Things have gotten a little hectic around here lately. We finally found a place to live!!!! We are going to be renting a new condo! It's really nice, and has some great features to it (hello granite counter tops and his and her sinks!!!), a swimming pool, and lots of other great features. But that also means that we now have to walk our dogs - not only everyday, but four times a day! (I keep trying to tell myself that other people do it, we can too! It's just so nice now to open the back door and let them play in the yard!!) It also comes with a nice price tag, which means I'm definitely going to be looking out for some budget recipes!
We have also been busy finding new car insurance, new short term health insurance for the month between when my insurance ends and Joel's starts up, and dealing with the fact that our landlords are trying to sell our house, so we keep having to skedaddle while realtors show our house. Add that to the mix that Joel graduates from medical school today (YAY! I am sooo proud of you!!!!) and all the fun that comes with that (and the not-so-fun reality of student loan repayment!)
We have also been busy pulling out the belongings which we aren't going to take with us. We're planning a garage sale for next weekend, and trying to craigslist some stuff as well. It's been hard to go through clothes and books and pull out things I don't need. It was really hard to go through my kitchen and weed out extras there - a plethora of pyrex without matching lids, an extra set of mixing bowls I never use, a mini au-gratin dish I haven't seen since I got it as a Bridal Shower gift, and a whole box of single purpose kitchen gadgets I've used maybe once, or not at all.
The absolute hardest thing to do was my cookbooks. I don't know what it is about cookbooks, but we all feel the need to have a whole shelf (or more) of them. Its as if having this shelf proclaims to everyone who enters your kitchen "Look, I am a real woman! I can cook!". And of course, everyone needs the essentials. Really, whose cookbook collection is really complete without a copy of Joy of Baking or Better Homes and Gardens?! And then you have to have the books by your favorite chefs (Martha Stewart and America's Test Kitchen for me), the newest fad food (cake pops, anyone?), and regional cuisines (actually, a quick glance at my shelf indicates that my regional cuisine as of late is baby food. That counts, right?) But besides having them, how much do we actually use them now a days? I'll be honest, the majority of the recipes that I am cooking come from online, or other blogs (so, online). And that just seems wierd to me, especially since I blatantly turn up my nose at a kindley-nook, prefering instead the crisp pages of a book. And now I'm rather appalled at myself for NOT utulizing the cookbooks that I already own. I'm going to start using them more often (before my husband reads this and makes me get rid of them all!)
Our May hostess, Denise, of There’s a Newf in My Soup!, challenged The Daring Cooks to make Gumbo! She provided us with all the recipes we’d need, from creole spices, homemade stock, and Louisiana white rice, to Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh.
|Oh Roux, you magical thing, you!|
I truly enjoyed this month's challenge! It was exactly what I needed - it was simple enough to do as long as you can follow directions. It was nice to just let my mind be at peace for a while and just chop and stir for an afternoon, basking in the revelry that is comfort cooking. Plus it not only smelled heavenly, it tasted that much better! I also really enjoyed the rice. "Basic" it is not, and how can it be, what with onion, chicken broth and a bay leaf thrown in there? I am defintiely adding this to my repetoire of "Go To" dishes, and I can't wait to make this again! And, if amazingly you have leftovers left over (hehe), they taste even better the next day!!
|See that non-simmering section on the left? That's the fat you want to skim off!|
Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage GumboMinimally adapted from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh
Serves 10-12 big heaping bowl (about 2.5 hours)
1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) rendered chicken fat, duck fat, or canola oil
1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm) (5 oz) flour
2 large onions, diced
1 chicken (3 ½ to 4 lbs.), cut into 10 pieces
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) Creole spice blend
2 pounds (2 kilograms) spicy smoked sausage, sliced ½ inch (15mm) thick
2 stalks celery, diced
2 green bell peppers (capsicum), seeded and diced
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 quarts (3 liters) Chicken Stock
2 bay leaves
2 bay leaves
6 ounces (175 gm) andouille sausage, chopped
2 cups (480 ml) (320 gm) (11 oz) sliced fresh okra, ½ -inch (15mm) thick slices (or frozen, if fresh is not available)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) Worcestershire sauce
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Filé powder, to taste
Tabasco, to taste
4-6 cups (1 – 1½ liters) (650 gm – 950 gm) cooked Basic Louisiana White Rice (recipe follows)
1. Season the chicken pieces with about 2 tablespoons of the Creole Spices while you prepare the vegetables.
2. Make sure all of your vegetables are cut, diced, chopped, minced and ready to go before beginning the roux. You must stand at the stove and stir the roux continuously to prevent it from burning.
3. In a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pan, heat the chicken fat, duck fat, or canola oil over high heat. Whisk the flour into the hot oil – it will start to sizzle.
4. Reduce the heat to moderate, and continue whisking until the roux becomes deep brown in color, about 15 minutes.
5. Add the onions. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir the onions into the roux.
6. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue stirring until the roux becomes a glossy dark brown, about 10 minutes.
7. Add the chicken to the pot; raise the heat to moderate, and cook, turning the pieces until slightly browned, about 10 minutes.
8. Add the sliced smoked sausage and stir for about a minute.
9. Add the celery, bell peppers, tomato, and garlic, and continue stirring for about 3 minutes.
10. Add the thyme, chicken stock, and bay leaves. Bring the gumbo to a boil, stirring occasionally.
11. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, skimming off the fat from the surface of the gumbo every so often.
12. Add the chopped andouille, okra, and Worcestershire. Season with salt and pepper, several dashes of filé powder, and Tabasco, all to taste.
13. Simmer for another 45 minutes, continuing to skim the fat from the surface of the gumbo. Remove the bay leaves and serve in bowls over rice. Pass more filé powder at the table if desired.
Basic Louisiana White RiceAdapted from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh
Servings: About 4 cups
1 tablespoon (30 ml) (30 gm) (1 oz) chicken fat, extra-virgin olive oil, or butter
1 small onion, minced
1½ cups (360 m) ((280 gm) (10 oz) Louisiana (or another long-grain white rice)
3 cups (750 ml) Chicken Stock
1 bay leaf
1-2 pinches salt
1. Put the fat, oil, or butter and the onions into a medium saucepan and sweat the onions over moderate heat until they are translucent, about 5 minutes.
2. Pour the rice into the pan and stir for 2 minutes.
3. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
4. Add the bay leaf and salt.
5. Cover the pan with a lid, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 18 minutes.
6. Remove the pan from the heat, fluff the rice with a fork, and serve.