Tuesday, January 08, 2019

changement de plan

This is my second time making gumbo—and like last time, it's a large batch. There's a part of the process that I had forgotten about, though: paranoia. Allow me to explain.

Gumbo is put together step by step, and as the various ingredients come together, the overall flavor of the gumbo changes... but for the longest time, the gumbo actually tastes a bit off until one reaches the final third of the process, which is when the proteins start to go in. This batch of gumbo seemed fine during the roux- and stock-making stages; the brown roux that I settled on this time turned out perfect (and I didn't burn my hand like last time, so thank Cthulhu for small favors), and when I added the vegetables (Trinity plus okra), the aroma rounded out and, while not gumbo-like in the least, nevertheless had an appealing freshness about it. Garlic went in soon after, and that certainly helped.

But things seemed to go awry once I added the fish stock to the roux, then added tomato paste and crushed tomatoes. The broth seemed salty, but it had lost all depth of flavor: the whole thing tasted watery and lifeless. I decided that I'd toss aside my schedule and add my andouille tonight, along with chicken, instead of waiting a day or so. I added only a small portion of the andouille I had made Sunday night, then I took the heavy pot off the heat, seared my chicken breasts (super-cheap from the Foreign Food Market—better than Costco prices), cut them up, then dumped all two kilos into the stew along with the andouille. Because the fish stock and the tomato sauce had made the broth too thin, I added a cornstarch slurry (yes, cheating, I know), and that stabilized the whole thing. I added bay leaves and seasoning; I let the stew simmer for nearly an hour, and then I tasted it.


I should have remembered going through the same paranoia the first time I had made gumbo. Of course the stew is going to taste strange until you begin adding in the proteins! Making gumbo is an additive process in which layers upon layers of flavor are incorporated and allowed the time to marry. Speaking of which: tonight's flavor-marrying needed to continue off the stove, so I containerized the gumbo and stuck the two giant plastic snap-seal boxes into my fridge, where the gumbo will sit until early Friday morning, which is when I heat the stew to boiling, add some more andouille, and finally toss in the jumbo shrimp, which I'll allow to cook via residual heat. The whole thing ought to be perfect when I re-containerize the gumbo and cab over to the office.

So I'm ahead of schedule. The gumbo is 90% prepped, so I might as well concentrate on making cornbread, which I plan to make even sweeter this time by adding honey. Oh, shit—I need to buy cornmeal. I think I know where to find it locally. God knows that tripping over to Itaewon every time I need foreign ingredients is a pain in the ass.

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