Monday, January 07, 2019

I guess I'm committed

I just printed out and distributed a bunch of posters announcing a "gumbo festival" this coming Friday, so I'm pretty much committed to serving... well, everyone on our side of the fourth floor of this office building. That's going to be around thirty people. I've got enough bowls and spoons to serve that number of people, and I'll be able to pack the gumbo into my huge, plastic containers, along with another huge container of rice (Korean rice, not whatever rice is popular along the Gulf coast*). I'll also be lugging over a few batches of cornbread—enough for thirty, obviously. I don't look forward to the dishwashing afterward, but that's the price you pay when you feed 'em big.

I spent longer than I thought I'd spend making my new, improved andouille yesterday. It smelled great and tasted better than my previous batch from last time, but it's also rather salty, probably because I upped the fat content by adding fatty bacon, which contains plenty of salt. This means I need to be judicious in terms of how much sausage I put into the final gumbo. I'll be sure to watch salt levels along the way.

So here's the prep schedule (subject to revision):

Tonight (Monday): prep the main stew component, i.e., the roux, the stock, and the vegetables. I'm making some significant changes, here. First, the stock won't be shrimp stock: it'll be a standard, Korean-style fish stock from the boiling of dried fish and seaweed. Given the aforementioned saltiness issue, I won't add any extra salt to this. Another major, major change: I'm going to blaspheme and not cook my roux until it's black. I can totally see why black roux has become the tradition: it's all about the taste. But I'm willing to sacrifice a bit of taste in favor of a roux with greater thickening power; you can't leave it all up to the okra to thicken everything: the okra just doesn't have enough mucilage pour faire l'affaire. So: a medium-brown roux it is. That sort of roux is, in my opinion, still flavorful, and because it's not a light-brown (called "blond") roux, it won't thicken the stew into something that is both gloopy** and easily burned on the stovetop.

Also tonight: par-cook the chicken, then put it in the fridge. When I added the chicken last time, it cooked nicely, but it looked so pale and corpse-like that it was almost off-putting. This time, I plan to sear the chicken pieces a bit, but not to cook them through on the pan: they'll finish cooking once they're in the stew. Oh, yeah: "par-cooking" the chicken will mean, in this case, pan-frying partway in oil after dusting the chicken pieces with cayenne. This is close to an Indian trick: in Indian cooking, you "activate" your spices by cooking them first, well before you deal with the more substantive components, like vegetables and proteins. I won't use too much cayenne because I don't want to alter the taste of the gumbo that much.

Tuesday night: cut up the andouille (currently in the freezer), pan-fry it a bit, dump it in the stock, and give the whole thing a boil to begin the process of flavor-marriage.

Wednesday night: dump the already pan-fried chicken into the stock and give the whole thing another boil to finish the chicken off. More flavor-marriage.

Thursday night: make and bake the cornbread. Wrap it up and containerize it for the journey over to the office the following morning.

Friday morning: dump the shrimp in; give the gumbo a final boil. Chop up and prep the vegetable garnish (celery leaves and scallions). Containerize the gumbo and the garnish, put it in the giant Costco bag along with the cornbread, then lug that heavy fucker to the office.

Serve thirty hungry staffers. Receive praise during the meal. Be forgotten not long after. Do it all again in a few months.

*No one complained last time.

**Auto-correct is telling me that my options are "goopy" and "gloppy." Fuck it.

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