Creole Sauce

This is yet another flexible (and easy) red sauce that is most often known from the dish Shrimp Creole, this chicken creole. This tomato-based sauce is cooked relatively quickly (unlike red gravy) so that the vegetables remain distinct and somewhat crisp. Creole sauce is Spanish in origin and was probably carried to Louisiana by the Los Isleños (from whom I was spawned). The folks in New Orleans prefer the Creole Tomato for this dish as it has the richest tomato taste of any variety grown in the US (no lie!), but any tomato used for sauce will do (if using plum or Roma tomatoes, use 12 instead of 6).

Chicken Creole

3 lbs. cut-up fryer chicken
2 or 3 tablespoons flour
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons dark roux (peanut oil and flour, see below for recipe)

2 Spanish or yellow onions, roughly chopped
2 bell peppers, cored and roughly chopped
4 stalk celery, diced
6 large tomatoes, skinned and seeded and roughly chopped 
 (or substitute 1-28 oz. can diced tomato)
1 small can tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon worchestershire sauce
3 (Turkish) bay leaves
1 teaspoon paprika
4 cloves garlic, diced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon creole seasoning
hot sauce to taste

Roux: You may be able find jarred roux at some grocery stores, if you don’t have the patience to make your own, this is what you want to get. Roux can be made in large batches and refrigerated for several months. Start with ¼ cup peanut oil and heat over medium heat. Add ¼ cup flour and turn heat down to low. Stir constantly until it turns a color somewhere between milk chocolate and dark chocolate, this may take upwards of 25-30 minutes. If black dots appear, it is ruined and you will need to start over.

In a small saucepan, heat remaining olive oil over medium heat and fry tomato paste. Turn heat to low and stir paste until it turns mahogany and takes on a chunky consistency. Set aside.

Dredge chicken pieces in a little flour and brown in 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan or stockpot. Remove chicken and add (to the same pot) roux and sautée the trinity (onion, peppers, celery) until wilted. Add tomatoes and garlic, cook for 2 minutes or so.

Add all remaining ingredients to sauce mixture including browned chicken. Simmer covered on low for 2 hours. Taste sauce for seasoning after an hour and adjust as necessary. The sauce should be about the same consistency as gumbo when done.

Serve over hot rice.

Note: many people make Creole sauce and add seafood (shrimp, crab) instead of or along with chicken. Add seafood when the sauce is about 5 minutes from being done.

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