Cajun food uses peppers, onions and celery

March 10, 2004|EMILY TOADVINE

While other people spread the tables with purple, yellow and green plastic tablecloths in the dining hall at SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Bo Middleton positioned himself in the kitchen and settled down to the task of chopping up "the trinity."

He would need several cups of chopped onions, bell peppers and celery for the gumbo he planned to make for the church's Mardi Gras party.

"They're called the Cajun trinity," Middleton explained of the trio of vegetables.

Middleton does not attend the Catholic church, but was enlisted for the cooking duties by Carol Singleton after he took her a sample of his soup.

"She said, 'Can you do this in large quantities?'"

Middleton, who cooked for large groups when he worked at BellSouth, assured her that he could. He was expecting 100 for the Mardi Gras party and often had made meals for 50.


"I'll just double up on everything," he says.

He usually wears the chef's hat on fishing trips to Florida. He and several friends fish on the beach at Daytona.

"Four of us caught 175 bluefish one day there."

Middleton got his recipe for the gumbo from his friend, John Gentry.

The secret to great gumbo is in the roux, he says. A roux is made by cooking oil and flour together. It requires constant attention during the 30 to 40 minutes it cooks, Middleton says.

"You don't take a break. You can't leave it for a minute. If it scorches, you have to throw it out," he says.

Another staple in his cooking arsenal is salt flavored with hickory.

"Almost 100 percent of everything I cook has hickory-smoked salt in it. It's good if you're cooking steak on the grill, hamburgers, chicken, even if you're cooking a pot of beans."

Middleton became interested in cooking when he served in the Marines.

"I did a little traveling overseas and I really did like the food, especially oriental."

He and his wife, Joyce, share cooking duties, but excel with different dishes.

"She makes good chili and good homemade vegetable soup. She fries the chicken."

They both enjoy getting ideas from restaurants.

"If I go to a restaurant and I order something I haven't eaten, I try to come home and duplicate it."

With a will to experiment, he is in the process of writing a cookbook.

"I've got about 120 recipes."

Despite his love of food, Middleton manages to stay slim without much effort.

"I do a lot of cooking and a small amount of eating," he says. "I really like seafood and I eat more seafood than anything else."

Middleton finds time to grow a few of his ingredients.

"I raise a lot of my own okra," he says noting that this plant thrives under hot, dry conditions.

When not researching food, fishing or golfing, Middleton likes to spend time with his 22-month-old grandson, Taylor Ballard, the son of his daughter, Monica, and her husband, Greg.


Editor's note: Gumbo is made in stages, before the ingredients finally are blended.

Chicken and Shrimp Gumbo

2 cups chopped onion

1 cup chopped bell pepper

1 cup chopped celery

2 chicken breasts, diced

2 pounds chopped shrimp (two to three sections per shrimp)

The shrimp should be thawed, shelled and deveined. Keep the shells.

Make a roux by mixing 3/4 cup vegetable oil and 3/4 cup flour. Warm oil first and then add the flour. Cook over medium to medium low heat. Constantly scrape the bottom of the pan. To make a good, chocolate-colored roux takes 30 to 40 minutes.

Once it reaches the desired color, mix the celery, onions and bell peppers into it. Saute 6-8 minutes.

Seafood stock

Mix a quart of chicken stock and 1 1/2 quarts of water. Add large pieces of celery and onion. Even the head of celery can be used. Add the shrimp shells. Add salt and pepper and some habanero sauce or jalapenos to taste. Add some hickory-smoked salt and Accent. Boil for 30 minutes.

Strain the mixture and keep the broth to be used later.

Chicken preparation

Dice two chicken breasts

Brown the chicken in olive oil with 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic.

Season to taste with Emeril's seasoning or any Cajun seasoning, hickory-smoked salt and pepper, and some regular salt.

In a separate pot, cook rice. Middleton usually adds 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water. Let it cook with butter and salt.

Now it is time to assemble the parts. Add the roux and vegetables to the broth. Add the chicken and let it come to a boil. Reduce to simmer and add a cup of chopped okra and a pinch of fil powder. File` power is ground sassafras.

Add rice.

Simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. About 10 minutes before it is done, add shrimp, 1/3 cup green onions and 4 tablespoons of parsley.

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