Gumbo and Other Gobbledygook

Gumbo

Please hover for the full effect…

This past week I spent an hour of my life developing a roux the color of chocolate mahogany. Was it worth it? Absolutely! Gumbo worth eating is gumbo worth cooking properly from the ground up.

As I stood over an antique cast iron skillet stirring (and stirring and stirring…), flavors from the past subtly mingled with my present day quest for soul food. Regional food. Food rife with history.

Did I mention flavor?!!

(Quick aside: cast iron is the ideal vessel for making a deep, dark roux.)

Standing over the stove also gave me time to consider how I’m doing “life” at the moment — or how I might do it differently. (I love cooking, if for nothing more than the uninterrupted thoughts and unsolicited advice.) There’s a lot of therapy in an hour spent on roux done right.

This coming week I’ll be heading to Minnesota for a visit with family, snowbound though they may be, which means I’ll be breaking out the BIG winter coat before I leave Oklahoma. (Shiver me timbers!) Thank goodness I grew up learning how to “layer.”

Which brings me back to Gumbo.

The depth of this dish was intriguing, inspiring, and entirely sensational! I heartily recommend this recipe for starters. (Thank you, Queen Jeanne!) I took the liberty of adding shrimp to the mix, along with bay leaves, thyme, and chopped tomatoes ala Alton Brown’s Shrimp Gumbo recipe (my hero) on Day Two of my eating enjoyment extravaganza. No such thing as too many cooks in my kitchen; the more the merrier!

Which brings me back to “life,” et al. At the moment, I have no idea what direction my blog will go in the coming months. Part of me wants to write exclusively, while another part says “break out the camera and share that food photo with the world.” (Never mind the lack of bokeh or background props…) A third part teases music, music, music. Don’t ya just love possibilities?

Maybe after I visit the frozen North my thoughts will become crystal clear. There’s nothing like being smacked in the face by 40 below to weed out what’s important and what’s not. (Survival of the fittest, and all that…)

In the meantime, I’m gearing up for Gumbo Round Two next week (it’s that good!) — plus, I’ll need a lil’ Southern fortification before I head out.

My wish for you on this day is to live life warm and wonderful — or at the very least, flavorful!

Enjoying a multi-layered life,

~ Kim

© Kim Bultman and a little lunch.

Swiss Steak ala Alton Brown

Sporadic blog post alert…

My schedule is absolutely insane the next two weeks, so I’m relying on your good graces and a few one-dish wonders to see me through.

It’s not that I bite off more than I can chew, it’s just that piano players are in demand this time of year.  I’m talkin’ seven rehearsals, four gigs, two performances, the children’s Christmas program, and a guest speaking engagement I volunteered to do without checking my calendar first (!) — which includes playing the piano.  Basically “a partridge in a pear tree” kind of insane.

Speaking of biting off more than you can chew…

Back in the 80’s there was a fast food commercial that amused me no end.  In it, a feisty ol’ lady would holler, “Where’s the beef?!”

(Remember that?)

I thought of it the other day when I divided up a chuck roast — half of it for “roast,” a fourth cut into cubes for stew, and the rest sliced and pounded for Swiss Steak.  Three meals outta one roast ain’t bad!

My meal planning was also assisted by a giveaway I won.  (Thank you, Jenny at Savour The Senses — what a treat!)

I’d never used Muir Glen tomatoes before, so I wanted to make something special with them.  Let’s see… one for manicotti, one for Super Nachos, one for stew, and one for Swiss Steak.  Four meals outta one gift box ain’t bad either!

Getting back to the topic at hand, it had been awhile since I made Swiss Steak and I didn’t want to make just any ol’ version of it with those delectable tomatoes.  Lo and behold, Alton Brown’s name came up in my search… and you know how I feel about Alton Brown.

So, I sauteed and stirred to my heart’s content (in between piano practice) and shouted, “Where’s the beef?!” — just for fun.

Swiss Steak ala Alton Brown

(adapted from Alton Brown’s recipe on Food Network)

1 lb. chuck roast (uncooked), sliced against the grain

1 tsp. Kosher salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 c. flour

2 Tbsp. bacon drippings

1 medium onion, sliced into rings

1/2 c. celery, chopped

1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes (I used Muir Glen, woohoo!)

1/2 tsp. smoked paprika (regular is fine, too)

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

3/4 c. beef broth (I used homemade beef stock)

Preheat oven to 325° F.

Slice roast into “cutlet” sized pieces; season with salt and pepper.

Place flour in a pie tin (or on a plate); dredge meat in flour.

Place meat between two sheets of plastic wrap; pound until thin.  (I used my rolling pin to aid and abet this process.)

Dredge meat in flour again; shake off excess and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat oil or drippings in a Dutch oven ’til shimmering.

Add a few slices of beef at a time (don’t crowd); sauté until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes per side.  Set aside to drain on paper towels.

In the same pan, add onion and celery; sauté until softened.

Add remaining ingredients; stir well.

Add browned meat, submerging slices in the liquid.

Cover and bake for 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until meat is fork tender.

Swiss Steak

Optional:  Holler “Where’s the beef?!” once in awhile, just for fun. :)

Enjoying temporary insanity,

~ Kim

Setting Things A-Rite With Alton Brown

After my vacation over the 4th, I promised you some travel highlights and food.  Now that it’s the end of July, I must set things aright (or a-rite as the title alludes…)  And, while I enjoy writing about my own food frolics, sometimes I simply must extol the virtues of “other people’s food.”

“Good heavens, what is she babbling about?” you may ask.

I’m talking about Maid Rites.

Maid Rites are a ground beef phenomenon on a bun.  A Midwest marvel in a sandwich.  A ticket to hamburger heaven…  Okay, you get my drift.  (The Man of Few Words agreed; he signified “aye” with his elbow.)

Simply put:  Maid Rite’s made right.  They’re served right, too.

Notice the classic “burger basket” presentation.  The sandwich is wrapped in logo-laden-waxed-paper with a generous side of hand-cut fries in their own paper basket, artfully assembled on a red plastic tray.  (The previous information was shared with the intent to avert your eyes from the “beef crumble” stuck to my sweet tea glass — oh well.)

The only embellishments necessary for a Maid Rite are thinly sliced dill pickles and onions, which are added when you order.

At the table, ketchup and mustard await in nostalgic dispenser bottles, which you may add.  (I don’t.)  No need to mess with perfection.  Love those little “maid” get-ups.  (Really — I do!)

FYI, hover your mouse over the photos for a summary of this review.  (I often tell a “second story” in the pop-up captions.)  Such fun. :)

Regarding the vacation re-cap, it pretty much consisted of 28 hours in a car with no air conditioning, more relatives than I could possibly include in one post, and R & R by the lake.   A good time was had by all, especially me.  There you have it.  A promise is a promise.

So where does Alton Brown figure into the scheme of things, besides our mutual penchant for road trips and diner food?

In a previous post, I mentioned Alton’s book, “Feasting On Asphalt.”  Not only is it highly entertaining fare, he included the recipe for Maid Rites (or a pretty darn close adaptation), which I know you’ll enjoy very much.  He also wrote a much more comprehensive review.  Give credit where credit is due, I say.

Enjoying the journey (and a Maid Rite or two),

~ Kim

P.S.  My review took place at the Iowa Visitors’ Center, where we stopped to cool off on the way home.  I’m happy to report that the “tipped” cows are now aright — or a-rite, whichever you prefer.  And, something new has been added…