"Bring your paintbrush, we're painting the town!" Princess and the Frog inspired dinner!
Updated: Jan 8
One word, GUMBO. Chicken, andouille sausage, and shrimp gumbo to be exact. A party of flavors and spices to celebrate in your belly. What would a New Orleans cooking princess inspired meal be without beignets? Nothing. I mean, not nothing, but it would certainly be missing some soul.
Disney's "Princess and the Frog", released in 2009, is a magical story that takes place in New Orleans in the heart of good food, fantastic music, and the magical voodoo of the bayou. Tiana longs to open her own restaurant, working to the bone, until her story intertwines with a prince from abroad. Their fun adventure takes them deep into the bayou where they meet some new friends and learn to "dig a little deeper" to find their true happiness in life. During the film, Tiana displays her love of cooking with her special homemade gumbo and delicious beignets.
At first glance this looks like a whole lot of ingredients... and thats because it is. Gumbo is a thick creole style heavily seasoned soup served with rice and tabasco! If you are not into having heat in your gumbo, you can omit the tabasco and cayenne pepper. I did a little research on traditional gumbo recipes and made a mash up of the best and most consistent qualities.
So for my recipe, I used the cajun/creole "holy trinity" which is bell pepper, onion, and celery. I of course used okra, heirloom cherry tomatoes, fresh parsley, garlic, my own ratio of cajun seasonings, bay leaf, shrimp, andouille, and chicken.
As a professional pretend amateur chef, one of the most crucial things that I firmly believe in is a sturdy flavorful scratch made broth. I don't buy chicken stock or beef broth from the store. I legitimately make some type of bone broth in my house like twice a week. A little tip for anyone with any sort of stomach ailment or sensitivity, bone broth is magic. The very first thing I did before even fully unpacking my groceries was start the broth. I went an extremely simple route because I'd be adding so many seasonings to this gumbo it wasn't necessary to go crazy on the broth. This was just bone-in skin on chicken thighs, a celery stalk or two, salt and pepper and a small bit of onion. Bone broth should take at least 6-8 hours. Best to start this in the morning to give it enough time to reach its best potential! While it's cooking, you might need to add water to the pot every once in a while because it will reduce, and you want to make sure you have enough liquid for your recipe.
Once your broth is well underway, its time to chop.
We chopped all the fresh ingredients except the tomatoes. Celery, peppers, onion, garlic, and parsley.
My Cecelia loves helping me cook. She says she's "a good cooker". She grabbed her little play kitchen cutting board and her wooden play kitchen knife and was helping me peel garlic and onion and even chop the parsley. She's considered one of the few top onion and garlic peelers of her time. Her technique is flawless.
Ellie can't chop or peel yet, she's in the early stages of learning through observation. She's more of a taste tester right now, and prefers Oreo's while performing her observations.
After piling all the chopped veggies and whole tomatoes into the dutch oven, I splashed a little vegetable oil in and mixed it well, and placed the pot in medium/high heat to get the veggies to soften and sizzle. The next step is adding the seasonings! I made my own custom mix of cajun seasoning which consisted of paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, white pepper, black pepper, cayenne pepper, salt, oregano and thyme. The herbs and spices really pop the color and help create that warming aroma that you anticipate with a good home cooked gumbo. A side note, we played the Princess and the Frog soundtrack on Spotify, then switched over to "Cajun and Creole Music" playlist to keep up with proper theming. I'm a girl who loves a theme!
After the seasonings marry the vegetables, and the tomatoes open up, you add about a half of a cup of flour and more vegetable oil to the pot and stir really well to create a roux. After you hit that golden color and texture with your roux, you ladle in that magic chicken bone broth to bring the gumbo to life. I pull the chicken out of the broth and clean the chicken off of the bone and discard the skin and scraps. Then I shred it really well and immediately toss it into the pot to keep it from drying out.
As for the rice, I kept it simple and cooked it in the rest of my chicken broth for a little extra flavor. While the assembled gumbo simmers, I sliced and seared my andouille sausage. After removing it from the pot, I throw in my cleaned shrimp and added some more of that cajun seasoning in for a good sear on the shrimp. Once these last three elements are done, I gave the gumbo a couple of hits of tabasco and it was "the bees knees"!
I layered the dish with the rice first, then I ladled the gumbo on top, placed the sausage and shrimp on top, and garnished with green onion and fresh parsley. This was so filling delicious! Its absolutely shareable for a large crowd. My family of four enjoyed seconds, and then we packed it up and brought to our family up north where they were able to enjoy seconds as well.
After the gumbo was thoroughly enjoyed, we made beignets! If you watch the movie, I GUARANTEE you will need to eat a beignet. As stated previously, I am a pretend professional amateur chef, and have never made beignets and for that matter, don't have a whole lot of history working with yeast. But the urgent need for beignets was enough motivation to try it.
As for the beignets, it really was an easy recipe to follow, which can be dangerous for those who are passionate about donuts, zepoles, funnel cakes, or any version of fried dough covered in sugar.
I assembled the dough while I had a lapse in my gumbo chopping, and let it cool in the fridge until after dinner. Once we were cleaned up from dinner, I made a whole new mess rolling out the dough and cutting it into 3 inch squares. I laid the dough onto a tray with parchment and began heating the vegetable oil in a deep pasta pot for frying. A tip to see if your oil is hot enough, place the end of a wooden spoon into the oil, and if small bubbles form and begin to rise, that means its ready (thanks google)!
Once they reached that magic golden brown color, I removed them with a slotted spoon and let them cool and drip on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet. While they were still warm, I sifted some (a hefty amount) confectioners sugar on all sides and served!
YAS. Hot fried dough covered in powdery fluffy sweetness.
Overall the beignets were easy to make, and fun for the kids to eat! I visited New Orleans as a kid back in the stone age. I was 5 years old, and my most vivid memory besides the Audubon Zoo, was the fact that in our hotel, they served complimentary fresh hot beignets at each breakfast table. I ate so many that it took me like 25 years to eat another one. Watching Cecelia and Ellie both devour their dessert took me back to that awesome childhood memory. The Princess and the Frog is very much about family, as Tiana's late father says "You know the thing about good food? It brings folks together from all walks of life. It warms them right up and puts little smiles on their faces..." Gumbo is a great representation of this notion. Its filling, shareable with all walks of life, and will for sure put a smile on your face and in your belly.
"Grab somebody, come on down, bring your paintbrush, we're painting the town! There's some sweetness going around. Dreams do come true in New Orleans!" -Tiana
-Casey, The Travelorian
Chicken, Andouille, and Shrimp Gumbo
One small package of bone in skin on chicken thighs
8 cups of cooked white rice (for sharing)
1/2 cup of vegetable oil plus two table spoons
1/2 cup of flour
One large yellow onion, chopped
Six cloves of garlic, minced
One cup of chopped celery
One large green bell pepper
Two cups of Okra, frozen is fine!
One container of mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes
Seven cups of homemade chicken broth
One pound of Andouille sausage
Two bay leaves
One tablespoon of dried Thyme
Two tablespoons of cajun seasoning
Salt, to taste
Ground white pepper, to taste
Two pounds of raw jumbo shrimp
One bunch of green onions
Tabasco sauce, to taste
Start your chicken bone broth. Place the chicken in a large soup pot with two celery stalks, a chunk of whole onion, salt and pepper. Fill the pot with at least 8-10 cups of water and bring to a rolling boil, then reduce to a simmer and let cook for a minimum of 4 hours. If you are limited on time, then I recommend buying Pacific Foods Organic Chicken Bone Broth as a substitute.
When your broth is almost ready, heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil in your dutch oven or large heavy bottomed sauce pot. Add the chopped onions, celery, green peppers, chopped celery leaves, minced garlic, and whole heirloom tomatoes. Cook until softened and until the tomatoes open up. Keeping a lid on it and stirring occasionally.
Add the cajun seasoning and thyme, mix well. and cook another 2-3 minutes.
Add the rest of the vegetable oil, and 1/2 cup of flour to your veggies and stir well until think and gold. cook another 3 minutes, stirring well.
Add 7-8 cups of chicken broth and okra.
Clean the chicken from the bone, discarding scraps and skin. Shred the meat and add to the gumbo pot. Let simmer for 45-50 mins on medium low heat. Stir occasionally.
Slice and sear the andouille sausage in a frying pan. Remove from pan and set aside.
In the same pot, sear the cleaned shrimp with two table spoons of the cajun seasoning.
Before serving, add a few small drops of the tabasco, adjusting the heat to your liking. Layer rice, then a cup and a half of gumbo, sausage and shrimp proportionally to your liking, and garnish with chipped green onion and fresh parsley. Enjoy!
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups of warm water
1/2 cup of white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of evaporated milk
7 cups of all purpose flour
1/4 cup shortening
1 quart of vegetable oil for frying
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
In a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water.
Add sugar, salt, eggs, evaporated milk, and blend well.
Mix in 4 cups of flour and beat until smooth.
Add the shortening and the remaining three cups of flour.
Cover and chill for up to 24 hours.
Once chilled, roll out the dough on a smooth flat surface to 1/8 inch thick.
Cut into 2-3 inch squares.
Fry in 360 degrees F hot vegetable oil.
Once golden brown, remove from oil and drain on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet.
Sift the confectioners sugar generously covering all sides and serve immediately. Enjoy!