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Chris Amirault

Gumbo -- Cook-Off 3

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Hello, all -

I have been wading through the extensive gumbo threads here, and they are fabulous and informative, but have left me a little overwhelmed and would love some input from those of you who tried some of them.

You see, I have this co-worker whose family is from Louisiana, and she has basically asserted that no one without such roots can make a decent gumbo. (A challenge if ever I've heard one!)

So, needless to say, I want to make the best, most authentic (must be New Orleans-style) gumbo anyone has ever tasted. My culinary honor is at stake...

I have used various recipes over the years, but this hasn't been an area of focus or expertise for me. If anyone can recommend a recipe, I would be forever grateful!

Cheers,

Christina

www.sleeplessfoodie.com


Christina

www.sleeplessfoodie.com

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Well depending on the other replies you get, I can recommend this one by John Besh: Drew's Chicken and Sausage Gumbo. (By the way, I love Besh's book My New Orleans, and I highly recommend it.) I think the hardest part might be to locate good sausage. It might be worth it to mail order some from a good shop in S. Louisiana/New Orleans.


John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
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When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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I think that the debates above make it clear that looking for the "best" or "most authentic" is gonna get you in trouble fast. I think John is right about sausage and/or tasso, both of which you could make if you aren't happy with what you can find. Tasso, in particular, is pretty straightforward and makes a stunning difference to the quality of the final dish.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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John, thank you so much for the recommendation. I went with John Besh's "Drew's Chicken and Sausage Gumbo" recipe, and it was fabulous! It was met with rave reviews by all co-workers, and the one who had doubted my ability to make a decent gumbo in the first place conceded that it was as good as what she grew up with, and that I nailed it. It really was a fabulous gumbo, I recommend it to anyone looking for a good starting point!

Thanks again,

Christina

www.sleeplessfoodie.com


Christina

www.sleeplessfoodie.com

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I've been making gumbo semi regularly for the last couple of years, using continually-evolving recipes based on info in this thread, with tweaks based on reading lots of cook books. I especially like some of the recipes in Besh's My New Orleans, and Link's Real Cajun.

Each batch is enjoyable, but I have to admit that they're partly a warm-up for one particular dinner. Each fall, I vacation with a group of friends that can range from 20-30 people, and we trade-off cooking duties, and gumbo works well for a crowd. Plus, the leftovers just get better and better.

Last year I had good luck making a big pot of duck and mushroom gumbo, and another of classic chicken and andouille. But they disappeared too quickly, so this year I upped the quantities, and made about 4-5 gallons of each.

I'm still getting my head around working with these large quantities, but it worked out pretty well this time (with only a couple of minor tragedies...) and I managed to document most of the process, so I figured I'd share.

Last year I mail-ordered andouille and tasso from Pochés, and was very happy with it, but I'd gotten an enthusiastic recommendation for Jacob's, so this year I tried them. I can't say that I strongly prefer one company's products over the other, I like them both.

Gumbo2010-AndouillePkg.jpg

Gumbo2010-TassoPkg.jpg

I got 6 fresh ducks, 6 chickens, made a trip to Penzy's for spices, picked-up the requisite vegetables, and worked on it over the course of a couple of days. I had enough time to do some prep well ahead, and had many friends to aid in chopping, so I started early.

First, I roasted off the ducks and chickens, picked the meat, and made stock from the bones.

Gumbo2010-Chickens4.jpg

Gumbo2010-DuckRoast1.jpg

Gumbo2010-DuckPicked.jpg

Gumbo2010-Stock1.jpg

Gumbo2010-StockStraining.jpg

I actually had one big mishap - some friends had roasted a pig a few nights before I was scheduled to serve the gumbo, so I had the bright idea of popping the ducks into that big smoker after the pig came out.

Gumbo2010-DuckSmoker1.jpg

Seemed like a good plan - but I hadn't anticipated that the ducks would put of so much fat so fast that it would overwhelm the drip pan, overflow into the coals, and ignite! By the time we noticed, and wrestled the rotisserie mechanism off of the smoker, the ducks were pretty much charcoal...

Gumbo2010-DuckCharcoal.jpg

Amazingly, I was able to recover most of the breast meat from these 4 ducks, it tasted just fine, but the legs were too far gone, and the carcasses were no good for stock. Thankfully I still had a couple more ducks that I roasted conventionally in the oven, and got a decent amount of meat from them, and stock from those bones (with a couple of chickens thrown in) and a good supply of duck fat, so I was able to continue on my plan. I also made pork stock from the pig roast bones, so between 6 chickens, 2 ducks and leftovers from a 75 pound pig, I had plenty of meat, and lots of bones for stock.

Skimmed, de-fatted, chilled the stock, had it ready for the next day.

The next day, I chopped about 20 onions, 10 bell peppers and several bunches of celery. Then sliced up the Andouille and Tasso. Browned about half of the sausage, left the rest as-is.

Gumbo2010-Andouille.jpg

Gumbo2010-AndouilleBrown.jpg

Gumbo2010-TassoChop.jpg

I also got some slab bacon from Jacob's, and added that to the duck gumbo, to add the smokiness that I did NOT get from cooking the ducks in the smoker...

Gumbo2010-Lardons.jpg

Made my spice mix: Three kinds of paprika (sweet, hot, and smoked) cayenne, a couple of kinds of freshly ground chili powders, black and white pepper, garlic powder, toasted onion powder.

Gumbo2010-Spices.jpg

Gumbo2010-SpiceMix.jpg

Got that all organized, and ready to go, and got the stock simmering, before starting the roux.

The meeze:

Gumbo2010-Meez.jpg

I saved the fat from the ducks I roasted in the oven, and used that as a base for the roux. That was a very fine smelling roux, if I do say so myself!

Gumbo2010-RouxFat.jpg

Gumbo2010-Roux2.jpg

It got much darker than this, but there was no opportunity to take pictures at that point, it was pretty frantic. As the roux got very dark, I dumped-in the onions. That's something I picked-up from the Besh cookbook: to do the onions first, before adding the peppers and celery. I think I'm going to keep doing that, I feel like the onions got better caramelized on their own.

I split the roux out into two pots, added the rest of the vegetables and the spice mix, sautéed them for a while. I then added that roux-spice-vegetable mix to the stocks (one pot of duck/chicken stock, one of chicken/pork stock.) Added the tasso and a little bit of chopped andouille.

Gumbo2010-simmering.jpg

Added bay leaves to each, a bunch of thyme to the duck gumbo, and let them simmer for a few hours. Skimmed fat. Then a couple of hours before service, I added the picked chicken and duck, and the andouille. Continued simmering, skimming fat, and then shortly before service, added salt to taste, and adjusted the spice a bit.

Cooked rice, served it, and then sat down for the first time in about 8 hours, and had an Abita.

In all the chaos of serving, I failed to get any pictures of the finished product, but it turned out well. I think I'll follow this basic procedure, except for being a little more careful when smoking ducks...

Lessons learned: Jacob's Andouille is tasty. It's good to have help chopping. Roux is $*&%##ing hot, especially when it spatters on your hand. Ducks output a lot of fat. Good gumbo is worth the trouble.


Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Thanks for sharing. My biggest fear when doing such large portions is how much spice to add. Even salt gives me a hard time, the quantities are so large that its easy to really overdo or underdo, and I have a hard time trusting myself. Next time try getting some smoked sausage from Jacob's or Poche's, it really adds a ton of smoky flavor and I find the andouille a bit dry, so it helps balance things out on that front. What was your final consistency like? Was it yaya dark? I like the idea of whole chickens, for some reason I tend to go with just thighs and then deglaze the roasting pan after they have cooked to come up with some stock. Will try it your way next time I go industrial.

When are you coming down again? We have a few new spots, and still a few you haven't tried.

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No solid plans yet, but, as always, I'm hoping to be down your way before too long - always appreciate any tips on new places to try!

It's funny, a friend asked me the same sausage question: whether I got any other sausages along with the andouille from Jacobs' and I had to smack myself in the head... of course, that would have been a good idea! The chicken and sausage gumbo turned out plenty smoky, with the andouille, the tasso, and the smoked paprika in the spice blend, but I definitely like the idea of a mix of sausages. I noticed that one of Besh's recipe uses primarily other sausages, with the Andouille more of an accent. Will definitely try that next.

Interestingly, the duck breasts that I rescued from the inferno wasn't smoky at all - I guess they didn't have time to absorb smoke, they were just subjected to a rapid, high-heat roast (the built-in thermometer on the smoker was pinned past 800 degrees!)

I know what you mean about worrying about spice levels. I just trusted my math in quintupling the recipes I riffed-on (for each pot) although I intentionally went a little light on the seasoning, and then added some more toward the end. I put NO salt in the spice mix, and none in the stocks either, and waited until pretty close to service to adjust for salt. Of course I ended up putting a good amount in at that point, but at least I wasn't surprised by it over concentrating as the gumbo simmered.

The final result wasn't quite as dark as I had intended. The roux itself was pretty dark, but that was one scale-up that I got wrong. I actually started out intending to make two batches, but when I was done with the first, it just seemed like SO much roux that I convinced myself that I must have done the math wrong, and didn't need any more. In the end, I would have liked a bit more, so I should have trusted my numbers, not my eyes.

I think that next time, I'll do a batch of roux ahead of time and have it standing by for last-minute adjustments.

If I'm making a small pot of gumbo, I'm like you, and just use chicken thighs, browning them off first and using both the fat and the fond. But for this project, I needed so much stock, both chicken and duck, that it seemed more practical to roast whole birds, pick all the meat and toss the carcasses in a stock pot. The breast meat from either bird stays fine, as long as you don't put it back in the gumbo in too early. Even if you do, it just falls apart, which isn't so terrible...

Thanks again for the sausage reminder - I hereby vow to diversify! I do sometimes find Andouille a little dry, but I've decided that it's not as big a problem if I put most of it in late in the game. I like to chop some up finely and get it in early, so the flavor fully permeates, but it seems that if you put all of it in too early, you can cook all the fat right out of it, and while your broth tastes great, the sausage itself can be a little cardboard-y.

I don't expect to ever perfect this recipe, and look forward to tweaking it, often.


Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Thanks again for the sausage reminder - I hereby vow to diversify! I do sometimes find Andouille a little dry, but I've decided that it's not as big a problem if I put most of it in late in the game. I like to chop some up finely and get it in early, so the flavor fully permeates, but it seems that if you put all of it in too early, you can cook all the fat right out of it, and while your broth tastes great, the sausage itself can be a little cardboard-y.

I don't expect to ever perfect this recipe, and look forward to tweaking it, often.

The same holds true for smoked sausage even though it's fattier, you can still overcook it. And I think the smoked takes too browning a bit more than andouille. But you still don't need to brown all of it.

Give us shout when you are getting close to coming down. We just got a Feast (also of Houston) which people are digging.


Edited by saturnbar (log)

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Fantastic report. I'm interested to know how you'd compare Pochés, and Jacob's. I always use me own sausages, tasso, etc., but I'm interested to know how these two compare.

I expected to have a stronger opinion about Jacobs vs. Pochés, but to be honest, next year I might flip a coin!

I apologize for not taking a good cross-section photo of the Jacob's. I do have one of the Poché's, but please not that this photo is NOT a side-by-side comparison of Jacobs and Pochés, the smaller sausage in this photo is a very good-tasting andouille, but one made close to me, by Leidy's.

AndouilleComp2.jpg

The only real cross-section photo I have of the Jacob's is this one:

Gumbo2010-AndouilleBrown.jpg

It's hard to compare the two from these photos, but the Jacob's is smaller in diameter, a bit more finely-ground, but still chunky, and denser. They were both quite good though, eating them on their own, or in the gumbo.

A local food critic here in Philly, who had been a restaurant reviewer in New Orleans for several years, had recommended Jacob's, and was somewhat dismissive of Poché's, because Poché's uses liquid smoke in their andouille. I found that hard to believe, but sure enough, they list it plainly in the ingredients... But that really doesn't bother me: the sausage was delicious, and I could detect nothing artificial about its smokiness, perhaps they just put a little in to add an extra kick. Hey, if it works, it works.

The Jacob's tasso was in smaller pieces than the Poché's, but I don't know if that's always true, or just what I happened to get from each place. And I'm not even sure which I prefer - the smaller pieces certainly have a higher spice and smoke ratio, but are also a bit drier, and more tedious to chop.

Both places shipped in a timely manner. The Poché's packaging was a little better, they used a styrofoam-lined box and a chunk of dry ice, while Jacobs just used a regular cardboard box and a regular freezer pack. But that's almost an insignificant distinction, these are smoked meats, in cryovac, I suspect they're pretty hardy. I used 2-day shipping from Jacob's - Poché's says they only do overnight, and the Poché's was definitely a little cooler when it arrived, but I don't think it actually made any difference.

The two places calculate the costs differently: Poché's per-pound prices include shipping, and there's a 10 pound minimum. Jacob's says they charge you only for the actual shipping cost, and don't add a premium for handling it. As it worked out for me, on the east coast, it cost a little more for the Jacob's order: about $100 total for 10 pounds of meat and shipping. Poché's would have charged $82.50 for a similar order. But the Jacob's shipping charges will likely be different for different areas, it might be cheaper if you're closer, and in the end, it's not THAT big of a difference.

I sincerely enjoyed the products from both places, they seemed very similar to me in terms of quality. The Poché's was larger in diameter, coarser, and less dense than the Jacob's, but I honestly can't say that I strongly preferred one over the other.

I found that the shipping costs and speed of other sources, such as Cajun Grocer, were not as good: both pricier and slower.

I placed an order for some popcorn rice and some Steen's cane syrup from the Prudhomme online store, and they didn't even ship the order for almost 2 weeks (not in time... ) My Cajun Grocer order took longer than I'd expected it to, but arrived just in the nick of time. Cajun Grocer carries Pochés, and does not have the minimum 10-pound order, so it might be more convenient to order from them, but the prices, especially shipping, are definitely better ordering direct from Poché's.

So, sorry that I can't say anything definitive... maybe sometime I'll order from both! And more than just Andouille and tasso too.


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Never made a gumbo, but I'm already bored with Thanksgiving and thinking ahead to the weekend after. Traditionally I make turkey soup, as my pre-nup specifies that I get the carcass every year, plus a reasonable amount of meat to take home (it's mostly dark meat after we give my MIL her due.) Too bad my teenage nephews are starting to outnumber the vegetarians--they are really cutting into my take.

But this year I'm feeling ambitious; pictures of spicy turkey gumbo over beautiful white rice are calling to me. I've been scanning this thread and reading other recipes from various places and pretty much have an idea how a gumbo comes together, but I have one technique question that has to do with the roux and adding the elements of the trinity.

All my cooking instincts tell me to saute the trinity in oil or bacon fat or whatever until softened and flavorful, and THEN add it to the finished roux. But many of the southern recipes I've looked at just dump the chopped raw trinity right into the roux and then cook that down for a few minutes more. John Besh adds just the onions to the roux first and cooks it another ten minutes, then adds the celery and green pepper after that when the next bunch of ingredients is added. Is there some flavor advantage to doing this? I can't imagine why. It just isn't what I would think to do.

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Adding the vegetables without heating them first helps cool down the roux and stop it from overcooking or burning. Not sure if there's more to it than that.

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Sold. But just out of curiosity, if the roux continues to darken after it is off the heat, and if overcooking or burning is such an obvious danger, why not take the roux off the heat before it reaches the stage you desire, and let it finish itself off? Maybe I will find out the answer when I cook my first real roux. Thanks for the sensible responses!

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Well, depending on the type of gumbo you're cooking, the color you want the roux changes. For chicken and andouille, you generally want it (or I do, anyway) the darkest you can get without burning it. It's pretty difficult to guess how long it might "coast" after you kill the heat, but also, you REALLY need to be stirring it the whole time it's cooking, or you'll get burnt spots, which ruins the whole roux and forces you to start over. Give it a try the traditional way, and I think you ='ll see why people keeps doing it that way... And good luck!


Edited by MikeHartnett (log)

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John Besh adds just the onions to the roux first and cooks it another ten minutes, then adds the celery and green pepper after that when the next bunch of ingredients is added. Is there some flavor advantage to doing this?

NOLA cooking instructor Poppy Tooker is another fan of the "onions first" method. According to Ms. Tooker, the caramelizing of the onions helps the roux attain the proper shade of dark brown. Only after the roux is dark brown does she adds the peppers and celery. Apparently the high water content of these vegetables prevents the roux from browning further.

Somewhere on YouTube, there's a video of Ms. Tooker making roux. She adds the onions to the roux when it's the color of milk chocolate, at which point the roux darkens -- pretty quickly -- to the color of bittersweet chocolate. Then in go the other vegetables.

I've never tried this, Katie. Report back if you give it a shot. Happy Thanksgiving!


Edited by BrooksNYC (log)

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Late hello gumboteers,

First ever attempt here. I've only had real gumbo once, so I wasn't sure what I was aiming for, but damn did it come out to my liking:

in the pot

602277_836328075041_265958503_n.jpg

in the bowl, atop rice and filé

32388_836328055081_1691109320_n.jpg

It's andouille (not the best, I had to give it extra smoke on my WSM), shrimp, and crab. I didn't follow a single recipe, but I was heavily inspired by my favorite YouTube chef, 007bondjb (http://www.youtube.com/user/007bondjb/videos?query=gumbo), who happens to have posted in this thread ().

I used about 3/4 cup AP flour to 3/4 cup olive pomace oil, it went to a a very dark toffee color or light hot chocolate color in about 15 minutes or so - faster than I expected. Added one big onion, a normal-sized green pepper, and two celery stalks, and stirred quite a bit. The trinity never really cooked down too much, even after about 10 minutes of this. At this point I added the andouille, some thyme, basil, oregano, chile powder, and a good shake of Todd's Bayou Dirt creole seasoning (where JB would use Slap Ya Mama, which is unavailable in these parts). Stirred around some more, and incrementally added cold water and one of JB's secrets, Zatarain's Crab and Shrimp Boil concentrate, as well as a can of diced tomatoes and a bunch of chopped spring onions. I simmered this for about 5 hours - the vegetables didn't totally dissolve, but got soft enough that they didn't stand out. Ten minutes before serving, I added 2 lbs of shrimp, chopped parsley, and cans of crab meat right before serving. Served over basmati rice (because it was that or Koshihikari) with filé powder sprinkled atop. Delicious!

Big question - while simmering, it developed a sort of unpleasant "skin" that i repeatedly skimmed off. It would form pretty fast after stirring the pot, requiring many removals. Also, a lot of oil was extracted (not sure if from the sausage or the roux - the sausage was bought already cooked plus I smoked it some more), much of which I skimmed off too. Is this normal?

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Yes, the skin and fat on top are typical, especially if you cooked it for five hours...that's a loooong time. I just stir the skinback into the gumbo. The fat is coming from the sausages and the roux. Some skim every bit of the oil off, other like a little bit of oil atop each serving. I was with you until you put tomatoes in it!

I'd cook the roux, veg, and water for a While, then put in some of the crabmeat for a while (maybe an hour), then add the rest of the seafood and cook for a half hour or so. Shrimp and crab in gumbos aren't al dente and perfect....they're well cooked and integrated into the gumbo. Restaurant technique calls for making a long cooked base then adding seafood near the time of service, but home style gumbos in south LA feature long cooked seafood.

Here's a seafood and okra gumbo from The bayou Lafourche area...note the slight sheen of oil, the shreds of long cooked crabmeat, and the thin, souplike consistency, all indicative of the locale's typical seafood gumbo style.

image.jpg


Edited by HungryC (log)

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Interesting. What causes the skin? It looks really quite icky, which is why I skimmed it off. Also, I didn't get a sheen of oil, I got big pools of it....Could that have anything to do with the roux not being that dark?

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It's more a factor of your equal parts oil and flour roux. You can make a roux with a smaller proportion of oil, but it requires careful attention as it is easier to burn (try the microwave method for a drier roux). Also, I find that olive oil rouxs separate more easily than a roux made with part rendered bacon fat or lard or rendered chicken fat. I generally use peanut oil, it separates pretty readily as well. This shoe thread is making me crave a chicken, oyster, and sausage gumbo.

ETA: medium grain, slightly sticky rice is the rural Cajun preference, or long grain cooked on the soft side. Definitely NOT the typical nasty converted style separate grains....it should hold together in a mass when scooped into a bowl, not fall apart like pilaf.


Edited by HungryC (log)

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Here's few of shots of some gumbo prep. I like to start with a good base and add the meats prior to serving to maintain texture. I also make 12 qts. of base and freeze in multiple containers. The base stock itself is usually leftovers of smoked or roasted meat that are full of flavor The roux is 1:1 flour and high smoke point oil. I use 3/4 cup of each which is combined with stock to yield about 10-12 qts. I make garbage can gumbo which means I add to the base a variety of stuff that I have on hand. If i'm using seafood I take the shrimp shells, heads, and crabs to a portion of the base to extract those flavors. That is returned to the base and and brought to temp. I then add my other ingredients and adjust the timing prior to serving that the components are cooked but not stringy.

DSC_6296_1059.JPGDSC_6270_1033.JPG

DSC_6301_1064.JPG

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Leftover Thanksgiving turkey gumbo, with so-called andouille (not really), tasso, and okra. 1:1 roux more or less - gonna increase the ratio of flour next time. Stock was the turkey bones and scraps slow simmered.

1456675_995179819871_1423926969_n.jpg

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      In addition to not always being recognized for it's looks, every August and September it becomes the butt of jokes at State Fair competitions across the country. If you can get past the embarassment of seeing the poor devils dressed up and carved into silly, cartoon-like farm figures or pumped-up with organic steroids, you'll find a delicious, low-calorie vegetable packed with potassium and vitamin A. Yes friends, your dreams have come true for today we kick-off eG Cook-Off #62, "Summer Squash."
      (Click here http://forums.egulle...cook-off-index/ for the complete eG Cook-Off Index).

      According to the University of Illinois Extension Office, summer squash, (also known in some circles as Italian marrow), are tender, warm-season vegetables that can be grown anytime during the warm, frost-free season. Summer squash differs from fall and winter squash, (like pumpkins, acorn and butternut squash), because it is harvested before the outer rind hardens. Some of the most popular summer squash are the Green and Yellow Zucchini, Scallop, Patty Pan, Globe, Butter Blossom and Yellow Crookneck.

      My personal favorite summer squash is the versatile zucchini. Slow-cooked with sliced onion and ham hock, zucchini is perfectly comfortable nestled on a plate next to juicy, fried pork chops and creamy macaroni and cheese. But the chi-chi haute crowd isn't forgotten when it comes to zucchini, or, as the sniffy French call it, the "courgette." Tiny, spring courgette blossoms stuffed with herbs and ricotta cheese then dipped in tempura batter and gently fried are a delicacy found on Michelin-Star menus across the globe.

      Won't you please join me in crafting some delicious masterpieces that showcase the culinary possibilities of delicious summer squash.
    • By David Ross
      Welcome back to our reknowned eGullet Cook-Off Series. Our last Cook-Off, Bolognese Sauce, led to a spirited discussion over the intricacies of the beloved Italian meat sauce. Click here for the complete eG Cook-Off Index. Today we’re launching eGullet Cook-Off 58: Hash, the classic American diner dish.
      Yet what appears as a humble, one-name dish is anything but ordinary. The difficulty in defining “Hash” is exactly why we’ve chosen it for a Cook-Off—simple definitions don’t apply when one considers that Hash is a dish that transcends regional and international boundaries. The ingredients one chooses to put into their version of Hash are limitless--we aren’t just talking cold meat and leftover potatoes folks.
      I for one, always thought Hash came out of a can from our friends at Hormel Foods, (as in "Mary Kitchen" Corned Beef Hash). It looks like Alpo when you scoop it out of the can, but it sure fries up nice and crispy. After a few weeks of research in the kitchen, I’ve experienced a new appreciation for Hash.
      So start putting together the fixins for your Hash and let’s start cooking. Hash, it’s what’s for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner.
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