North California Creole
North California CreoleApril 27, 2012
Justin Simoneaux grew up in Raceland, Louisiana, and while he now calls San Francisco home, his daily activities still include frying alligator. We sat down with the 27-year-old chef is behind the Boxing Room—one of the best places on the west coast to chow down on a plate of Cajun and Creole cuisine (especially fried gator).
Photos by Jenny Adams
Where did your culinary career start?
Honestly? Washing dishes when I was 14. I got a job in this little mom-and-pop place in Harahan, LA called Dockside Seafood and Oyster Bar. I worked my way up to kitchen manager. I started looking at culinary schools seven years ago and chose San Francisco.
You serve up a mean plate of fried alligator …
It’s been on the Boxing Room menu since day one. I kind of focused on it, because our logo is an alligator. We source the meat from southern Louisiana. Growing up in Raceland, alligators were in our backyard—literally. So we’d eat it a lot. Last time I was home, my mom made Alligator Sauce Picante. She serves it over rice. We serve it fried here.
Where did you get your recipes?
I definitely have taken home recipes from my mother and grandmother. Then some are from places I’ve traveled and experienced, with my own spin on them. Some things you can do at home simply won’t translate to serving 300 people.
What are two things people should absolutely order if they come in?
The Red Beans and Rice. We have it on the menu every night and it’s also a lunch special on Mondays. That tradition goes back hundreds of years.
Before electricity, Monday was wash day. The women would go outside and use washboards, and it would take the whole day. So, in the morning, they would put on beans because it was something that could be left unattended while they did the wash. I want to keep that tradition alive on our menu. And also the Gumbo … because it’s my favorite. It’s dear to my heart. It’s one of those things when people say they eat something and it takes them back to childhood, gumbo does that for me.
Check out Justin's gumbo recipe below:
Justin Simoneaux's Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
(Yeild: 6-10 people)
1 3-4 lb. chicken
2 tbs. canola oil
1 medium onion cut into 8 pieces
1 cup celery, cut into 1" pieces
1 cup carrots, cut into 1" pieces
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. black pepperorn
5 sprigs thyme
1 gallon water
2 tbs. salt
In a 2 gallon stock pot, heat oil on medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add onion, celery, and carrot, stirring regularly, until vegetables are caramelized. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 45 minutes to a hour or until chicken is cooked through. Strain liquid from chicken and vegetables, pick chicken and reserve for making gumbo.
picked chicken meat, from above recipe
1 lb. andouille sausage, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups flour
2 cups onions, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup green bell pepper chopped
1/2 cup red bell pepper chopped
1 cup okra, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 quarts hot chicken broth, from above recipe
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. thyme, chopped
In a 2 gallon stock pot, heat oil, then whisk in flour and stir constantly until roux becomes a pecan color. Add onion, celery, and peppers. Cook until vegetables are wilted (about 3-5 minutes). Add in garlic and sausage and cook for another 3 minutes. Add in the stock and bay leaf. Stir regularly to ensure that the roux does not burn. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Add chicken, okra and thyme. Continue to simmer for another 15 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne to personal preference.