Treebeards does lunch. Not the hasty post-modern “Let’s do lunch” but the leisurely traditional “Will you join me for lunch?” Inside the flagship Market Square location (315 Travis) in Houston, ceiling fans waft a breeze across baskets of fresh produce while customers queue up to peruse the possibilities: shrimp étouffée, red beans and rice, mustard greens, and a battery of other cajun specialties. First among equals are owner Dan Tidwell’s savory chicken- and-sausage gumbo—redolent of filé—and his jalapeño cornbread, so thick with creamed corn and cheddar cheese it could almost sustain life by itself. Other locations in the tunnel system (1100 Louisiana) and Christ Church Cathedral, Texas at Fannin.
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup flour
2 cups each chopped white onion and bell pepper
1 1⁄2 cups chopped celery
1/2 teaspoon each salt, red pepper, black pepper, and garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon each filé powder, poultry seasoning, and beef base (or 1 bouillon cube)
2 bay leaves
5 cups chicken stock (approximately 40 ounces)
2 pounds chicken meat (fry chicken dusted in salt, pepper, and garlic powder; remove and mince skin; chop meat into 1-inch pieces)
1 pound andouille or other sausage, sliced
Make a roux by placing oil in skillet over medium-high heat and adding flour slowly, stirring constantly with wire whisk; will take at least 15 minutes. Be careful not to burn. Finished roux will be thick and a dark caramel color. Remove from heat and add onions, peppers, and celery, stirring to coat with roux. Then add spices and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 15 to 20 minutes.
Add chicken, skin, and sausage and simmer until thoroughly heated, 20 minutes. Yields 4 quarts gumbo (serves 10).
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
5 cups grated cheddar cheese (about 1 pound)
5 cups yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 cups creamed corn
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/3 cup sliced jalapeño peppers
6 tablespoons sugar
2 1/3 cups milk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large mixing bowl, combine baking powder and salt, and add vegetable oil. Add remaining ingredients in order given. Mix thoroughly, but do not overmix or cornbread will be tough.
Pour mixture into greased 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Bake approximately 1 hour, but start checking at 45 minutes. Bread is done when knife blade inserted in center comes out clean.
To prepare ahead, mix all ingredients except baking powder. Cover and refrigerate. Next day, add baking powder and bake. Serves 10.