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Spice of Life: I shed a few tears over onion goof

Last Modified: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 6:59 PM

By Eric Cormier / American Press

The words of writer Simone Elkeles seem fitting at the moment, since I committed a faux pas with directions for cooking one of Louisiana’s famous staple dishes.

If you read the chicken and sausage gumbo recipe printed on Jan. 2, and are detail oriented, then you may have observed an important ingredient omission.

Several readers let me know about the mistake — and they should have, considering I left out a key component in the gumbo-making process.

Honestly, I am surprised I was not found, tarred and feathered, and I am thankful I wasn’t.

So what was missing?

Well, an email from reader Charles Ware will solve the mystery for you.

“You forgot to include the onion in your list of gumbo ingredients!! For shame!” he wrote.

A few readers left messages on my phone alerting me to the honest mistake, which I can only attribute to typing too fast and not realizing onion was missing.

Gumbo can be made without andouille, okra, tomato juice and even thyme — all ingredients that were featured in this version of yardbird and sausage gumbo — but not much that goes into a pot in Louisiana is without onion.

Cookbook writer Marcelle Bienvenu wrote in what is one of my favorite cookbooks — “The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book, Sesquicentennial Edition” — that “the onion is indispensable in the kitchen.”

Considering my error, I offer a recipe this week — from the above cookbook — that features the onion in all of its culinary glory.

Once completed, you can eat the onions with rice or even spread the finished product over a cooked steak.

Whatever you do, please accept my honest apology. Yes, I do know better.

Which leads us to Elkeles, who wrote: “Makin’ mistakes ain’t a crime, you know. What’s the use of having a reputation if you can’t ruin it every now and then?”

Smothered Onions


• A dozen small onions

• Pot-au-Feu, bouillon or water

• 3 tablespoonfuls of butter

• 3 tablespoonfuls of flour

• Salt, pepper and Cayenne to taste


• Put the onions into cool water, and remove their skins.

• Then put them into a saucepan, and cover with a soup stock (Pot-au-feu or Bouillon), if you have it, otherwise use water, and let them stew slowly for an hour and a half, till they are almost falling to pieces.

• Drain the onions through a colander, and save the stock.

• Put three tablespoonfuls of butter into a frying pan, and add three tablespoonfuls of flour, and make a light brown roux. When brown, add a half- pint of the broth in which the onions boiled.

• Season well with salt and pepper and a dash of Cayenne. Put the onions into this and let them simmer gently for about 20 minutes.

• Serve hot.

From “The Picayune’s Creole Cookbook, Sesquicentennial Edition”

• • •

Eric Cormier writes about food every Wednesday. Contact him at or 494-4090.

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