Saturday, October 9, 2010

San Antonio Trip -- Gumbo Galore

It was time for me to have fun. Grace loaned me an apron! I want one, but have never seen one I liked, or if I did, had the money to spend. She kept them in the same closet with the brooms and the vacuum cleaner and the bag of dog food, and that was a bit of a problem. It is a typical coat/catchall closet, and when I shifted something to get the pretty blue apron, I heard something that sounded like one of those rain sticks. I told them I thought something was wrong, and sure enough, when the bag of dog food was put in on top of the vacuum, it poked a hole and when the bag shifted, out it ran.

So, how do you make gumbo?

Well, if you want to make sure some of it is vegan (Grace's daughter Wren is vegan, and would be visiting), you start with the roux. Roux is just flour slowly burned in a fat of some sort. My fat of choice is butter, but for this I just used canola oil. You don't want to use something like olive, the flavor is too strong. Peanut? Too much chance of allergy. I don't like regular vegetable oil, it is usually from GMO soy. No, I won't start on GMO's today. Not in the mood to rant.

Put your fat of choice and an equal amount of plain, white flour in a cast iron skillet. Cook over low heat for at least an hour, maybe more. I cooked it for a good hour plus in the morning, and when we came home from the gardens I put it back on to brown a bit more while I got some other things done. Cook your roux until it is almost as dark as the pan you are cooking it in, Sweetie says the darker the better.

The other things were that I seasoned some chicken breasts and put them in the oven to roast. I seasoned them by sprinkling some cajun seasoning on them and I later added the bit of broth they made in the oven to the rest of the chicken broth in the recipe. I also got the very happy rice going. Happy rice? Yes. Put rice in a pot, add cold water to a depth of one thumb knuckle above the level of the rice. Bring it to a boil, and when the water boils down to the same level as the rice, cover tightly and put it on the back of the stove. The rice steams nicely, and is ready when you are, about an hour later. And yes, it will be happy, just like you are when you come out of a steam sauna.

When your roux is close to cooked, take a big cast iron pot (I brought my two largest with me -- have iron, will travel and cook for you) and heat a bit of oil in it. Toss in all of your chopped onions, and cook them over medium heat until they are soft and starting to caramelize. Then put in your chopped celery, green bell pepper, the white part from the scallions/green onions, and garlic. Cook it all until it smells really good and is getting soft.

I then divided the vegetables between that pot and two others, and poured roux into each. I had made plenty of roux, 2 cups flour and 2 cups oil, so I saved out about half a cup of roux for Grace to use later, and equally divided the rest as best I could estimate. I let it all cook a bit longer, then poured in the various stocks.

Into one pot went most of the the chicken stock I had brought with me, frozen. I make it by boiling the bones, skins, and leftover parts from chickens I have roasted. Good seasoned roast chicken makes the best stock. The next pot got the stock I had boiled from the shrimp shells, and some chicken because it needed a bit more. The last pot got the vegetable broth I had made that morning and the boxed organic broth I had bought.

I then divided the frozen okra between the 3 pots, and stirred a can and a half of tomatoes into each. Any kind of chopped tomatoes will do, I like the kind with some onion and garlic in it.

Into the chicken stock based pot went the chicken I had roasted, nicely chopped, along with some turkey sausage. The shrimp based pot got the shrimp and the crab meat I had brought. All three pots got a tiny drop of crab boil, a tablespoon or so of cajun seasoning, and just a bit of Kitchen Bouquet.

By the time they had simmered enough and the flavors blended (never boil your gumbo, simmer gently!) the table was set with the nice china --wow!-- and some grapes, a veggie tray, and bread with butter.

I put gumbo file (pronounced fee-lay), 4 different brands of hot sauce, two brands of cajun seasoning, and the green parts of the scallions/green onions on the kitchen island, and they brought bowls in to serve themselves from the stove. That was much easier than trying to carry three hot pots to the table, plus the rice.

Oh, and by the way, people sometimes ask if there is a secret ingredient. Yes, there is. It is called love. Love deep and rich and shimmery as the roux. Love that makes you want to nourish the souls and bodies of the people you love. Love that never lets any child leave my house hungry, even when I know they have a home with plenty. Love that pours out through the wooden spoon into the pots, that turns on the burner and starts cooking every single night, even when you are tired and want with all your being to go sit down a while. Don't forget the love, or it won't come out right.

As we all gathered at the table, from the fact that no one said anything at first, it must have been good. They were surprised that I didn't even try the vegan gumbo, but I am weird, as I keep saying. Apparently even that one came out well, although I have never heard of anyone trying such a thing.

During the meal, when it got too quiet, Grace pulled out a book that is nothing but conversation starters, and we discussed such fun topics as whom we would have to play us if our lives were to become movies. We laughed and had fun, and finished up with decaf coffee and dessert.

After dinner it was time to clean, and I found that Grace has very little in the way of plastic storage containers. While everyone hustled around the kitchen, washing and laughing and pushing Mo and Lo out of the way, I got to run back to the store -- I knew where it was now! -- and get gallon freezer bags. Just like last year after the jambalaya. Blossoming came along for the ride.

We made plans to meet the next morning after Grace and I attended church, and it was another late night, but so worth it. Gumbo in the fridge for a few days lunches, and plenty in the freezer for when the weather is really right for it. That is a really good thing.

Today is:

Anti-Columbus Day

Curious Events Holiday -- Fairy Calendar

Felicitas -- Old Roman Calendar (goddess of good luck and joy)

Fire Prevention Day

Give Peace a Chance Day

Independence Day -- Uganda

Instant Karma Day

Korean Alphabet Day -- Korea (Hangul Nal)

Leif Erickson Da -- Iceland; Norway; Minnesota and Wisconsin

Magic Lantern Day

Messenger Appreciation Day

Moldy Cheese Day (Sorry, but I do not like the stinky, moldy cheeses, at least not the heavier ones.)

National Day of Dignity -- Peru

National Day of Commemorating the Holocaust -- Romania

National Submarine/Grinder/Hoagie/Hero/PoBoy Day

St. Demetrius' Day

St. Denis' Day (patron of France; against frenzy, headaches)

St. Dionysius of Paris' Day (Protector from headaches & the devil)

St. Ghislain's Day (patron against twitching)

St. Louis Bertrand's Day (patron of Columbia)

Takayama Autumn Festival -- Takayama, Japan

Universal Postal Union Day

World Egg Day

Anniversaries Today:

King Louis XII of France marries Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII of England, 1514

Birthdays Today:

Eddie Guerrero, 1967
Tony Shalhoub, 1953
Scott Bakula, 1954
Sharon Osbourne, 1952
Jackson Browne, 1948
John Entwistle, 1944
Brian Lamb, 1941
John Lennon, 1940
Jacques Tati, 1908
Bruce, Catton, 1899
Camille Saint-Saens, 1835
Mary Ann Shadd Cary, 1823 (with her husband, the first black newspaper publishers in the US)
Robert de Sorbon, 1201 (founded Sorbonne University, Paris)

Today in History:

Leif Ericson discovers "Vinland" (somewhere in New England or Nova Scotia, possibly?), 1000
Leif Ericson lands in L'Anse aux Meadows, Canada, a definitive European landing in the "New World", 1003
The Korean Hangual alphabet is devised, 1446
Founder of Rhode Island Roger Williams is banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony as a religious dissident after he speaks out against punishments for religious offenses and giving away Native American land, 1635
Collegiate School of CT (Yale University) is chartered in New Haven, 1701
Father Francisco Palou founds Mission San Francisco de Asis in what is now San Francisco, California, 1776
City of Hobart, Tasmania, founded, 1804
Official opening of the University of Ghent, 1817
Isaac Singer patents the sewing machine motor, 1855
Joshua Stoddard of Worcester, Mass., patents the first Calliope, 1855
The first US underground pipeline for carrying oil is laid in Pennsylvania, 1865
Aaron Montgomery starts the mail order business that will later become Montgomery Ward, 1872
The Universal Postal Union is created as part of the Treaty of Berne, 1874
The first 2-way telephone conversation over outdoor wires occurs, 1876
Washington Monument opens to the public, 1888
Woodrow Wilson becomes the first US president to attend a World Series Game, 1915
National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) forms, 1926
Hoover Dam begins transmitting electricity to L.A., 1936
A day after being captured, Marxist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara is executed for attempting to incite a revolution in Bolivia, 1967
The Khmer Republic is proclaimed in Cambodia, 1970
Abolition of capital punishment in France, 1981
A 13 kilogram (est.) fragment of the Peekskill meteorite lands in the driveway of the Knapp residence in Peekskill, New York, destroying the family's 1980 Chevrolet Malibu, 1992
North Korea allegedly tests its first nuclear device, 2006
First lunar impact of the Centaur and LCROSS spacecrafts as part of NASA's Lunar Precursor Robotic Program, 2009

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