Sunday, May 10, 2009

you win some, you lose some.

One of my favorite things in life is cooking. I haven't done much, if any, of it for the past 20 weeks or so because I have hated food more than I hate the word "ladies" or "panties" or even more than I dislike Johnny Depp and the voice that does all of the "Leap Frog" toys, but I'm slowly getting back into it. Tonight I decided to make a gumbo for dinner and then brownies for dessert. I figured that because I was making the gumbo from scratch, it would be acceptable to make the brownies from a box. I pick my battles.

I got everything out for the gumbo, chopped the veggies, made the roux, got it all simmering perfectly, and then I started in on the brownies. Not hard, right? Open the box, pour it in a bowl, add a couple of eggs, some oil, and some water. Then I added some mint extract to spice it up a bit and poured the mixture in the pan. And something was wrong. It just didn't look right. It was clumpy and just kinda plopped out of the bowl. How on earth could I mess up boxed brownies? Oh yeah, it is easy when you don't add the water! I thought I had added the water. I distinctly remember filling the measuring cup and then putting the cup in the dishwasher... but whatever happened between the time I filled the cup and put the cup away is lost forever in some space/ time pregnancy black hole continuum, never to be recovered. I have NO idea where I poured the water. It could have been in the gumbo or I might have poured it right down the drain, watered a plant, gave it to a kid... No clue.

Since I had already poured the batter into the baking dish and filled the batter bowl with water to be washed and I didn't want to dirty and wash yet another bowl, I took the lazy man's route and poured some water directly into the baking dish and then mixed it all up before popping it in the oven. And then I forgot to set a timer.

So there I was, making my gumbo, chopping up the chicken and peeling the shrimp when my mother reminded me about the brownies. Oops! Thankfully, I pulled them out in the nick of time. They were certainly different looking but I wasn't sure if the texture was because of the water issue, or because they were actually cooked a bit too long. Only time would tell.

I set those out to cool, added the chicken and sausage to the gumbo, simmered it away and soon, it was time to add the shrimp and eat up. And let me tell you, my gumbo was good. Like, really good. I've made a good gumbo before, but this was hit the spot, I'll take seconds even though I'm not hungry anymore, I'm glad I am supposed to eat 3500 calories and 150 grams of protein a day because I'm going to eat this entire pot, good.

Honestly though, I've never eaten anyone other gumbo so I don't really know if it is that great on the gumbo spectrum. I highly doubt Bobby Flay will be coming to my house and requesting to do a gumbo Throw Down with me... which is really too bad because every time I am pregnant, I seem to develop a mad innocent crush on him (goodness, that sounds so dirty. That is not what I meant, I promise!)... but I do think my gumbo is good, although it might be offensive to those native to the Land of Gumbo and know what REAL gumbo tastes like.

I don't really have an actual recipe for the gumbo. The mixture came after reading numerous recipes and taking the easiest and most delicious sounding parts from each of them. I'll try to write it out somewhat coherently if anyone is interested in trying it.

- 1/4 cup oil
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 3-5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 smallish tomato, seeded and chopped
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- little bit of salt
- 3 bay leaves
- 6 cups chicken broth (I only use the low sodium kind)
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch to 1 inch pieces
- 1 lb smoked sausage cut into slices and then halved (I like to use smoked turkey sausage but you can use kielbasa or andouille)
- about 24 raw shrimp, peeled and deveined.
- cooked rice (if you are a health nut, which you shouldn't be if you are eating this, use brown rice. I like to use regular white rice and if you are feeling extra daring, go Paula Deen on me and use some buttered rice)

Before you start cooking, send your kids outside with your husband or put them in front of a show or movie that lasts at least 45 minutes with snacks and drinks in hand, pour yourself a beverage and put your bluetooth in your ear so your hands are free and interruptions are kept to a minimum.

Make sure all of the veggies are chopped and ready to go.

In a dutch oven or other heavy sauce pan, combine the oil and flour over medium heat. Stir constantly until the flour and oil are smooth and the color of chocolate (can take 10-15 minutes). Slowly and carefully add the chopped onion, celery, green pepper and garlic. Stir until the veggies are mixed with the roux. Keep stirring until the veggies get a bit soft and the onions begin to get translucent (about 3-5 minutes).

Add the tomatoes, cayenne pepper, thyme, bay leaves and salt, continue to stir for another 2-3 minutes.

Slowly add the chicken broth, while stirring, making sure the veggie/roux mix combines fully with the broth. Bring to a slow boil and then turn the heat down and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Add the chunks of chicken and sausage and continue to simmer for another 45- 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. The broth should be reducing and getting thicker at this point.

When you feel like it is done to your liking, and the rice is ready, add the shrimp and cook until the shrimp is pink. Take the pan off the heat and let it set for a couple of minutes. Stir before serving over rice.

I don't like a lot of salt or heat in my dishes so modify the recipe to fit your sodium limits and heartburn/ reflux threshold. If you want more spice, you can season the chicken before throwing it in the pot. The longer you simmer this, the more flavor it is going to have, but don't go more than 3 total hours because that is just nuts and you will be very hungry by then.

Let me know if any of this doesn't make sense. It is late and I'm high on sudafed and limeaid. If it sucks, or you get a horrific case of food poisoning, don't blame me. It's not my fault you just can't cook. I'm kidding, of course!! I hope this is as good as I think it is.

As for the brownies, well, they aren't my best work. But they are edible and will not go to waste because I'm pretty sure it is illegal in like 5 states to let brownies go to waste, even if they are a bit spongy and dense at the same time. Next time, I won't multi task while cooking. Clearly, my pregnant brain can only handle one task at a time.


clanelder said...

i just finished a big dinner, but your post made me hungry. Sounds very good. But cooking your own dinner for Mother's Day? I guest W and CB aren't quite ready to take over, but I hope you had a good day anyway.

EntertainingMom said...

I have a feeling it is illegal in all 50 states to let brownies go to waste!

your gumbo sounds fab and if it is any good i'll be calling Bobby... should this throwdown be while you are pregnant or after the babies are born? your crush may not be so mad then!

I'm No Heroine said...

You know, I never liked Bobby Flay. Ever...I think it is because his thing is grilling and/or spicy (meaning hot) foods. I am really not a fan of either. Plus he is cocky. Your gumbo sounds fantastic, but I never make gumbo mainly because that is a lot of work when only one person will be eating it. I made vegan strawberry cupcakes with vegan buttercream icing. Haven't tried them yet, but I am excited.

JoAnna said...

On any other day, I'm not a big fan of his either and I don't find him attractive at all. I think I actually have a crush on his food... not him, lol!

Did you use wheat flour in the cupcakes? I wonder if CB could eat them. I have been meaning to check out some vegan recipes because she can't have eggs or dairy, but I would have to find substitutes for the wheat and soy ingredients.