Ahh, the perfect Saturday – we have been informed that, due to the 12th blizzard this month, that there is a citywide parking ban for the next two days. Initially I had plans to attend a New England-style boiled dinner and whiskey party, but once I thought about it nothing sounded better than just stowing my car in a friend’s driveway and not leaving my downtown apartment for two solid days. That’s what this weather does to me, and I’m perfectly fucking fine with it.
The evening prior I had spent a few hours at a local BBQ joint observing their methods for an upcoming magazine piece I am writing, and stuffing my face with delicious smoky meat for a few hours, during which I had consumed three beers to help take the edge of the previous night’s “90’s videos and red wine fest” that had gone well past three in the morning. When I arrived home, I poured myself a glass of wine and sat down in front of the TV, though after about 45 minutes I found myself feeling quite sleepy despite only 2 glasses deep. Taking advantage of the possibility of catching up on rest, I call it a night at 10PM and doze off immediately, only to awaken at 12 with mind-numbing anxiety. After about 15 minutes of trying to shake it, unsuccessfully, I get up and open more wine, drinking two bottles of California Cabernet that is pleasant enough, and catching up on the new season of Kroll show until finally being able to pass out again, around 3.
Hence, today all I really want to do is take a Clonazapam, drink lots of water, and cook the kind of food that involves a long, leisurely pace. This, and I will probably alternate between getting work done and focusing on my second play through of Dragon Age: Inquisition on PS4, the inspiration for which being the fact that I had no idea the first time around that my attractive female inquisitor could engage in a sexual relationship with the cute female elf rogue – not to be missed out on (I promise this has nothing to do with the fact that it’s Valentines Day). Who knows, maybe I’ll even get around to playing Civilization 5 for the 123rd time, I don’t know, I don’t know if I’ll have the time…
The idea to attempt Louisiana Gumbo for the first time started with the package of Niman Ranch Andouille Sausage I’ve got in my fridge, the gift bag spoils from a trade event I attended a few nights ago. It got the gears turning, and after rolling out for a bowl of chicken pho at Huong’s for breakfast I head to the grocery store to procure ingredients, as well as other provisions to get me through this fucking storm.
Ingredient breakdown is as follows:
I decide to forego the seafood in my version, opting for air-chilled bone-in chicken thighs to compliment the sausage, and add a flavorful fat content to augment the roux. I only mention the air-chilled aspect not to be an asshole, but because I recently came to the revelation that there is considerably less water retention in these birds. How much difference does that make? I don’t know but it sounds good.
In addition to the “Trinity,” of onion, celery, and bell pepper, I’ll be rolling with okra as a thickener instead of filé powder. I decide to employ a method I learned while cooking Bahian stews of soaking the okra in lime juice beforehand to temper the slime factor a bit, but not too much as I need it to act as a thickener. Lastly, I will add a liberal amount of garlic because, well, there is simply no other way in this house.
I decide to toast up some dried peppers and buzz up into fresh chili powder to compliment the fresh thyme and bay leaf. Also, I may toss in a little MSG.
Creole Rose, with its signature “Popcorn Aroma,” is the natural choice here – I actually make a separate trip to Rosemont Market to procure this all-important element.
30 minutes prior to cooking, I season the chicken thighs with chili powder, salt, and pepper. In the meantime, chop the celery, green pepper, onion, and garlic, as well as getting the spice blend ready (salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf, cayenne pepper).
Now every Southerner will tell you that your gumbo is basically as good as your roux. Though there are many tips and tricks out there that act as shortcuts, I decide to do it the old fashioned way, first browning the chicken in butter before removing to a bowl and adding the flour to the pot (after lowering the heat), scraping up the browned bits. For the next 57 fucking minutes, I stand over the pot and stir while listening to the first Gravity Kills album and using my free hand to operate the laser pointer toy to keep my cat out of the goddamn kitchen. Over this period of time, I watch the color of the roux slowly transition from beige to peanut butter to caramel to almost milk chocolate, which was my target hue. The whole time I was concerned because I couldn’t tell if I was seeing flecks from the chicken or if I was burning the roux, but in the end, when I added the trinity of vegetables, it all smelled fantastic. Stir for a couple minutes, then add garlic before ladling in a little over two quarts of chicken stock, one cup at a time, and then the spice mix and chicken thighs. After coming to a simmer, the pot is covered and let to roll for 90 minutes, during which time I prep the okra and sausage.
It’s worth noting that I understand and am confortable with the fact that any or all of my methods constitute sacrilege in the religion of Gumbo, and my response is simple: Chill the fuck out, I’m a northerner and I don’t know any better.
I add the okra and sausage to the pot to simmer for another 40 minutes, starting the rice in the meantime. The Creole Rice package suggests that the best way to cook it is by adding a bit of butter and salt to my stock base, because what could that possibly hurt?
As the Gumbo closes in on the last ten minutes, I pull the chicken and remove the meat from the bones (which, as you may have guessed, is not difficult at this point) to put back in the stew. I will admit that yes, the finished rice did have a buttery, popcorn-y aroma but also that could have been the result of, well, adding butter. Either way, it has a very pleasant flavor that seems custom designed to work with Gumbo.
The last step before serving is adding both salt and a liberal amount of Tabsaco sauce for vinegar and heat. After assembling, my first bite does not disappoint, and immediately justifies the full hour spent slaving over the roux. Seriously, this Gumbo is fucking awesome, and it’s only going to get more awesome when I enjoy leftovers tomorrow. Really deep, rich flavors – I immediately put down a pretty large bowl despite the fact that I burn the fuck out of my mouth in the process. This is because I lack any semblance of patience in almost any situation and that will probably never change.
Looking forward to tomorrow’s “Sunday Blizzard Carbonnara”