Thursday, November 02, 2006

Day 22 of PCA II – Southern Comfort Food

I loved everything we made tonight! Fried Catfish with Black-Eyed Peas and Collard Greens, Shrimp Gumbo and Crawdad (Crawfish) Etouffee’.

So I have to tell you about my first experience with collard greens. This night not being it. I don’t know where I was but I got to try them and thought wow these are really good, I must do these at home. We had recently come back from Italy and I found I loved cooked spinach, which I had never had till I went there. So off to the store I go and I find them. Took me a bit because I didn’t know just how large the leaves were. I even had to ask someone to make sure I was grabbing the right thing. So armed with my new veggie I head home to prepare dinner. Grocery stores really need to put better labels on fruits and vegetables. Labels like “Denise, collard greens are not like spinach. Please cook them a lot longer.” I could not understand why these things came out so tough! Gads you could floss your teeth with the fibers. But that wasn’t enough, they have a really boring flavor and all I did was boil them in a very low amount of water I might add. Needless to say I looked up a recipe for collard greens.

Tonight we cooked them with ham hocks, Tabasco and garlic. Yeah I can feel my mouth start watering too.

The Black-Eyed peas had all the traditional yummies in them. Bacon, onion, garlic, thyme, ham and of course fresh peas. Remember it’s good luck to eat these on New Years Day…you have to eat at least 365 of them on that day to bring you good luck throughout the year.

These two dishes were served with fried catfish. Ok so it wasn’t so much fun fabricating them, but once those filets were dredged in flour, cornmeal and a lot of spices the fun started. My taste buds were practically giddy at this point.

Next up Gumbo! I think I’ve had gumbo maybe 3 times in my life. I don’t know why it’s called gumbo (sounds like a name of a character on Gumby who’s hocked up on steroids) but it’s just like stew, only a bit spicier.

The fun dish, in a sick sort of demented way, was the Crawfish Etouffee’. Yes the crawfish were alive. Yes they climbed out of the bowl and often ‘went on the lamb’. (Hhmm maybe the next class should do their braised lamb shanks the same day they do the Etouffee’ then the crawfish can really go on the lamb) I ended up cooking 12 pounds of crawfish, this is the equivalent of 4 very large mixing bowls of feisty critters who fight back. I treated them with respect and didn’t shake them around to make them move and made sure my water was at a full rolling boil before dropping them to their fate. Some filled the pot with the crawfish and their water temperature dropped so they didn’t die as fast as they should have. I only put about a dozen in at a time so the boiling point kept at a constant and thus their death would be quick. Now prepping these guys once cooked was an Olympic event. We had our line of 4 and Eddie and Edgar began the tedious process of pulling off the tails and extracting the tail meat. (think of tiny lobsters) I tried a few and failed miserably. I ruined more of the meat than I extracted. I cleaned the shrimp instead. Those I can quick.

The Etouffee’ has an interesting flavor. It’s first made by browning the flour, then with the browned flour make a dark roux. Then the shrimp stock is added and it should be a lot like cream of tomato soup, this is reduced to nappe’ (remember nappe is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon), the crawfish are then added, test for seasoning and serve with rice. So let’s talk about what went wrong with this dish. I think they had the amount of flour/roux to shrimp stock really out of whack. When each of us added our stock and started whisking it was instantly the consistency of wet cement. (note we were to add 2 oz of clarified butter with 2 oz of browned flour and 8 oz of shrimp stock) We ended up needing to add another 8 ounces of stock to each of our recipes. Even after the extra stock was added and the texture was to the correct consistency, it still had a grainy texture to me. Like flour that wasn’t dissolved completely. The crawfish were good though!

All in all a hearty night for food. Tomorrow is Fish n Chips and Calamari (ick).

Until Tomorrow!...


At 6:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gumbo is fun though. I once made it in an 18 qt. roaster oven and yes, I think there was 18 quarts :D. at the end you had to stir very gently or it'd slop over. I had spent $110 for the ingredients for that pot. Lasted 2 days for 7 people. Have never had crawfish though. Billy


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