Ritter’s Steam Kettle Cooking – Ritter’s Famous Chicken Gumbo
Ritter’s Steam Kettle Cooking
1421 W MacArthur Blvd · Santa Ana, CA 92704
Gumbo is like the swampy marshlands of the Southeast – a mosh posh of ingredients thrown into the murky, roux laced waters. Slimy okra, with its ridged green exterior, looks like foliage, or even the occasional alligator peaking itself on the surface. Diced chicken and sliced Andouille scatter throughout the bog, barely visible in the dark liquid as brown as a century old penny. The only safe haven is the mound of rice that acts like a small island jutting out in the center.
One of the culinary anchors of Creole cooking, gumbo is a popular dish of Louisiana. Such cuisine is not as easy to find on the West Coast; Ritter’s Steak Kettle Cooking is one of a few Orange County spots that feature this flavor packed dish. Ritter’s boasts utilizing miniature versions of the industrial kitchen steam kettles to cook their gumbo, ensuring that each and every one is made to order and seasoned according to taste. This method speeds up the cooking process.
Uniform cuts of veggies and meats load up the bowl of gumbo. The Cajun trinity of finely diced onions, celery, and green bell peppers provides the foundational flavors for the gumbo, instilling its fragrance and aromatics. Tender, sliced okra add a matchless unctuous and silky consistency, thickening up the broth in the process. The vegetable crunch really pops with every spoonful. Andouille pork sausage asserts itself with its smoky saltiness, carrying the dish forward, while the chicken adds substance and mellows things out a bit.
The liquid itself has the full-on flavor dark roux supplies, its distinctive smokiness and nutty aroma setting the tone. It leans more toward the brothy side as opposed to a thick, gravylike stew. A heaping half cup portion of fragrant jasmine rice rises from the middle point in the bowl, parsley garnishing the peak. A quintessential accompaniment to gumbo, rice makes the gumbo a complete and filling meal.
Depending on your spice preference and tolerance, the heat level can get to you. On this visit, medium spicy (a five out of ten on Ritter’s spicy scale) almost immediately got the perspiration flowing. One bite and your body might react like it would stepping outside on a humid day in Louisiana; eating this gumbo is like traversing the swamplands indeed. Be sure to order a refreshing sweet iced tea to cool down!
An aggressive herbal note from all the thyme mixed into the stock is the one aspect of the dish that takes a bit away from the other flavors. The pungent nature of the herb slightly overwhelms the overall flavor.
Gumbos range in price from 16.50 chicken to the lobster bowl at 26 dollars. Ritter’s famous House gumbo, , containing shrimp, crab, clams and whitefish, seems like the best value. Each entrée bowl is large enough to split between two diners, so overall it is great value. All in all, the gumbo is a good dish, but just a bit too much thyme.