Tuesday, March 16, 2010

And You Thought You Had Finally Finished That Gumbo

Hello hello hello! Hi.

For those of you who don’t know me/missed Luke’s shpeel on what I will be doing here, I’m Pat Deering. Most people just call me Deering, and you can as well. Anyhow, I will be filling two roles here on the Culinary Conquistadors: First, I will be recreating Luke and Matty’s dishes in a different environment; the dread and sparsely stocked kitchen of a college student. In doing so I hope to offer a little insight on the ease of recreation for these meals as well as some variations that you can try. Secondly, I will be doing my best to come up with beer and wine pairings for the dishes that Luke and Matty throw your way.

So, without further ado, allow me to share with you the first of the dishes that I have managed to slam together in my oddly shaped and poorly situated student housing kitchen: the Shrimp, Chicken, and Andouille Gumbo.

Now, as was made quite obvious by Luke’s original post, this dish is enormous. Enormous in the way that causes smugglers to mistake it for a small moon as to the battle station of southern goodness that it is. Due to this, and my kitchen’s tiny cooking apparatuses, I quartered the recipe as best I could, which gave me something along the lines of this:

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped (I really like garlic)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (Careful…)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • Handful of Chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 diced tomatoes
  • 1 8-ounce bottles clam juice
  • 1 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 1.5 pounds andouille sausage, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1/2 pound skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 8oz sliced, frozen okra (about half a standard grocer’s freezer bag)
  • 1 pound peeled deveined medium shrimp
  • Minced fresh Italian parsley
  • Steamed rice

As you can see, some of the ingredients were not quartered exactly. 1. Fractions are terrible, terrible things. 2. Some ingredients don’t need to be exact. Since I really enjoy garlic and sausage, I let those two ingredients stay on the heavy side. Always feel free to experiment with cooking. This isn’t baking; it doesn’t need to be exact.

I was lucky enough to be able to make the base ahead of time (and to find room for it in my fridge). If you want to make the base ahead of time as well, remember to let the mixture cool slightly before putting it straight in the fridge. Melted fridge racks from hot soup pots are sad, sad things. Also, don’t cover the mixture right away once it’s in the fridge; let it chill before covering. This prevents discoloration and lets some of the extra moisture from condensation escape.

The next day, I brought the base back to a simmer, and added my shrimp. I decided to halve the shrimps before I added them, since my over all serving space would be smaller. Be wary though, cutting up raw shellfish can be messy, and you don’t want to waste any. Anyway, feel free to dive into this versatile meal anyway you feel. One of the great things about soups, stews, and the like is that you can come up with countless variations on the same basic recipe.

Now, onto the good stuff…drink pairings!

I must admit, that I am rather new to the arena of food and wine pairings myself, having spent the past three years of my life drinking whatever could be found on a college student’s budget. (Don’t worry. I will never recommend Natural Light for your fancy at-home dinner date.) However, with my new found employment at Season’s Bistro and Grill (www.seasonsbistroandgrill.com) in Springfield, OH, I have learned some of the ropes of wine pairings as well as rekindled my passion for artisan beers and the foods that can be enjoyed with them. So, while I will try my best to find you the best selection possible, remember that this is a learning process for me as well.

Red Wine: Now, since gumbo is very heavy on its base flavors (cayenne, sausage, chicken stock), heavy reds might not be the best choice; you don’t want a metallic wine taste to destroy the more subtle parts of the gumbo, like the shrimp and thyme, leaving you with nothing but a chicken soup flavor. However, you can make this work. Avoid high tannin wines like cabernets, and opt for a Pinot Noir or maybe even a Shiraz. In this regards, Claus du Bois offers a pretty decent Shiraz from their North Coast and Alexander Valley, California vineyards. It has a bit of a blueberry (maybe? That’s what I got) aroma, as well as vanilla flavors and a finish that reminds me a lot of cracked black pepper. This finish complimented the flavors of the gumbo well, without masking the shrimp.

White Wine: I would certainly more commonly recommend a white for use with this dish, especially one of a more crisp and refreshing variety, like a Sauvignon Blanc. The bottle I selected was from the Robert Mondavi Private Selection, a reasonably priced line from the Central Coast area. This wine offered a citrusy aroma with a similar flavor and a mineral filled finish. This worked well to cleanse the palate of excess heat and spice and allowed me to resample each flavor in the meal with every bite.

Beer: Well, now that I’ve made myself seem to be some highbrowed city fop, allow me to systematically destroy that image with this: I would recommend a beer over a wine pairing for this meal any day of the week. In a basic sense, you would probably want to begin with a lager. This lower hop count brewing style can cut through the fatty tastes of the sausage without overpowering the rest of the dish. I would recommend and amber lager as the malty backbone of this drink will bring out the spice and vegetable flavors of the gumbo and blend smoothly into the chicken and shrimp, as well as offering a cooling palate refresher if the cayenne is just a little too much. The beer I selected for this is a local Cleveland favorite, the seven-time Gold Medal winning Elliot Ness Amber Lager from the Great Lakes Brewing Company. This lager is a bit heavier on hops than others in its class, but with the potency of the gumbo I had at my disposal, since I left it a bit more garlicky, I feel it worked well.

Anyway, that’s it for me today. Hopefully I’ll be back next week with drink pairings for that there Goo-lash.

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