The more and more social media bombards our day-to-day lives the more I have been finding it comforting to take a break from the Insta-Face-Twitter hamster wheel. Recently I was on a two-week vacation — and also a hiatus from social media. And it never became more apparent to me that I needed social media as a chef than on the day “Chef Mickey Mouse” decided to put his “healthy” spin on one of our most beloved of traditional Cajun and Creole comfort foods — gumbo.
I was at 13,000-plus feet in Allenspark, Colo., visiting a friend, and every time I would travel 5.3 miles down the mountain to get a cell phone signal to try to conduct some business — you know, we Americans never really vacay — my Insta-Face-Twitter-Verse was blowing up with “What did you think of the gumbo?” “Did you see the gumbo recipe?” “WTF was Disney thinking?” It was Gumbogeddan 2016, and I had no idea nor did I really care what was going on at sea level, being Rocky Mountain high in Colorado.
It wasn’t until The IND even asked me recently to comment on it, in the context of how to make a healthier (authentic) gumbo, that I looked at the “gumbo” recipe created by “Chef Mickey.” By then it was simply wildly exaggerated internet parodies available for viewing, but the ingredients used were there for the world to see. Really, WTH was this mouse thinking? Could it be “Chef Mickey” was upset with the way we have historically treated his cousin the nutria rat?
I also suspect there was a marketing “guru” standing alongside “Chef Mickey” stirring the pot when it came to Disney’s spin on healthy gumbo.
In an attempt to update the culinary skills of Princess Tiana, she of the 2009 kid’s movie “The Princess and the Frog” set in New Orleans, “Chef Mickey” decided to offer a healthy gumbo recipe utilizing ingredients that don’t even appear in our Cajun and Creole cannon of ingredients.
If you have been around the block, this is not the first time nor will it be the last time that our food, music or Francophone culture have been misunderstood. Anyone remember “Southern Comfort”? Google it and watch the movie trailer.
Perhaps “Chef Mickey” and the marketing team at Disney thought they would be helping out the masses in this low fat, no-fat, non-hydrogenated, organic, Big Gulp world we live in. After all, Princess Tiana’s Facebook page has 4 million-plus followers. Or perhaps it was time someone gave us some advice on how our regional cuisine that has been 300 years in the making can be healthier, because we aren’t capable of simply pushing away from the gumbo pot just a bowl or two sooner. Or maybe there is a sequel to The Princess and the Frog in the making. Who knows?
The real irony of Gumbogeddan 2016 is that the same internet that caused the grease fire of outrage in the kitchen of “Chef Mickey” is the same one that could have saved the mouse his culinary embarrassment. I typed “Low Fat Cajun Cooking” into Google and in half a second 499,000 suggestions appeared.
If they had only checked they would have found Chef Enola Pudhomme’s classic low-fat cookbook dedicated to healthier Cajun cooking. Or they would have found her brother Paul’s cookbook Fork in the Road dedicated to the notion that our food can be prepared in a healthier fashion. They may have even found my own healthy Gumbo recipe as a more recent example of a nutritionally sound yet authentic gumbo.
When it comes to our unique Cajun and Creole cuisine, chefs outside the Louisiana culinary realm simply can’t grasp the simplicity of our cuisine. Sure it has been created over hundreds of years by many global cooking influences, but at the end of the day it is built on ingredients not in the Disney recipe.
If they had only done their research and included regional substitutes things would have been fine. For instance:
Instead of a lack of roux how about a “dry roux,” which is simply browned flour sans oil?
Just bell pepper and onion? The Trinity is Holy for a reason!
Extra virgin olive oil? Not a problem, but how about vegetable oil?
Why would anyone crush a bay leaf when you have ground sassafras, AKA filé?
Chili powder? We are not Cincinnati and we ain’t cooking chili.
Kale: Disney public relations team, haven’t you heard of “Gumbo Z’herbs”? Google it!
And then it comes out of left field: the biggest, most blasphemous, unforgivable, internet-melting sin of them all — quinoa! Really, no seriously, really? That’s what you have, “Chef Mickey”? That is the best substitute you have for Louisiana-home-grownfrom-Acadia-Parish rice? There is actually healthier rice that is surprisingly available before the milling process turns it white. It’s called brown rice.
I have been saying for years “Chefs never steal recipes — we liberate them!” I have traveled the country exploring regional culinary techniques and then brought these techniques back to kitchens where I cook and merged them with our cooking techniques using our local ingredients.
And there have been many a chef who has traveled to Louisiana to explore our regional culinary techniques and created perfectly healthy edible versions by having our ingredients shipped directly to their restaurant kitchen back door.
The greatest cooking sin “Chef Mickey” made was not staying true to our regional cuisine by creating this sham of a “healthy gumbo” using “non-traditional ingredients” with a jazzed-up musical soundtrack.
But what I really wonder is did “Chef Mickey” consult Princess Tiana? After all, y’all, she’s the one known for her culinary prowess in the Disney Kingdom! The Princess can’t be too happy with the Mouse.
Chef Patrick Mould’s ‘Oil-Less’ Roux, Chicken & Andouille Gumbo
4 cups flour
1 2.5-pound chicken
14 cups water
2 tablespoons “no salt” Cajun seasoning
2 bay leaves
12 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 pound Andouille sausage, sliced
1 cup chopped onions
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped green bell pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons hot sauce
2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
2 tablespoons flour
½ cup chopped green onions
¼ cup minced parsley
4 cups cooked rice
1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Place flour on sheet pan and place in oven.
2. Cook for 30 minutes then stir and continue to bake for an additional 30 minutes.
3. Lower the temperature to 375 degrees and continue to bake for an additional 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow flour to cool, reserve one-half cup of darkened flour for use in gumbo and reserve the remainder in an air tight container for future use.
4. Place the chicken, water, 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning and bay leaves in a stockpot. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain and reserve 12 cups of the stock**. Allow the chicken to cool. De-bone the chicken, discard the skin and bones. Coarsely chop the meat and reserve for use later in the recipe.
5. Heat a 6-quart saucepot and add the sliced Andouille sausage and cook until browned. Drain browned sausage on paper towels and return to sauce pot. Stir in the onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic and cook for five minutes. Add the reserved chicken stock and bring to a boil. Whisk in the reserved one-half cup of darkened flour, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
6. Stir in the hot sauce and the remaining 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning. Blend together 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and flour until blonde roux forms and stir in to gumbo and simmer on low fire for an additional 15 minutes.
7. Add the reserved chopped chicken and simmer for five minutes. Stir in the green onions and parsley.
8. Divide the rice into 8 large bowls and ladle the gumbo over the rice.
**If you don’t have 12 cups chicken stock from cooking the chicken, you may add water to make 12 cups.
YIELD: 8 entrée servings
NUTRITIONAL INFO: (per serving, as stated in recipe) Calories: 714 • Protein: 41g • Fat: 27g • Salt: 590mg* • Carbohydrates: 76g
*In order to reduce sodium, this recipe calls for low-sodium chicken stock, salt-free Cajun seasoning and has no additional “added” salt; however, the Andouille sausage and hot sauce will contain added salt content that may vary and should be taken into consideration.