These recipes originally appeared in the January 2020 issue of HomeLife Magazine.
Traditions. They’re worth their weight in cornbread.
I don’t know a better time for reflection than the start of a new year. This year brings excitement and possibilities begging to be planned. But before I cracked open the new Day-Timer, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on where our family had come, if only to see clearer where we’re headed.
In reflection, I wandered into our family traditions—both past and present. A lot of those memories were centered around the family table. Dearest to me was my Nana’s traditional New Year’s Day meal. When the meal was ready, she’d gather us by exclaiming, “Root in or risk a year of bad luck.” She was warding off misfortune in the coming year by serving pork—a symbol of good luck passed down from her Southern upbringing. The collard greens (denoting dollar bills) and black-eyed peas (metaphorically the coins) were heaped onto my plate to truly protect my future prosperity. Tradition holds that one should eat a pea for every day of the year. To round things out, Nana’s fresh-from-the-oven cornbread cleverly represented gold. Try as I may, I never acquired a taste for those dishes. Shame on me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss her terribly and the sweet memories of my youth. That’s the funny thing about traditions—you tend to take them for granted then miss them when they’re gone.
As our children leave the nest, move to distant cities, and start families of their own, our traditions tend to change—or worse—they become increasingly difficult to keep. So these days I don’t have a yearning to satisfy a taste bud as much as a craving in my soul to savor the moment.
As the sun rises on a new year, my loved ones will stir under their cozy blankets and wake to the intoxicating aroma of warm beignets and hot cocoa. Downstairs I’ll be starting the roux for gumbo to be served over the drone of college football. I wish I had a romantic story that weaved back through time connecting us to this new tradition, but I figured it doesn’t really matter. What matters to me is the bond we’ve built that draws them home year after year to this day we’ve coined “Slug Fest!”
Traditions bond us and clothe us in kinship and belonging. They rekindle memories, remind us of loved ones lost, and bathe us in security. Traditions are the connection between us and the generations to come, and they need to be cherished and kept alive. For me, they’re worth their weight in cornbread.
Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo
Makes 6-8 servings
1 c. vegetable oil
1 c. All-purpose flour
1 large yellow onion (diced)
2-3 celery stalks (diced)
1 large bell pepper (diced)
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley (chopped)
1 lb. of smoked Kielbasa or Andouille sausage (sliced into 1/2 inch coins)
6 c. chicken broth
1 lb. boneless chicken thighs (cut into 1 inch chunks)
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. Cayenne pepper
3 Bay leaves
2 c. Extra Long Grain Enriched Rice
1 Tbsp. rustic rub (recipe below)
Rustic Rub Ingredients
(Store in an airtight container and use throughout the year.)
4 Tbsp. Paprika
1-1/2 Tbsp. Cayenne pepper
2-1/2 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp. Garlic powder
1-1/2 Tbsp. Onion powder
1-1/2 Tbsp. salt
1-1/4 Tbsp. dried Oregano
1-1/4 Tbsp. dried Thyme
Combine oil and flour in a Dutch oven. Over medium heat, stir slowly and constantly with wooden spoon for 20 minutes to make roux. When roux reaches the color of dark brown chocolate, add vegetables and stir quickly a few minutes until tender. Add sausage, salt, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, and chicken broth. Coat chicken with rustic rub then add to pot. Stir all ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn to medium low and cook uncovered for one hour. Remove Bay leaves. Serve over cooked rice in bowls.
8 qrt. box powdered milk
7 oz. jar of powdered creamer
2 lb. box of Nestle Nesquik
1 c. Confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp. salt
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Use 1/4 cup of cocoa mixture to 6 ounces of hot water or whole milk. Enjoy cup after cup throughout the winter.
3/4 c. warm water
1-1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. whole milk
1 egg, beaten
3/4 tsp. salt
3-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. vegetable shortening (melted)
Vegetable oil (for frying)
Powdered sugar (for dusting)
Add yeast, warm water, and sugar to a large mixing bowl. Stir gently to combine. Let sit for 15 minutes until mixture becomes foamy. Whisk in milk, egg, and salt. Stir in half the flour, or if using a stand mixer attach the paddle and place on low to medium speed. Mix in melted shortening and the other half of the flour. Stir with a spoon until you can use your hands to knead or add dough hook and place on medium speed until dough is smooth. Remove dough and place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a towel and place in a warm area on the counter for two hours. Dough will double in size.
Pour vegetable oil in a deep electric skillet (2 inch deep) and preheat to 375 degrees. Place dough onto a floured surface. Flour a rolling pin and roll out dough to ¼-inch thickness. Cut into 2-1/2 inch squares with a pizza cutter. Fry eight squares at a time, flipping after 45 seconds. Continue flipping until both sides are a light golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and place on a platter covered with paper towels to absorb excess oil. Dust heavily with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.
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Laura Schupp is the author of Our Newlywed Kitchen: The Art of Cooking, Gathering & Creating Traditions. Learn more about Laura at OurNewlywedKitchen.com.