Ok To Eat 6 Day Old Cooked Refrigerated Smoked Ham Florida Beaches and New Orleans Gumbo Combine to Make a Perfect Weekend Adventure

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Florida Beaches and New Orleans Gumbo Combine to Make a Perfect Weekend Adventure

Located off the west coast of Florida, Anna Maria Island is one of the most prized and attractive coastal areas in the US. Winter is a wonderful season to visit this little known area and the beautiful waters of the Gulf with its clean white beaches will satisfy any beach lover’s appetite.

My wife Jan and I recently spent some time in Anna Maria, a small town in the north of the island. This small island town is one of the last vestiges of the old Florida experience. Here you will not find high-rise condominiums or large apartment buildings that are crowded with people. Instead the town is mostly populated by residents who own homes with large lots, driveways and respectable landscaping. You won’t find tall buildings blocking the view of the Tampa Bay sunrise or the spectacular sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico.

Apart from a few million dollar or more homes on the Gulf side of the island, the residences there are of average size. Most of these are old Florida style residences that are well maintained by proud owners. Although many of the homes are occupied by permanent residents, there are a good number of vacation homes that provide plenty of rental opportunities for the average American beach lover at a reasonable cost.

During our visit there in February the weather was very cool. I’m talking about 40 degrees F at night and sixty during the day. That meant we needed a light jacket when we were walking on the beach or cycling on the island’s roads. This was truly the perfect time for a winter beach experience. We love this trip so much that we try to do it at least once a year.

I’m always looking for an excuse to cook my favorite food and cool weather is just what I need to spark my creative imagination. Since I love gumbo and maintain a website for free gumbo recipes and cooking guides, (see my link below) I reasoned that this time and place would be perfect environment to create Florida Beach Gumbo.

It’s no secret that the abundance of marine life in Florida’s Gulf waters provides many options in fresh seafood. Almost any town you visit in the coastal areas will have sales counters where consumers can buy their favorite fish. I wanted to make gumbo with shellfish so I contacted my nephew Christian and together we decided on a gumbo recipe using shrimp, chicken and smoked sausage. It was no accident that I brought with me on this trip a link of my favorite New Orleans andouille. My wife accused me of planning to make gumbo at the beach before we left home and I have to admit my guilt.

By Saturday morning we had a plan and a recipe written. All that was left for us to do was buy the ingredients and assemble the gumbo. But first we had an art festival to attend. Just across Sarasota bay from Anna Maria Island is the sleepy fishing town of Cortez. This small town was settled in the 1880s by fishermen from North Carolina. It happens that his area is one of the most important suppliers of seafood on the west coast of Florida.

The Cortez Art Festival is an annual event and the townspeople use the proceeds to fund conservation activities in the town. Both professional and amateur artists will have pieces for sale and food vendors will be plentiful. Events include live music and dancing. The clogging shows were great. I recommend this annual two day event to anyone looking to have a good time or find a new piece of art for their home. My main reason for being there was to buy fresh shrimp from one of the two seafood vendors near the festival.

By mid-afternoon we had walked the whole show, bought some shrimp and headed back to the island. I had gumbo cooking on my mind and couldn’t wait to get started. We stopped at the local Publix first to buy a few extra ingredients. Part of my plan was to make a flavorful stock because this step adds so much more flavor to Louisiana’s most famous dish.

I made the stock on Saturday afternoon and then refrigerated it overnight for Sunday’s gumbo cookout. I always recommend homemade stock because it adds a lot of extra flavor that can’t be achieved with plain water. My plan was to make gumbo the next day.

Around 10:00 am on gumbo day I started cooking. First I chopped my onions, celery and green pepper, covered and set aside. Then I made the roux with oil and flour. I like a dark roux so I took it to a milk chocolate color. Since we had planned a bike ride around the island for the afternoon I cooked my gumbo but did not add the shrimp. I planned to do that right before I served dinner. Once the gumbo was ready, the pot was covered, the heat was turned off and we mounted our bikes and started pedaling.

Our first stop was Rotten Ralph’s bar and restaurant on the west side of Anna Maria located at Marina Galati. The food is good there and there is a good bar. There is usually live music in the evening and I recommend it if it’s for a fun time. But be careful who you bring because sometimes the type of song that would be played would not be the type that would be accepted on the Lawrence Welk Show. We had a beer, talked and laughed and then cycled to our next destination.

Our next stop was the rod and reel pier at the northeast end of the island. It is a popular place to have a drink and eat a simple meal. It is located in deep water and that attracts fishermen who pay a small fee to drown their fingers from the wooden plank walkway.

Then we went to Bortell’s pub and pool. The clientele here consists of Harley bikers, smokers, drinkers and pool players. This place has the potential to be the first establishment ever to receive a liquor license on the island and exhibits the kind of character that can only come from decades of use. But it was clean, safe and the beer was nice and cold. We drank our beer, played a very long game of pool, (we are very bad players) and then cycled to our next stop.

The last stop on our tour was Slim’s, a new joint in town. It is a modern bar with late model pool tables and a flat screen TV. The floors were spongy and wide, polished brass shone in places and quality wood seemed to abound. We had a cold beer in a clean glass, played a quick game of pool, laughed a bunch and mounted our bikes to head back to gumbo headquarters and the steaming hot stuff that was waiting. I am still puzzled as to how I lost 4 pool games to my nephew Christian.

After I caught my breath at the end of the bike ride, I heated the gumbo pot until it was boiling, added the shrimp and cooked 10 minutes. The Louisiana soup was served in bowls using one third of a cup of rice to one cup of gumbo and we all enjoyed it with chopped green onions.

My wife served a New Orleans style City Salad which was delicious and perfect with gumbo. You must visit my website to get the City Salad recipe. Sue’s sister-in-law, who provided our lovely accommodation, made some toasted whole wheat bread to complete the feast. Our favorite offerings were white wine and margaritas.

It was a great winter weekend at the Florida beach and a great opportunity to cook some great gumbo. Try my recipe. You are sure to like it.

Here is the recipe for my stock.

8 chicken legs

2 whole onions, quartered

4 carrots cut into large pieces

4 chopped celery stalks

3 chopped garlic cloves

4 bay leaves

2 smoked ham hocks

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon red pepper

3 liters of water

Place everything in a large stock pot, bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 hours. When done, strain and reserve stock. If making the gumbo the next day, cover and refrigerate. Debone chicken legs and reserve for chicken salad later. Discard the rest.

Here is my recipe for Florida Beach Gumbo

2/3 cup corn oil

1 cup flour

3 boneless chicken breast halves cut into bite-sized pieces

2 cups chopped andouille (any thin sausage will work)

2 pounds fresh shrimp tails peeled and deveined

2 cups chopped onion

1 cup chopped juice

1 whole green pepper chopped

3 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon Tony Chachere’s original creole seasoning

3 bay leaves

2 1/2 quarts of chicken stock

1 teaspoon Tabasco

1/2 cup chopped green onions

Here are the cooking instructions.

In a large heavy pot mix the flour and oil and cook on high speed until mixed bubbles. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook while stirring. You want to brown the flour to a milk chocolate color. This is the roux.

When the flour mixture becomes the color of peanut butter, turn the heat to low and continue to stir. Don’t stop moving. This is essential for making a roux. If you stop burning it. If it burns your gumbo is spoiled. Keep stirring and cooking on low and in about 45 minutes your roux will reach that milk chocolate color.

Now add the onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic to this and saute for 6-8 minutes. When vegetables are soft add the stock, andouille, Tony’s seasoning, Tabasco and bay leaves. Stir and keep on low heat for 1 hour.

Add the chicken and cook for 1 hour. Finally, add the shrimp, stir and wait for 10-15 minutes. Serve with rice and top with chopped fresh green onions. The correct ratio for a serving is 1/3 cup rice to 1 cup gumbo.

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