Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Food Resolutions: 2012

For 2011, I listed out a few ingredients I either never cooked with or hardly did, and I thought doing a similar exercise would be good for this year. There were some dark horses that snuck their way on my list and now I would never turn back on (I'm looking at YOU cauliflower and Brussels sprouts!). Looking at last year's list, however, I didn't do all that well (we'll blame it on the ever-so-small life event that was our engagement and wedding):

  • Eggplant - Yeah, I'm still not a fan.

  • Tofu - I experimented with tofu during my Vegan Week and enjoyed it, though it still isn't a favorite and definitely doesn't make an appearance all that often on my table.

  • Mussels - Sadly I didn't get to this one. It's going on the 2012 list.

  • Tarragon - While I didn't cook much with tarragon, I had it in a few more dishes and discovered I really just don't like it.

  • Fennel - See Tarragon :)

  • Leafy greens (kale, mustard greens, etc.) - This was by far my greatest 2011 resolution success. Due in large part to the green smoothies Luke and I now drink every morning and to fun and sassy salads, we've incorporated more leafy greens in our diets. This will definitely continue into the New Year.

Here's to hoping the 2012 food resolutions go a bit better!

  • Goat - now that this is becoming a bit more "main stream" I might need to take a stab at cooking goat. Let's see how it goes!

  • Tamales - After reading a bunch of fun Christmas posts on different variations of tamales and enjoying some at my mother in law's house for Christmas, I'd like to try these this year.

  • Homemade ravioli - you've seen my post on homemade pasta. Now I want to take it a step further to make some delicious homemad ravioli. Hoping to accomplish this by February!

  • Indian cuisine - I never make it, that's sad. Also, I never eat it except for the Indian offerings at the hot food bar at Whole Foods. This year, that's all changing!

  • Make my own tortillas - how have I never done this?! Luke and I go through taco phases, but I have a feeling once I master the tortilla, they'll be a lot more frequent.

  • The whole bird: Other than occasionally roasting a whole chicken, I rarely opt for the larger cuts of meat or the whole bird. Not only is it a better value to buy it all, but often you get a great deal more flavor by cooking larger cuts.

I also realized earlier this week that I don't have a basic mac and cheese recipe on the blog (a crime considering how much I love it and make it!) anything else you're hoping will appear in 2012?

Thanks for another great year,


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Second Place Gumbo

This year for the Whole Foods communications team holiday party, we did a gumbo cookoff with three categories - seafood, vegetarian and combo (i.e., anything goes!). The prize for each category? A trip for two to New Orleans!

I enjoy gumbo but had never tackled it myself, but I wasn't about to let me shy away from competition (and a potential free trip)! After doing tons of research and enlisting the help of my old roommate Rachel, a cajun to boot, I started testing. After the fourth try, I found my perfect gumbo. Did I win? Sadly no, but my second place gumbo was delicious and many loved it. Give it a try!

Seafood Gumbo


~ 1 pound shrimp shells, unrinsed (I asked my seafood counter to set some aside for me since I didn't care to peel that many shrimp myself!)
2 onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 tablespoons garlic cloves, minced

1 lemon, sliced

handful of black peppercorns
2 bayleafs
1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 gallon water

1 cup diced onion (1/4 inch dice)
1 cup celery, thinly sliced
1/2 cup green bell pepper (1/4 inch dice)
2 tablespoons minced garlic (5-6 cloves)

1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup flour

3 quarts shellfish stock
1 heaping tablespoon Tony Chacheret's (or Cajun seasoning of your choice)

1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
2 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp (I like 30 count)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 pound lump crab meat
1/2 - 1 teaspoon Tabasco
Salt and pepper to taste
parsley, to garnish

For the stock, combine all in a large dutch oven or stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer an hour or more. Strain out solids through a mesh sieve and place broth in a container and refrigerate. This should make about 3 quarts. I prefer to make this at least one day before just to break up the gumbo process.

For the gumbo, prechop the onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic and set next to your pot. This might be a good time to grab a beer or pour yourself some wine, since you're about to camp out at the skillet and not leave for a good long time.

To make the roux, heat a large cast iron pot or dutch oven on high heat. Add oil and bring to a high temp, almost smoking. Turn heat to medium high (or medium if it's your first time making roux!) and add the flour, 1/3 cup at a time, whisking constantly to combine. Once all the flour is added, get into a good rhythm of constantly whisking the pan, covering the middle and going around the edges to prevent scorching. If black flecks appear, you've scorched it and it's time to start again :( Continue whisking for 25 - 30 minutes to obtain a dark caramel color. If you're cooking at a lower heat, this could take 45 minutes to an hour.

Turn off heat and add the vegetables and stir to combine well. Turn heat back on medium and let vegetables cook in the roux for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring constantly.

Now add the refrigerated broth (don't warm it first!) and whisk well to combine. Bring to a boil, stirring often, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Now's the time to add the spices and let it simmer for at least an hour, stirring often and skimming as needed to remove the excess oil.

After an hour, toss the shrimp in paprika then add it to the gumbo and let it cook about 5 minutes until done. Stir in the lump crab and bring it up to temp, about 2 minutes. Add Tabasco to taste and season with salt and pepper.

Serve gumbo over steamed white rice and garnish with parsley. Note that if you're making gumbo in advance of eating it, wait to add the seafood until when you reheat it so that it doesn't get tough. You'll thank me later!