Each February I’m reminded of how many stories of unsung heroes there are to share about Black History. During this centennial year for the recognition of black history month the theme is “A Century of Black History, Life and Culture.” Food is intrinsic to culture, and it is central to everyday life. African American innovation led to many inventions that impact the e modern food industry.
Lloyd Augustus Hall (1894-1971) was one of these innovators. Hall was a chemist, whose interest in food-related chemistry led to the invention of methods of preserving meats, reducing bacteria in spices, and improving the process for curing bacon. At the time of his death Hall had received 105 patents covering solid seasonings, flavorings and protective food coatings. Many of these inventions are the foundation of processes used by the food industry today.
Whether it’s about the bacon, spices, or go-to seasoning mixes, use of these foodstuffs add or boost flavor in the food you’re cooking. Sausage Gumbo Casserole is flavored with the “trinity” of green pepper, onion, and celery, a touch of garlic, and smoked sausage. When I’m cooking this casserole, I can’t help thanking Hall for his twentieth century inventions that helped add ‘flava to today’s table.
SAUSAGE GUMBO CASSEROLE
1 14-oz. pkg. smoked sausage, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3/4 cup chopped green pepper
3/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped celery
3 teaspoons minced garlic, divided
1/4 cup instant roux mix*
1 (32-ozs.) carton reduced sodium chicken broth
1 14-1/2-oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes with garlic
2 cups cut frozen okra
1 cup quick-cooking rice, uncooked
1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Dash of red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (12-ozs.) French baguette, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
Sauté sausage, green pepper, onion, celery and 1 teaspoon of garlic in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat 6 to 8 minutes or until browned; stir in roux mix.** Cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Stir in broth, tomatoes, rice and seasonings; bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Pour into a 13- x 9-inch baking dish.
Stir together butter and remaining garlic; brush on one side of bread slices. Top sausage mixture with bread, buttered side up.
Cover with aluminum foil. Bake, at 425°F for 10 minutes; uncover and bake 10 more minutes. Let stand 10 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.
*Tony Chachere’s Creole Instant Roux Mix.
**Note: To make roux from scratch in large skillet combine 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup cooking oil, mixing with wire whisk until blended. Cook, stirring constantly over low heat until flour mixture darkens to rich brown color. Stir roux into sausage mixture. Stir in broth, tomatoes, rice and seasonings; continue as directed.
Editorial Note: I am the principal of It’s Food Biz! consulting. It’s Food Biz! provides marketing services for food and food related companies. Hillshire Farm, a Tyson Foods brand is one of my clients and they sell Hillshire Farm brand smoked sausage.