If you’ve read this post you’ll know I’ve been needing my rain boots repaired for weeks now. In all honesty they’ve needed repair since February. Today started with three giant leaps forward.
Leap 1) A railing has been dropped off on my ninth floor balcony. That means that today’s construction crew plans to install it before nightfall. For six months I’ve listening to mind-bleed drilling and had unwanted visitors outside my window a mere 6 feet from my bed. The end is near, the light glistens.
Leap 2) I finally hauled my modem back to the ever so helpful staff at Rogers (sarcasm, sarcasm), therefor I now have properly working internet that allows me to do the following: upload images to WordPress, send emails, AND stream video, all without having to disconnect and reconnect constantly. Hallelujah.
Leap 3) The best of the three. I took my incredibly expensive Hunter rain boots back to the shoe store to see what they’d do for me. With holes in the bottom and water seeping in, dirty and mucked up a year later, with no receipt in hand: I didn’t have much hope. I’d thought since their price tag had been so high, and with the guarantee of warranty that always convinces us consumers, I’d be in the clear with these galoshes. Thought they’d forever be my fall, winter, and spring boots. Wrong. Don’t think of wearing Hunters in ‘minus weather’ or they’ll deteriorate before your eyes. Rain weather only. Lucky for me- I’ve left the store less than 15 mins later with shiny new boots, no questions asked, not a dime spent. Almost seems to good to be true.
So on that note I come home, switch over the laundry, and bust out last nights feast for a lunch of leftovers. GUMBO.
This is technically my first attempt at making the traditional Southern soup. I still haven’t figured out if my recent urge to bake pies and one-pot soups + stews is just me, or if it’s this weather! Grey, windy, and chilly, it’s the perfect time for gumbo. This week I happened to fall upon John Besh’s cookbook My New Orleans. I have to be honest: I’ve seen it before but avoided even picking it up due to it’s (in my opinion) terrible dust jacket. I don’t have the patience for cookbooks that showcase the Chef or “food personality”s looks more than the food itself. So Flay’s coif or Giada’s boob cleavage just doesn’t cut it for me. It actually insults me. As someone who works in the industry it’s sometimes sickening to see the array of personalities with pleasant looks that get to pass off as “Chefs”. So when I saw Besh’s perfectly manicured look and his pretending to be able to enjoy some foodstuffs… I walked past. Sorry Chef.
But this time I was in the mood for some of that Southern hospitality and a bowl of hot and spicy seafood stew, and as I flipped reluctantly through it was pleasantly surprised and inspired. Not only does Besh’s book have some great food photography and recipes that work, but there’s story, history, heart, and a connection. He’s successfully connected his readers to his own past, his hometown and it’s traditions over the decades and through generations. I’m always on the lookout for the newest cookbook, as I follow those real Chefs out there like most people follow the Kardashians, and it’s been more than a year since I’ve found one that inspired me like this one has.
First attempt: John Besh’s Seafood Gumbo.
The verdict: Could’ve been spicier (though I gripe about that with all the meals I make), and needed a dash of acid. Squeeze of lemon next time. But all in all: hit the spot. Soothed the craving. Thanks John.
Step 1: Make Cajun Spice Mix
Adapted from Besh’s book, slightly altered.
2 TB celery salt
1 TB smoked paprika
1 TB salt
1 TB black peppercorns, whole
1 TB garlic powder
1 TB onion powder
2 ts cayenne pepper
1/2 ts allspice, whole
-Blitz all ingredients together in coffee grinder (that’s been reserved for spices only!)
Also adapted from Besh’s book, but altered in order to make it more affordable and attainable for those of us without access to southern seafood, etc.
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 onion, chopped
450 g spicy pork or beef sausage
1/2 green bell pepper
1cup chopped okra
3 lrg cloves of diced fresh garlic
1.5 L chicken stock
1 lrg piece of white fish (I used snapper.)
15-20 lrg prawns/shrimp. (I bought uncooked, unpeeled, and frozen. More work, but cheaper.)
1/2 bunch of green onions/scallions
6-8 bay leaves
Cajun spice mix (above)
-Place the oil in the pan over medium/high heat and get it really hot (use a large pot so you can add all the ingredients overtime). Add your flour and whisk continuously. The oil should be hot enough that the flour sizzles the second it hits the pan. This is making a roux. This will be the flavour base for your soup and also it’s thickener later. Cook the roux while whisking continuously for 10-15 mins until it reaches a dark brown colour. This can take a while and smells like it’s about to burn, but stir constantly and you’ll be fine. You want to achieve the darkest brown colour for your roux possible, without burning it. Once you have a chocolate coloured flour and oil mixture- add the chopped onions, stir in, and continue cooking another 10-15. The sugars in the onion will further caramelize and make your roux even darker. Be sure your roux is at least this dark before adding your remaining ingredients.
-Don’t sacrifice the flavours of the finished product just because you have no patience. If you have no patience make Kraft Dinner tonight, and save the gumbo for tomorrow.
-Once you’ve achieved a dark brown roux add your okra, green pepper, and garlic, and cook for 5 mins over medium heat.
-Add your spicy sausage and cook for 10 mins over medium heat.
-Add your chicken stock, 2 heaped TBS of cajun spice mix, and bay leaves, stir with a wooden spoon, increase the heat, and simmer for 45 mins.
-While waiting: clean your shrimp or whatever other seafood you’ve chosen to replace it with, and clean up your mess!
-After a 45 minute simmer: add your seafood, green onions, and however much Tabasco and Worcestershire, additional cajun spice mix and salt as you wish. Simmer lightly for 5-10 mins.
-Serve straight away and refrigerate the leftovers immediately as well, as not to overcook your seafood.
-Besh’s original recipe uses homemade seafood stock and an array of other delicious local seafood from the New Orleans area, and I’m sure his gumbo is far more incredible than this one- but not bad for winter time in Toronto!
And here we are: it’s late afternoon now. No railings installed. Internet back to acting up, even with a new modem.
Let’s make that one giant leap forward for today. Thank You Town Shoes.
Ciao for now!