Award winning gumbo to benefit fundraiser for blood center
Gumbo is not a complicated dish. It doesn’t have a lot of ingredients either, but it takes time to mesh the flavors together, says a local award winning cook of the Cajun dish.
Miles Hall III has collected many trophies in local gumbo cook-offs. With the help of his family and members of his church, St. Paul’s Episcopal, to do the cutting and stirring, Hall entered the Orange Chamber of Commerce gumbo cook-offs and won.
The first year he entered, he tried to take a few shortcuts. But, this was not a winning decision. So, the following year he tried it again with the “old school” method and won in 2001. Hall and his helpers wanted the big trophy and knew they would have to kick it up another notch. However, to win the bigger trophy it would require an entry into all the categories, chicken gumbo, chicken and sausage gumbo and seafood gumbo. It worked and he continued to sweep each category in addition to winning the top prize of “Best Overall Gumbo” until 2008 when they no longer held the competitions.
Hall was “fortunate enough” to learn how to cook Southwestern Louisiana style award winning recipe through another award winner, W.T. Oliver who participated in cook-offs as well. Oliver cooked for local charities to help raise money for schools, veterans and more. But, he also did it to help promote the Cajun culture.
According to Hall, the French from Acadia began making gumbo when they needed to make a meal to feed their families. But, with a lack of money, they were forced to use what was available which was the chickens or guineas in the yard. To make the meat tender, longer cooking times were needed. The Native Americans introduced them to file which is made from sassafras leaves and gumbo was created.
However, Hall does not use file in his gumbo, but it is available if a person chooses to add the rich spicy flavor of the dark green powder.
Hall said the key to gumbo is a good roux.
“The ideal color is a dark Hershey’s chocolate color,” he said. “It takes a long time to do that.”
A roux is the base of numerous Cajun and creole dishes and is a mixture of flour and some sort of fat such as butter or oil.
“Without the right roux, you are just making chicken soup,” Hall said.
The public will get the chance to purchase pints of gumbo from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday at the parish hall of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church located at 13th and Park Streets. For $5 each, there will be sausage and chicken gumbo in addition to seafood gumbo. Plus, there will be delicious baked goods for sale. The leftover gumbo will be frozen and sold later. For more information contact the church at 409-883-2969. Last year, Hall and his crew made 55 gallons of gumbo, but it was all sold.
The fundraiser is to benefit the LifeShare blood center located at the parish hall. According to Hall, the members of the church wanted a place for the community to donate blood and knew they had available space. The vestry agreed but under one condition of an annual gumbo sale to help defray some of the costs of the blood center. The blood center is named after a member of the church, Joe Cheek, who died from cancer and who needed frequent blood transfusions. The blood center at the parish hall is open on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Hall said he is “thrilled” to make his annual gallons of gumbo to benefit the blood center.
“I can make more gumbo, but they can’t make more blood,” he added. “It’s one of the things we believe in.”
Hall and his helpers will start Wednesday evening with the preparations. They will return in the very early morning hours on Monday to begin the cooking process and be ready for the many people who will come through the doors in search of gumbo.
Hall invites everyone to come and purchase pints of gumbo for a good cause.
“We want to break bread and share the good news and share the cause for the blood center,” Hall said.
Miles Hall III stands by his many trophies from the Orange Chamber of Commerce during gumbo cook-offs. Local citizens will get the chance to purchase pints of his gumbo from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church parish hall located at 13th and Park Streets.