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February 07, 2005
This is the part where I tell you about the weekend. On Friday night, Gia and I went on a Scrabble bender. We slinged beers and words until the wee hours. It was an entertaining, educational, and free way to spend an evening. Nice work, me and my wife.
Saturday. Gumbo cookoff. After a slightly less than successful showing at last October's chili cookoff, Jeremy decided to organize a Gumbo cookoff, an event he felt he stood a much stronger chance of winning. I was looking forward to it, because, frankly, I'm growing bored with winning the chili cookoff every year.
I forgot until halfway through last week that the gumbo cookoff was taking place on Saturday. This was distressing because I have always preached the importance practicing for these events. Then, last week ended up being busy and practicing gumbo never made it up the priority list. Besides, I made a shit ton of gumbo at Gus's in Athens, so I was confident in my abilities. My plan was to go to the store on Friday night, then wake up early and cook with plenty of time to let the gumbo simmer and even cool a little so the flavors could adequately intermingle. Well, I didn't make it to the store on Friday. And after Friday's board game debacle, I didn't exactly bound out of bed early either. I managed to get to the store by about eleven and was home cooking by noon. I thought the tasting was promptly at 2:30, so I officially went into freakout mode. I took pictures of the following culinary cluster-fuck, but I figured I'd let Jeremy's blog do most of the talking on this one.
I chopped up the requisite vegetables, and got the ingredients all measured and ready to go. I added a cup of oil to the pot and set about heating it until it smoked per my Gus Garcia's roux-making experience. As soon as the oil began to smoke I started whisking in the flour. It started browning much faster than I remembered. Before I knew it, it was chocolate brown and not slowing down (Huzzah!). I removed it from the heat and tossed in the vegetables in an attempt to quickly lower the temperature. The bastard roux quickly set about burning the vegetables and turning into a thick black sludge. The kitchen was full of smoke. In a last ditch effort to stop the madness, I added a couple cups of chicken stock. I stirred it for a few minutes and then took a taste. Evil, burnt, bitter, horribleness. Failure. I'm supposed to leave for this shindig in less than an hour and I just ruined most of my vegetables. Please reference earlier comment about practicing for cook-offs.
I dumped the bitch sauce down the drain and stood still, fuming for a couple minutes. I couldn't go out like this. I had to pull it together. I took a quick refrigerator inventory and found enough celery and onion to possibly pull off another batch. Thank Jeebus I didn't sacrifice any of the precious chicken, shrimp, or sausage in my bout of overconfidence.
With kitchen sword and shield, I annihilated the remaining onion and celery and quickly heated up some more oil. I used a lot more restraint with the temperature and that enabled me to work a little bit more slowly. As a result of the lower temperature, I wasn't able to darken the roux to the nice chocolate brown I was going for, but at least this batch would be edible. Once I was satisfied with my soup-starter, I dumped in the veggies, some stock, the meat, the rest of the stock, and the lid. After a few minutes of simmering, I started grazing on the spice rack. I sniffed each jar/bottle with gumbo in mind and if they weren't repulsive I tossed in a couple tablespoons. From this point I let it simmer for about a half hour.
By the time I was walking out the door, my stew didn't taste half bad. I was thouroughly shocked. I filled the crock pot to the brim set it on the passenger side floor of the truck. I didn't think it would be that easy, but I thought I'd give it a shot. I started the car, put it in gear, and the instant I took my foot off the brake, hot gumbo sloshed out of the crock pot and all over the floor. Literally, I had moved 18 inches before messy disaster. I sprinted into the house, grabbed the biggest pot we have, and transferred the sweet cajun nectar right in the driveway.
Despite all my hustling, I was the first one to arrive at the cookoff. I wasn't upset, because I was still amazed that my batch was edible. We hung out for a bit and after a couple hours, everyone was there and the judgemental gorging could commence. Jeremy and Shannon added a layer of anonimity to the contest that I really liked. Everyone was out on the deck and they would bring the anonymous samples to you. Since Shannon and Jeremy were both gunning for my glory, they served my gumbo first. Not surprisingly, it had gotten even better after sitting in the crock pot for another hour.
Five batches later, Kelly tallied the votes.
I did not win the gumbo cookoff. Shannon won. And good for her because her gumbo was awesome. I will readily admit that it was better than mine, but I still voted for myself to win because I'm not some sort of losing loser who busts his ass and then just concedes in the face of a superior opponent. Despite not winning, I did take second place, which means that I beat Jeremy, which means that it was a totally successful cookoff. I think I might have heard him mention that the most important result was me not winning but I couldn't hear him over all the applause.
I still have yesterday's Super Bowl update, pictures and all, to write, but I'm going to save that for another entry.Posted by tony at February 7, 2005 08:53 AM