Saturday, November 5, 2011

The missing ingredient

In excited anticipation of TLOML's return I am making gumbo. When I told TLOML I was going to make gumbo he did not make the usual 'mm-mmh' sound I like to hear. Instead he sounded almost worried.
'Okay',' he said. 'But you have to make sure it's good and hot.'
'Of course,'  I said.
'And you'll need to find okra,' he went on to insist. 'It's not gumbo without okra.'
'I know,' I said, a little sharply. 'Look, I'll just make a chicken pie if you think I can't do it right.'
Like the wise man he is, TLOML withdrew, insisted he was sure I'd do a great job, and we left it at that.

The terrible truth is that in his secret heart of hearts, TLOML does not believe a white person can make good spicy Cajun food. I beg to differ. I think I can transcend my Redcar (where an avocado was exotic as a child) roots. I think a good cook can make any food they enjoy. And I used to love the gumbo at Jack'n'Jills in LA. Plus I'm an American cook these days, blending cuisine cultures with ease. I hope. So with that in mind I'm making a gumbo. (And the chicken pie, just in case I need to redeem myself).

I started it today and so far it's going pretty well. I made some topnotch shrimp stock and patiently patiently stirred my roux for 50 minutes till it got nice and dark. The smell once the celery, green pepper and onion  - apparently the holy trinity of Cajun cuisine - hit the pan was reassuringly authentic. At least, it smelt like that gumbo I used to like at Jack'n'Jills. As I type this, the sausage, all manner of seasoning, tomatoes and stock have been bubbling away for twenty minutes or so, and it looks and tastes really good. Tomorrow when TLOML gets home I will toss crab, shrimp and clams in (no restraint on the seafood front as usual).
Here's how I hope mine will look this time tomorrow

There's just one problem which is eroding my confidence. There was one ingredient I could find anywhere. Attempts to find it resulted in helpful shop girls bringing me saffron, star anise, and salsify. None of which are the one ingredient I really needed. I won't tell you what it is, as I don't want TLOML to be sniffing out its absence. I have substituted it with a couple of other things which apparently have some similar qualities. Eeek... I wonder if he will notice.

Well, if it doesn't work out, there's always the chicken pie.

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