Fiddle Tunes & Gumbo

A golden hue spotlighting the adjacent bookshelf and beautiful, young Asian girl typing away on her laptop. Little man person on his. Chatty gentlemen outside soaking in the long-awaited Seattle summer. The sweet scent of sugary donuts and espresso wafting around the room, dancing along to streaming swingy jazz. Oh, Top Pot on a warm, lazy Thursday afternoon. I’ve just sent in my work for the week, took an uphill stroll this morning, and gazed about the room after waking, missing the sounds of laughter and Old-Time music. For the past few days, friends have graced my apartment with their beauty. Robin left last night, en route home to Lafayette, Louisiana. Leah left during the wee morning hours today on her way to a weeklong trip in NYC before hefting her suitcases farther east to Turkey for a two-year adventure. I am back to my daily grind, while putting a few changes in motion. More writing. Learning guitar. Singing. Loving. Dreaming of France. Enjoying the sunshine. Planning more festival visits. And evolving into who I’m supposed to be.

Saturday night, I returned home from several days spent at Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend. I’ve written about this before, last year actually. My awe for this yearly event hasn’t changed. Falling around July 4th, the music camp created by Centrum combines Old-Time, Bluegrass, Cajun, Irish, Quebecois (and more) music, artists and enthusiasts. Outside, the deer are still roaming about, unfazed by banjo-pickers and fiddlers scattered about the Fort Worden grounds. The sun shines (once the 4th hits, of course); the beach and surrounding mountains bring dreams of living closer to nature; and the sounds all around me encourage me to get in on a singing class and maybe learn a guitar chord or two. The combination of soulful people, incredible music, nightly dancing and ridiculously exquisite surroundings reminds me of the beauty in the world and steers me back in the right direction. So what if I don’t play an instrument (yet) and happen to be sleeping in the open room next to an all-night jam? The possibility of folks being able to sing and play music until the sun comes up – and do it all again the next night – is one of the most precious gifts of of life. On top of all that, Robin brings her gumbo expertise to the end of the week’s Cajun festivities; and this year, I had the pleasure and privilege of being able to help out.

Quite a difference from whipping up a gumbo for a few friends and family members, the Fiddle Tunes feast feeds about 500 people. Chopped celery, bell peppers and onions mingle with a darker than dark roux (this year, stirred in turn by a spell of camp-goers and overseen by the family of 94-year-old Mr. Milton Vanicor), chicken, sausage and spices for a delectable Louisiana culinary concoction. Oh yeah.

The day after the Sunday 4th party in the Skagit Valley, I decided to make a gumbo and freeze it for future tastings. I pulled out the smoked meats from my freezer bought at Landreneau Grocery in Pine Prairie. (Note to buyers looking for exceptional boudin and smoked meats: Run don’t walk to this spot. Oh, and they can ship in large quantities! – 337.599.3246) Smoked pork sausage, garlic sausage and tasso went into the pot along with chicken, a medium dark roux (I got impatient.), the trinity, garlic, spices and chicken broth. I don’t have one concrete recipe that I use, but mix and match a bit. I’ve listed one that pretty much goes along with what I do. Though sometimes for the chicken, I buy a whole roasted chicken from the grocery store and debone it before placing it with the other ingredients (to save time and hassle). And this is the first time I’ve made roux in the microwave. It was fine, but making it homemade in a cast-iron pot is best. Along with the recipe are a few pics of the process and some from Fiddle Tunes as well as a bit ‘o music to go along with it. Dig in!


1 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (I also add tasso.)
4 skinned bone-in chicken breasts
Vegetable oil
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
2 celery ribs, sliced
2 quarts hot water or chicken broth
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon Cajun/Creole seasoning (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons hot sauce or cayenne (or to taste)
4 green onions, sliced
Hot cooked rice
Garnish: chopped green onions and parsley


Cook sausage in a cast-iron pot over medium heat, stirring constantly, 5 minutes or until browned. Drain on paper towels, reserving drippings. Set sausage aside.

Cook chicken in reserved drippings in pot over medium heat 5 minutes or until browned. Remove to paper towels, reserving drippings. Set chicken aside. (Or skip this step, and use roasted chicken instead.)

Add enough oil to drippings in pot to measure 1/2 cup. Add flour, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 20 to 25 minutes, or until roux is chocolate colored.

Stir in onion, bell pepper, and celery; cook, stirring often, 8 minutes or until tender. Gradually add 2 quarts hot water, and bring mixture to a boil; add chicken, garlic, sausage, green onions and next 5 ingredients. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 1 hour.

Remove gumbo from heat. Serve over hot cooked rice and/or potato salad. Garnish with chopped green onions and parsley.

The color on the left is what your roux should look like when it’s done.

What half of a gumbo for 500pp looks like.

Mr. Milton

More Fiddle Tunes pics:

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