nicely brown, add the Creole seasoning. (Tony Chachere's is spicy--don't omit it, but cut back a little if you don't want that much "zip.")
Mix well and add this mixture to the sautéed vegetables in a large pot. Stir in the broth, tomatoes, chicken, sausage, and okra. Bring to boiling and reduce to a simmer. The longer it simmers, the better. If you make it the day before and let sit in the fridge overnight, it will be just that much more delicious. Add shrimp just before serving, if desired, and cook a few minutes until pink. Serve the stew over rice. (My son-in-law said this was the best dish of mine he's eaten, and he likes everything!)
"Anyone who's ever overpaid for a pretentious restaurant meal will relish this witty cozy." Publishers Weekly on DEATH IN FOUR COURSES
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