THE GIRL ON THE MIDWAY STAGE #Novel #Inspiration: Cajun Creole Cuisine

I’ll be honest, the thing that initially drew me to New Orleans was the food. It’s also what I turn to whenever I’m missing that great city and can’t hop on a plane.

Really, it has become a bit of an obsession. I collect regional cookbooks, I’ve taken Cajun/Creole cooking classes, and I’ve hovered over many, many pots of roux, striving for that perfect dark chocolate color.

My family also throws a Mardi Gras party for 80 to 100 people every year, and I spend days planning the menu and preparing the food. Yeah, it’s a little over the top — but I love it.

So, it was probably no surprise to anyone who knows me that some of that Crescent City cooking made its way into this novel.

It was also my way of showing (instead of telling!) a little of Dora’s appetite for the spicy things in life.

One of my all-time favorite recipes is a chicken and sausage gumbo that I’ve tweaked over the years. If you’re a fan of this cuisine, too, I hope you’ll give it a try. Or better yet, share your own recipe with me in the comments!

Bowl of gumbo

A hearty bowl of chicken and sausage gumbo.


Yields 6 to 8 hearty servings

  • 3 pounds chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 dried red chili peppers (more if you like it spicy!)
  • 1 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces andouille sausage, diced
  • 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Crystal Pepper Sauce, to taste.
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 4 ounces frozen okra, chopped
  • Cooked rice

Heat the oil in a dutch oven and brown the chicken on both sides, a few pieces at a time. Transfer the chicken to a plate and keep warm.

Lower the heat and add the flour slowly and stirring constantly. Cook over a low heat and stir constantly until the roux turns a rich, dark brown. This usually takes from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on your heat level. Be extremely careful not to let the roux burn.

Add the chili peppers, onion, green pepper, celery, garlic, and sausage to the roux and cook about 5 minutes and stir constantly until the vegetables are softened. Pour in the broth and stir well. Add the bay leaf, Crystal sauce, the chicken. Cover and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is sufficiently tender.

Add the okra and cook just until warmed through, about 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and serve in a bowl over rice.

COOK’S NOTE: I usually use red bell peppers instead of green bell peppers, because that’s what I tend to have on hand. Tabasco can be substituted for the Crystal sauce. Add more broth if the gumbo is too thick.

See you back here tomorrow for more #novel #inspiration!


The Girl on the Midway Stage Novel Inspiration

THE GIRL ON THE MIDWAY STAGE is a lush historical novel rich with authentic period detail, discovery, and romance that will sweep you up in Dora’s struggle to understand herself, her quickly changing world, and her own unique journey to happiness.

Gumbo photo courtesy of duplass via

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