Monday, March 2, 2009

some things never get old

i am super close with my two brothers and two cousins. i was the only girl growing up but the five of us are thick as thieves - probably due to the fact we spent damn near every waking moment together! for birthdays i like to host a cousin's dinner at my place and make a big spread. last friday was my cousin's birthday and then my brother's is this coming saturday so i figured i could kill two birds with one stone. we decided to expand the guest list a lil' and we moved the location to my cousins' in order to accommodate the crowd.

saturday my cousin bill and i hit the west side market for provisions.

then i took him out to lunch for his birthday. we tried out le petit triangle - a lil' french cafe in ohio city. we tried escargot which i thought were delicious. (bill rated them as a B but later claimed, "that escargot escar-went right through me!" ha!) i ordered the croque madame (DELICIOUS!) and bill went with a smoked trout salad.

that evening i rocked out to my cousin and brother aka one half of the ravenna arsenal and managed to work up quite an appetite for sunday family dinner. (i believe this near starvation is classified as "hangover hungry.")

so the menu. i would need some hearty eats to fill up this crowd. i decided to go with a family favorite which you have seen before - cioppino and some gumbo. a nice caesar salad and some crusty french bread would round it out.

i decided to go with the gumbo shop's recipe for chicken and andouille gumbo (i went there when i was in new orleans a few years ago and i remember that it was tops!) and pioneer woman's caesar salad.

first things first - the roux. 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup vegetable oil stirred continuously until it gets a deep, dark brown color.

here is it when i first started.

and here are my gumbo fixin's (with the exception of the okra which i had already fried and set aside).

and here is the roux again later.

in an ideal world i would have let this get even browner but i had time constraints. c'est la vie.

while i stirred and stirred and stirred the roux until my arm hurt my sous chefs worked on the appetizer - another family favorite a la pioneer women.

once the roux was as brown as i was gonna let it get i added the veggies - chopped onions, green peppers, red peppers, garlic and celery. this cooked in the roux until they were tender.

then i added a can of stewed tomatoes, the sauteed okra and the sliced andouille and cooked it for about 15 more minutes.

once that was lookin' good i added some fresh basil and some salt, pepper and cayenne. i also added the chicken stock. oh, the stock. i forgot. the very first thing i did before the roux and before cleaning all my seafood was to start the chicken stock.

i picked up a whole fryer at the market and had them hack it into 8 pieces. i covered the chicken with cold water in a large stock pot and simmered it for about 2 hours. i strained the liquid twice and then let the chicken cool on a plate. god bless my fabulous sous chef colleen who did the very dirty job of pulling all the chicken meat from the bone.

and here is my fabulous sous chef again chopping two onions for the cioppino.

so at this point the gumbo is simmering on the stove over low heat and it was time to start the cioppino.

i melted a stick of butter and then added two chopped onions, some minced garlic and a bunch of chopped parsley. once the onions were soft i added a big can of stewed tomatoes, a lil' tomato paste (thanks for the kick ass tip about paste removal aunt aggie!), the rest of my chicken stock, two bay leaves and a bottle of white wine. i stirred this all up and simmered it over low heat.

while my soups were simmering i started the caesar dressing. i showed up to the cousins' house sans appliances and inquired about a blender or a food processor. bill went to the attic to investigate and came back with a real gem. once it was cleaned up it worked like a champ.

so the dressing was 4 anchovies, two cloves of garlic, a few tablespoons of dijon mustard, a teaspoon of worcestershire, one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and the juice of a lemon.

the pioneer woman says to slowly pulse this mix but we learned that the ancient food processor only had one speed - super f'n fast. and it was loud. oh man was it loud! so i super f'n fast pulsed the ingredients and then after scraping the sides slowly drizzled in the olive oil while the processor was ragin'.

you're also supposed to add some grated parmesan to this but i forgot. oops.

i washed and chopped some romaine lettuce and used a vegetable peeler to shave some nice pieces of good parmesan onto the salad. i also added some croutons. (i totally cheated and bought them but i was overextended as it was and homemade croutons damn well could've thrown me into a tail spin!).

i forgot to take a picture when it was first assembled but here it is after we tore through it.

and here is the gumbo. i made rice to serve it over.

and here is the cioppino.

this was my crowning achievement of the night. my cousin dave looked skeptically into the pot and made some weird faces early on but by the end of the evening he admitted that although he never thought he'd be eating clams or mussels he was loving 'em! woohoo! another convert!

i asked aunt aggie to bring dessert and boy am i glad she did. you can tell we loved these fancy brownies by the fact that this platter was completely full only a few hours before. i even took some home in a sandwich bag!

another successful family dinner. cooking for my family is one of my very favorite things to do in the whole wide world and the fact that they all tried my homemade caesar dressing despite the fact of being totally grossed out by anchovies and some people were trying certain shellfish for the very first time in their lives and loved it - well, that just makes it all the better.

later on after it was just the five of us again - six counting mike who may as well be part of our crew - my brother kenny had the quote of the night, "you know, some shit just never gets old. like you guys!"


Viper said...

Another good looking dish ... sounds like a fun time with the fam. Cheers ...

the erratic epicurean said...

why thank you mr. viper!