Sunday, March 26, 2006

Soul Stew from The Memphis Horns

Our friend Carin, who's down in Florida this winter, knows that we love the blues and we love to cook. Kindly and thoughtfully, she sent up an arty, thin softcover cookbook with shiny heavy stock entitled Cookin'up the Blues with Tabasco. Needless to say, it's by the company that brings us the world's most famous hot sauce. It's a fun cookbook featuring pics and write-ups on nineteen of the greats including Kenny Neal, "Gatemouth Brown," Buddy Guy, Irma Thomas, Terrance Simien, even Aerosmith. Each artist has a favorite recipe which is always photographed against a backdrop of folk art. Predictably, most of the recipes are southern, and many are one-dish meals. After reading each recipe, the one that most intrigued me was the "soul stew" served up by the Memphis Horns, namely Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love. This "most recorded horn section in American popular music" likes to cook up their favorite dish for some of the acts they've recorded with. Although Wayne and Andrew weren't specific as to whom they'd served it, what a list: Elvis Presley, Otis Redding, Billy Joel, Aretha Franklin, Jimmy Buffett, to name just a few. Wayne is White and Andrew is Black, which makes it interesting that Wayne is the soul stew chef, and delegates to Andrew the title of "Barbecue King." Wayne described his recipe as "kind of like a chili," but it didn't remind me of chili at all. I'd rate it as closest to a chicken gumbo, and it reminded me just a bit of Brunswick Stew, which the ingredient list does little to justify. Where Cookin' Up the Blues with Tabasco's photograph of Soul Stew is shot against the backdrop of a Reginald Mitchell painting, all you get in our picture is the stew itself. It was cooked; it was photographed. Even with folk art aside, the photograph in the book is more attractive than ours. I suspect they added the tomatoes relatively late to give them more definition for a prettier picture. But here, what you see is what you get. It's a meal in itself and good for feeding six people.


1 tablespoon shortening
3 pounds chicken legs and thighs
3 cups chicken broth
1 ham hock
4 cups canned diced tomatoes (with juice)
3 cups sliced fresh or frozen okra
2 cups fresh or frozen black eyed peas
1 cup sliced carrots
3/4 cup pearl onions, peeled
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
2 cloves garlic, pressed
4 teaspoons Tabasco brand pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup water
Hot cooked rice

Melt shortening in a large Dutch oven or large deep casserole dish. Brown chicken, turning frequently. Add chicken broth, ham hock, vegetables, garlic, Tabasco sauce, salt, oregano, and bay leaf. Cook 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until ham hock is tender. Remove chicken and ham hock and cool slightly; discard skin, bones, and fat. Cut meat into bite-sized pieces and return to stew. In a small bowl, whisk flour and water, stirring well so there are no lumps. Slowly add flour mixture to stew, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Cook until mixture boils, stirring often. Serve over rice.

from Cookin' up the Blues with Tabasco, by Tabasco, Published by McIlhenny Company, Avery Island, LA 70513