My new romance, Rue Toulouse, takes place in one of my favorite cities, New Orleans. My husband and I first visited the city in 1989 and have been back many many times since. New Orleans, in particular the French Quarter, is one of those cities that visitors either love or hate. Yes, the buildings are old and in need of repair, and some neighborhoods are still recovering from Katrina.
Yes, the sidewalks are uneven and can be a challenge at times. Yes, some of the aroma’s wafting through the air aren’t always pleasant. And yes, on some streets the window displays aren’t suitable for children, and the music inside might be too loud. But, this is what makes New Orleans New Orleans.
The buildings might be in need of repair, but the wrought iron balconies with their colorful hanging plants are delightful. As you walk along, you’ll see everything from vintage clothing to t-shirt shops; sexy underwear to vampire clothing; exquisite jewelry to Mardi Gras beads; French perfume to patchouli; xWiccan and Voodoo shops to beautiful old churches; haunted historic hotels to intimate B & B’s; spooky cemeteries with their above ground tombs to swamp boat rides.
Every kind of restaurant from sizzling steak and gourmet Creole to Cajun gumbo, red beans and rice, hot chickery coffee and beignets, and crawfish etoufee; shrimp po boys, mufaletta, and hand thrown pizza. You’ll be entertained by street musicians playing funky blues, old rock, modern jazz, country, or classical. You’ll see people carrying red go cups and hear others calling, “who dat” and “where y’at?” And the streets are full of people from every walk of life.
It was a few years ago, while David and I were visiting the city and I was sitting on our hotel balcony, or gallery as they are called there, that the idea for Rue Toulouse came to me. There’s a saying, “only in New Orleans.” And this is so true.
As I sat overlooking Toulouse Street, I could see a musician setting up on the corner. Soon the clear sounds of his saxophone filled the night. The smell of spicy gumbo from the restaurant across from me wafted through the air. The clip clop from a mule-drawn carriage passed beneath me, its driver thrilling his passengers with tales of the ghosts that haunt the city. A man painted all in silver strolled along juggling oranges while a bicycle cab pedaled by. A group of laughing tourists carrying red go cups went into a bar, and the long low whistle of a boat on the Mississippi could be heard in the distance.
As I sat there, taking it all in, I thought what a wonderful city to set a story in. From its diverse people to its incredible food. I sipped my glass of wine and nibbled Voodoo chips and the characters in Rue Toulouse began to take form in my mind. In one scene, I have Remi look down on Rue Toulouse
from the gallery of his apartment and he thinks he sees Caterine driving by. Hopefully I’ve brought a little of this wonderful city to life for you while you read about Caterine and Remi as they learn to love and trust one another — down in the heart of the Big Easy.
Now I’d like to share my husband David’s recipe for …
WHODAT GUMBO Andouille and Chicken Gumbo
Keep a kettle of hot water on the back burner.
ONION [2-3 MEDIUM] chopped sauté until clear
CELERY [6-8 stalks] chopped sauté until softened
BELL PEPPER chopped
+ GARLIC [3 cloves] chopped
Chop veggies and saute in the gumbo pot. Add a little water from the kettle and simmer.
While they are sauteing you can make the roux, but don’t burn either one.
1/4 c PEANUT OIL
1/4 c FLOUR
Pour about ¼ c. of the oil in a skillet and place it over medium heat.
When the oil is warm but not too hot, start stirring in flour until the mixture is thick. Add more oil or flour until it’s right. Roux must be stirred constantly to avoid burning. If you start to see smoke turn it off to let it cool a little while.
Once the roux has turned a medium brown, lower the fire just a little. The darker you cook the roux, the more flavor it will add to the sauce. Don’t cook it past a mahogany color, though. A dark roux might take up to 20 or 25 minutes. If you see black specks in your roux, you’ve burned it; throw it out and start over.
Turn the fire up a little and add hot water from the kettle about 1/4 cup at a time.Let it bubble before adding more. After adding about two cups of liquid let it come to a boil, then add the roux and water mixture to the gumbo pot.
Add 16 oz CHICKEN BROTH to the pot. Add more broth or water as needed as you add the other stuff.
CHICKEN BREASTS  Dice (about ½ inch) and brown in a skillet. Add to the pot.
ANDOUILLE Sausage [1 lb.] Slice or dice and sauté. Add to the pot.
“Pickled” or Tasso HAM [8 oz.] Dice and saute. Add to the pot. (or just diced ham)
for KICK, add CRYSTAL, Louisiana, Tabasco, or your favorite hot sauce.
Add 3-4 GREEN ONIONS (do not sauté ) chopped.
Simmer one hour or so. Add Gumbo FILÈ [if you have it.]
Filé should never be added to a pot of gumbo while it’s cooking, but rather at the end when the gumbo is off the fire (it’s best when you sprinkle it on, cover the pot and let it sit for 15 minutes). Filè is a thickener and adds flavor. You can also thicken with Wondra which is easier to use than regular flour or cornstarch. I like my gumbo fairly thick but that is up to the cook.
serve with: scoop of white rice