Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Gumbo and Sazeracs

On Sunday, some good friends had us over for a traditional New Orleans feast of Gumbo and Sazeracs. Gumbo, I have a feeling, is something like chili - in that there are a million different ways to make it and a million different opinions about it. I have had gumbos made with a tomatoey sauce, bitter gumbos thickened with file, gummy sticky gumbos made with okra, and deep chocolatey gumbos made with darkened roux. Our friends both spent time in New Orleans - though they didn't know each other at the time - so this is as good as a native recipe. It results in a brothy spicy gumbo with lots of flavor.
Margie browns her roux for a good long time, which gives it a depth of flavor you might not expect. You could also add seafood and do it up fancy if you like. We added a little salt, pepper and hot sauce, and it was good to go. I had two bowls! Here is the recipe:

"Gumbo a la Margie"
Reprinted with the permission of the (very) lovely and (extremely) talented Margie Cartwright
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
8 cups chicken stock, heated
2 tablespoons Creole seasoning
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
5 drops hot sauce (or to taste)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 pound chicken thighs in 1-inch pieces, browned in butter (or white and dark meat from last night’s roast chicken)
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced 1/2-inch thick, browned in remaining chicken fat
filé powder
cooked white rice, warm
1 green onion, chopped
red and yellow bell pepper, chopped

Brown your chicken, then your andouille and set both aside,

1. First make your roux. Heat the oil on low heat in your largest stockpot. Stir in the flour and cook until foaming. Cook, stirring constantly, until dark mahogany, about 1 hour. As you get more experienced, you can increase the heat and cut the roux time down to about 25 minutes. But, if you burn the roux (dark flecks appear in it) you’ll have to start over. How fast you go depends on your tolerance for starting over. A flat bottom, wooden spoon allows you to stir at a more leisurely pace.

2. Add the pepper, onion, and celery to the roux. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer. Stir in Creole seasoning, black pepper, cayenne pepper, hot sauce, chopped garlic, bay leaves, kosher salt, chicken, and andouille sausage. Simmer, uncovered for roughly 2 hours, skimming fat as needed and until the gumbo has thickened.

3. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

4. To serve, add a pinch of filé powder to each bowl before adding gumbo (to thicken further). Stir to combine the filé and gumbo. Add a mound of white rice to each serving. Garnish with green onion, red and yellow bell pepper, and parsley.

The Sazerac is a traditional New Orleans cocktail - made with bourbon or rye (not scotch) whiskey, anise flavored liquer (we used Ouzo, but Pernod or Sambuca would work as well) sugar syrup, bitters and a lemon rind.

adapted from Epicurious
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon water
2 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey
Dash of anise flavored liquor, such as Pernod, Ouzo or Sambuca
Dash of Angostura bitters
3 or 4 ice cubes
a thick twist of lemon peel

Dissolve the sugar in cold water in a shaker. Add the whiskey, anise liquor, bitters and ice cubes and shake well. Strain into a chilled glass, twist the lemon peel over the drink to release the oil, then drop it in. (I have also seen recipes that call for coating the glass with the pernod, and then shaking the remaining ingredients together - like a martini with vermouth.)

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

LA and Cafe Chloe

A few weeks ago I went up to LA for a weekend visit with a friend of mine. We went to the new Bliss Spa, at the W in Westwood, which was blissful indeed, and did a little shopping. On the day we arrived, we had a lovely lunch on the patio at the Chateau Marmont (no celebrities, drat!) and visited a dessert shop called Boule, which is run by the couple who own Sona, Michelle and David Myer. The chocolates were good but not great, and some madeleines I bought (in a little box for six dollars) were stale. It was interesting but a little disappointing. For innovative chocolates, Vosges Chocolates and our own Chuao Chocolatier here in San Diego are just as good if not better.

After our spa adventure, we set out to find a place for brunch on Third Street, near some boutiques we wanted to visit. We tried to go to a place called Toast, but the crowd was overflowing onto the sidewalk. I wanted to check out a gourmet takeout shop called Joan's on Third, and though they didn't serve breakfast, they also didn't have a crowd, so we ended up eating there. We split a muffin, a milanesa sandwich and some assorted salads. They yelled at me for taking this picture inside, which I thought was kind of strange - but the food was very good.

This past Friday, the same friend and I went to Cafe Chloe downtown - we had originally planned to meet for coffee, but since it was after 4 on Friday, I decided I'd rather have wine. I had a glass of Nora Albarino and a cheese plate, which they served with chutney, honeycomb and "beer gelee." My friend had the affogato. She brought her adorable six month old daughter, pictured above. They are also serving an "Urban Tea" in the afternoons. For $21. (per person) you get a glass of prosecco or tea and a tower of treats. It looked fantastic, but we just weren't up for a $50. check on this particular day. We are planning to go back for that, so when we do I will post some pictures. Here is a picture of the interior:

And also, because I cannot resist, a picture of some beautiful peonies I picked up the other day at Trader JoesCheers and Happy Long Weekend!