Monday, January 03, 2005


Sunday night. End of vacation night. The dark cloak of Goin’ Back to th’ Salt Mine Tomorrow depression settles on my soul.


Only one thing to do: make gumbo.

The hard part of making a good gumbo is preparing the roux. Happily, I had foreseen the need a few days before and had used an idle hour to do this crucial bit of homework. A half-cup of peanut oil and a half-cup of all-purpose flour went into the sauté pan, medium heat. Stir, scrape, stir, scrape with the wooden spatula, for almost an hour.

You can’t rush this process, or you will end up with a pile of carbonized shit in your pan. No, you need patience. And no distractions. Stir, scrape. Stir, scrape.

When the paste is a nice dark brown - somewhere between semi-sweet and milk chocolate color - off goes the heat. At this point, you can proceed to the next step, or scrape the contents of the pan into a bowl and shove it in the fridge (or freezer) until you need it. In my case, that’s a few days later, when the clock strikes gumbo o’clock.

I chop up a couple of strong yellow onions - ending up using about 1 1/2 onions’ worth - along with four stout ribs of celery and two good-sized green bell peppers. Into the sauté pan goes the whole mess, along with the roux, at medium heat. Now I mash the whole heap around until the vegetable mixture is well-coated with roux, and let it cook down for fifteen minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

This is when the magic of heat and chemistry takes place. Roux, by itself, doesn’t smell all that impressive. The “Trinity” of onions, celery, and green bell peppers doesn’t thrill me: I’m no celery and bell pepper fan. But a few minutes on the fire, and WHAM! that gumbo aroma happens. Yeah, baby. House be smellin’ like Baton Rouge now, cher.

Now it’s time to throw in a couple of quarts of chicken stock. I happen to have on hand a few containers of concentrated chicken stock and about half a gallon or so of turkey stock, all left over from my last bout of stock prep fever a few months ago. All of this is frozen rock solid... but conveniently defrosted in the Nuclear Heat Machine whilst the Trinity is settling in on the flame. In goes the stock.

Now I throw in the Gumbo Protein. This time it’s a pound of hacked-up, precooked smoked beef sausage, along with the pile of leftover boiled shrimp from our New Year dinner. Enough to ensure that every spoonful will have something interesting.

A cup of sliced okra goes in at the end, for to provide a little extra texture. I’ll make sure it cooks down enough so it doesn’t have Okra Snot hanging from it when it’s time to serve the ’bo. A few dashes of cayenne to provide that nice, slow burn at the back of the throat. Now I bring the whole mess to a low simmer and let it roll.

Gumbo. It’s what’s for dinner!

Forty-five minutes later, time to eat. Like the lazy, carb-avoiding turd I am, I have not deigned to prepare the white rice that normally lines the bottom of the Gumbo Bowl. No, tonight it will be Gumbo Au Naturel, garnished with a handful of sliced scallions (the green part). Bowls are filled for She Who Must Be Obeyed and me.

Pass the Tabasco. This stuff kicks assco!

[Update: Tuesday night, this stuff tastes even better. SWMBO has fixed up a small pot of steamed brown rice: decidedly untraditional, but what the hell do a couple of Jews know about Gumbo Tradition anyway? Point is, it works. A little bit chewier and nuttier-tasting than white rice, it’s the perfect foil for that yummy Liquid Gold.]

No comments: