We recently had the opportunity to see what it takes to feed not only an army, but a ‘circus’ of performers, when Ringling Bros. was in Orlando, Florida for their annual “Dragons” show!
Now the idea of putting together a circus, city after city, is obviously a challenge. But how does Ringling Bros. prepare and serve 3,000 meals each week to performers while traveling from city to city by train?
They have a secret weapon: the “Pie Car!”
A few Orlando food writers were invited to eat in the dining car and experience the pie car-it was the ultimate ‘food truck’ experience!
With performers hailing from six continents, Chef Michael Vaughn is always cooking up something inventive and making someone’s favorite dish, including specialties from Brazil, India, and Spain.
Pie Car Fast Facts
- The brand new state-of-the-art Pie Car (dining car) boasts a custom built, all aluminum marine quality kitchen with induction cooking, slatted floors for steam cleaning, and high end freezer/refrigeration units.
- The Pie Car décor includes framed vintage circus poster images, and satellite TV.
- The Pie Car on the train and the Pie Car Jr., which serves meals at the arenas, prepares a combined total of 2500-3000 meals each week.
- On selected days, the Pie Car offers special dishes featuring favorite performer recipes representing the cuisine of the many foreign countries on the show.
- Whenever the train is moving, the Pie Car is open 24/7.
While in Orlando, Chef Vaughn gave us the secret recipe for his world famous Spicy Louisiana-style Chicken & Sausage Gumbo.
Gumbo is a stew or soup originating in Louisiana, and found across the Gulf Coast of the United States and into the southern U.S. A typical gumbo contains one or more kinds of poultry, shellfish, and smoked pork. Poultry used is typically chicken, duck, or quail. Local shellfish such as the freshwater crawfish, crab and shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico provide a smoky flavor to the dish.
Spicy Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
Yields about 20 – 25 servings (reduce accordingly!)
¼ cup butter
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup of flour
2 tbsp. Tabasco
2 Tbsp. Black pepper
3 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
3 bay leaves
1 ¾ Tbsp. red pepper
5 lbs. andouille sausage sliced
5 lbs. boneless chicken thigh meat, cut in 1-inch pieces
4 cups finely chopped onions
2 cups finely chopped celery
3 cups chopped bell pepper
2 cups diced tomatoes
4 quarts chicken broth
Bring 4 quarts chicken broth to a boil in a very large stockpot then reduce to low heat.
In a cast iron skillet, make a dark roux with flour and oil. Remove from heat and set aside.
In another cast iron skillet, sauté andouille sausage in half of the olive oil over medium high heat until sausage begins to brown and transfer sausage to the gumbo pot.
Completely cook all chicken breast by sauteing chicken, half a batch at a time, in remaining cooking oil until fully cooked & slightly browned. Transfer chicken to gumbo pot.
Sauté onion, celery, bell peppers and garlic until tender. Add roux, tomatoes and all remaining spices to this mixture and season to taste with Cajun seasoning. Transfer all ingredients to the gumbo pot. Bring to a boil again, then reduce heat, and simmer over a low heat for 45 minutes to an hour. Serve in soup bowls over rice of your choice, garnish with green onions and parsley and a dash of gumbo filé. Enjoy!
– Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents DRAGONS is a once in a millennium event that honors The Year of the Dragon. Circus performers from the farthest reaches of the earth have assembled for Ringling Bros. Presents DRAGONS to showcase their astounding acts of bravery and astonishing athleticism. Ringling Bros.® Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson presides over this fantastical celebratory tournament of circus champions that brings together mystic dragon lore with authentic circus feats. For more information, visit, www.Ringling.com.