Last week’s DISH Food Series featured Chef Maudie Schmitt of famed Fayetteville restaurant, Café Rue Orleans. DISH, Crystal Bridges’ newest culinary program, is a glimpse and taste into the inspiration of women, and Chef Maudie took the audience on a culinary thrill-ride they won’t soon forget. The program started with images from her childhood in New Orleans, traveled through her life as a special education teacher, and finally ended with her current status as restaurateur of one of the most respected, beloved, and popular eating destinations in Fayetteville.
Guests were introduced to Chef Maudie from a stage in the round in the center of the Great Hall while they noshed on frilled grapes nestled against fresh burrata cheese made from mozzarella and cream, alongside tall bottles of Cline Mourvédre, a brilliant wine eliciting a whisper of eucalyptus on the nose, with strong flavor stratifications of chocolate, plum, and intense cherry. The tables were also adorned with pretty, folded King Cakes, compliments of Chef Vince Pianalto from Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food.
In the midst of her edible narrative, we broached the important topic of the secret for making the perfect gumbo; and according to Chef Maudie, “…the secret is in the roux, baby..” Then guests were served large pots teeming with crab, shrimp, and sausage gumbo with creamy potato salad – combined to form something that is nothing less than culinary nirvana.
The evening was appropriately capped with a night cap of our special guest’s favorite drink: a muddle of Toschi cherries and candied orange peel with bourbon, aromatic bitters, and sweet vermouth…the Maudie-hattan!
Without a doubt, women chefs are every bit as talented, creative, and poised as their counterpart male contemporaries; and nothing speaks to that as clearly, and beautifully, as the life and palate of Chef Maudie Schmitt. Bon appetit!
Chef Maudie’s Chicken and Andouille Gumbo
2 cups flour
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped celery
3 large garlic cloves finely diced
6 boneless chicken breast halves cut into bite size pieces
3 cups andouille chopped (any lean smoked sausage will work)
1 teaspoon Cajun Seasoning (or 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper)
1 teaspoon tabasco
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 Quarts chicken stock
1/4 cup chopped green onion
Place oil and flour in a large heavy pot and make a dark brown roux. When roux is the color of milk chocolate add onions, bell pepper, celery, and garlic. Sauté for 6-8 minutes until vegetables are soft.
You will need a pot of at least a six-quart size to handle this volume. If your roux pot is not big enough, you can transfer the roux to a large pot, then add the rest of the ingredients.
Add heated chicken stock one cup at a time, stirring well between cups. Bring to a slow boil. Turn down heat to low simmer, add andouille, Cajun seasoning, tabasco, and parsley. Allow this to simmer uncovered for 1 hour. Add chicken and sauté 1 more hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
This recipe is light on added salt since the chicken stock, chicken, and andouille all contain salt. After cooking, taste and add salt if needed.
Sprinkle with chopped green onions as a garnish and to add flavor. Include a fresh garden salad with warm, French bread. Will serve 10 to 12.