Cook the Book: LaLa’s Gumbo

True story, it’s weirdly hard to find gifs of Lafayette.

Me neither, LaLa.

You have to be weirdly specific, apparently.  For instance, searching “Lafayette tip yo’ waitress gif” gets you this:

Mm. AIDS.

Okay, anyway.  My struggles finding gifs are not the point of this post.  This post is about food, right?  And not at all about how excited I am for the next season of True Blood.  Because that…well.  That’s just kind of a constant.

To kick off my season of Cooking the Books (see also: all the cookbooks I got for my birthday) I cracked the spine on True Blood: Eats, Drinks, and Bites from Bon Temps with Lafayette’s “Gumbo Ya Ya”.

Aka, I made gumbo.  Aw heck yeah.

Lafayette's Louisiana Gumbo

New favorite font? Yes.

I have this idea and granted it may be a very incorrect idea but in my head gumbo is like Louisiana’s answer to chicken soup.  And by “answer”, I really mean something more along the lines of someone in Louisiana once took all the things that are great about chicken soup and decided to make it sassy.  And then added shrimp.

(In my head, this was probably the fault of some long-lost Lafayette ancestor.  Doesn’t even matter that Lafayette is a fictional character.  Don’t crush my dreams.)

A good gumbo has a thick sauce with enough oil to coat your throat and more than enough spice to clear you out.  That sauce should be vegetable-laden, and the whole thing should be something you want to stick your face over for long enough to steam every ounce of bad juju out of you.

That’s what I think, anyway.  And I mean, what do I know?

But whatever.  My gumbo fit all of the above criteria.  It’s a little off from LaLa’s recipe (mostly because we couldn’t find a piece of chicken small enough to thaw in the time we had because we are sometimes airheads) but it was still mighty delicious.

The great part about gumbo (other than the “eating it” part, which I think is pretty inarguably the best) is that all the hard work happens right off the bat.  Yeah, you have to make a roux, and yeah, you have to babysit the shit out of that sucker to make sure it gets dark enough but doesn’t burn.  But after that, gumbo is smoooth sailing.

Making a roux will make you feel a little disgusting at first with the amount of oil you're unabashedly pouring into the pan.  Embrace it.  It gets better.

Making a roux will make you feel a little disgusting at first with the amount of oil you’re unabashedly pouring into the pan. Embrace it. It gets better.

(Roux: pronounced like “rue”.  The basis of many great things, used in French and by default Cajun cooking.  Made from cooking together fat and flour.  Varies in color depending on what you’re making; for a béchamel, you’re going to want a very light roux, but for a gumbo you want that sucker browned.)

Casper, the friendly roux

Pale chocolate milk..

Liquid gold chocolate

Liquid gold chocolate

Once you’ve got your roux situation under control, it’s all easy.  You’ve already got enough oil to cook any/all veg your little heart could desire, so go ahead and dump all that in.

Stir to coat.

Stir to coat.

Except the okra.  The okra has to wait.

Sad okra is sad.

Sad okra is sad.

(Also; yes, I cheated and used frozen okra.  I say again, don’t judge me.)

There’s a few more things that go in here– chicken broth, spices, some sausage, and, if you’re using it, the chicken itself; with about ten minutes to go, add the okra and shrimp if you’re using either of them.

Okay, so LaLa didn't say to use either.  But a, okra, and b, there wasn't really a good deal of protein otherwise unless we DID put the shrimp.

Okay, so LaLa didn’t say to use either. But a, okra, and b, there wasn’t really a good deal of protein otherwise unless we DID put the shrimp.

Again, planning ahead helps so you don’t wind up using still mostly-frozen shrimp and having to pull the tails off while you try and eat it.  Live and learn.

Mmmm-mm.  Tastes like summer.

Mmmm-mm. Tastes like summer.

Lafayette’s (modified) Gumbo

Generously adapted from the True Blood Cookbook.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs thyme, leaves removed
  • 3/4 pound andouille or hot sausage, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cayenne
  • 1 pound shrimp, veined
  • 1 pound okra

Cooking Directions

    1. In a large Dutch oven, combine the vegetable oil and flour over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the roux is dark brown– this will take about 30 minutes.
    2. Add the onion, bell pepper, and celery, and cook until the vegetables have softened (about 10-12 minutes).
    3. Add the broth and stir to combine. Add the bay leaves, cayenne, and thyme; bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and let cook for about ten minutes.
    4. Add the sausage and let cook for 10 minutes more. Pull the bay leaves out and adjust the seasonings as you wish; add in the shrimp and the okra and let cook 10 more minutes.
    5. Serve over white rice.

Simple Spring Southern..Sustenance

I couldn’t think of a good word for “lunch” that started with an S.

Humble food for humble people.

Humble food for humble people.

It’s starting to warm up, which means my tongue is daydreaming about all kinds of things.  Fruit, mostly; peach season can’t come soon enough.  Sun tea makes pretty frequent appearances in my tongue’s daydreams; so does corn on the cob and watermelon and ribs.

Today I figured it was nice enough to stick my toe into the waters of things-I-want-to-eat-in-the-summer.  In celebration, lunch was a quick and easy bowl of grits and fruit and nuts and just…deliciousness in general.

Grits - prepare

I haven’t had grits in a really long time; not since we went to North Carolina, probably, and that was when I was nine.  But I loove them.  I love the grainy texture and the starchy stickiness; it’s like the less refined but equally humble-wonderful cousin of oatmeal.

(I know it makes more sense to say ‘it’s the less refined but equally humble-wonderful cousin of polenta’ but let’s face it, the food community has decided to de-humble polenta in recent years.  Polenta is out of the humble-grain running, here.)

They’re also super easy to make.  3/4 of a cup of boiling water plus 1/4 cup of grits and about a minute of my life got me a nice, fluffy looking lunch.

Okay, so they look pretty sad on their own but don't judge them until you've eaten them!

Okay, so they look pretty sad on their own but don’t judge them until you’ve eaten them.

Of course, grits on their own are only as good as what you put into them.  Screw that butter and sugar and cheese nonsense, though; it’s still April, which still means my tongue is in full berry-mode.

Think I went to heavy with the mixins?

Think I went to heavy with the mixins?

Think again.  Mixing makes it all better.

Think again. Mixing makes it all better.

There you have it; quick and easy Sunday lunch, from my humble kitchen to yours.  Go out, enjoy the day, and make yourself something that makes you feel good, why don’t you?

Or at least curl up with a book that you won’t realize is completely appropriately themed to your lunch until you crack the cover.

The back blurb reviews say it's a peach,  I am beside myself.

The back blurb reviews say it’s a peach, I am beside myself.

 

PS: don’t mind the blog renovations too much; they’ll be finished before too long.  Cute new layout, though, isn’t it?

Skillet Cornbread: A Rib’s Best Friend

Trick question time.  What’s better than cornbread?

Answer: cornbread with cheddar cheese, and not much else.

Now a real stumper: what’s better than cheese cornbread?

Can I get a 'yum'?

Can I get a ‘yum’?

Cheese cornbread in a skillet.

I know you’re probably saying to yourself ‘Bee, get a grip.  How is skillet cornbread better than regular cornbread?’ and I have two answers prepared for that question.  The first is that there’s more bread-to-pan contact, which means more crunchy bottom pieces and crispy cheese poking out of the sides.

Did I mention there was cheese involved?

Did I mention there was cheese involved?

The irrational answer is ‘because it is’, and I might have stuck my tongue out at the computer while I typed that.

Answer A mostly covers it, though.  My mom hates cornbread, and she was alright with this because there were more crispy cheesy bits for her to smear around in her rib sauce.  (It’s a texture thing for her; the fluffier center pieces had too much of that cornbread graininess that she hates.)

Match made in heaven.

Match made in heaven.

It’s not exactly hard to make cornbread, I won’t kid you there.  But there are a few insider tricks to make your cornbread better; cooking it in a skillet is just one of them.  Not overmixing is another.

This skillet is also my favorite, and also the single cutest coking utensil ever.

This skillet is also my favorite, and also the single cutest coking utensil ever.

Soaking your cornmeal is the third and absolutely the best.  You want to do this as early as possible; overnight is ideal.  Measure out your cornmeal into a medium sized bowl and mix it right then and there with the liquid you’ll be using to make the bread, then cover and refrigerate.  Every few hours go back and stir it up a little bit.

Personally, I use buttermilk.  One of these days I’m going to split half-and-half between buttermilk and beer.  And really, regular milk works too if you don’t have buttermilk on hand (but pro tip: mix about a tablespoon of lemon juice with every half cup milk you use and you’ll get just about the same result).

Oooh, dat crumb.

Oooh, dat crumb.

Here’s the recipe I used; I started with the basics to give you a backbone, but beyond that you can adjust as you see fit.  (Usually I use a tablespoon or two of sugar, too, but I wanted a strictly-savory bread to counter the sweet on the ribs and coleslaw.)  This recipe will make enough to fill a 6″ skillet; I suggest doubling if you’re planning on feeding more than four or five people.

Skillet Cheddar Cornbread

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (heeaping) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter or oil
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Cooking Directions

  1. Before doing anything else, soak your cornmeal: mix with the buttermilk in a medium sized bowl. Let sit at least a few hours (preferably overnight).
  2. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Heat a 6″ cast iron skillet over medium heat and melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter to grease.
  3. Combine flour, salt, baking powder, butter/oil, and egg white with the soaked cornmeal, mixing until JUST combined. Stir in the cheese and transfer to the greased skillet.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes (the top will be nice and golden, and some of the cheese should have bubbled up to the surface) or until a toothpick draws clear. Let cool 5-10 minutes, then cut into wedges (with a butter knife, so as not to scratch up your skillet) and serve.


What did y’all have for Sunday supper?