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Chicken and Andouille Gumbo

Having watched my great-grandmother (Big Gran), my grandmother (Gran) and my father (who owns a restaurant in Louisiana) while they cook, I'd like to think that I've learned how to make a pretty mean gumbo. The gumbo in this picture is off... gumbo should not be red, but rather colored by the roux (i.e. walnut or chocolate colored as mentioned above) which is what establishes the base of the flavor profile. I recommend reducing the portion of diced tomatoes to a 12 ounce can instead of 24 ounces. If you go over board on the tomatoes, then your really just making a 'gumbo-like' tomato stew. Also, a lot of people are put off by the texture of okra, which will make your gumbo quite slimy if the okra is over cooked. If you've never had a gumbo before, consider leaving it out until you've made one or two before and have a feel for it. Most people either use either 1) chicken and andouille sausage OR 2) a mix of seafood (shrimp, oysters, crab, etc), but I like mixing all of it. The chicken and sausage make it hearty, while the shimp and crab claws add mostly to the presentation. Make this just after the first cold snap in the fall (then throughout the winter)... pass on the scallions and parsley (gumbo needs not these frivoulous things), but make sure you pick some Gumbo file (pronounced fee-lay, there should be an accent aigu on the e) which is just ground sassafras and sprinkle lightly just before serving.

Sep 19, 2007
jcb in Recipes

Microwave Crème Brûlée

I wouldn't be very concerned about superheating, which is only common when you are microwaving distilled water in a very smooth (i.e. brand new) container like a new coffee mug or a beaker. Standard tap water contains enough impurities in it that superheating is pretty rare in home cooking. Even then, if you're concerned, break a toothpick and drop it in the water to provide nucleation centers for boiling.

Sep 19, 2007
jcb in Recipes

CHOW Root Beer


Off flavors like horse sweat are attributed to contamination by a wiild yeast called Brettanomyces (as opposed to Saccharomyces cerevisiae , brewers yeast). I would imagine the milky consistency was due to additional microbial contamination... probably some sort of bacteria. When brewing, some people get lucky by not carefully sanitizing their equipment/bottles, but more often than not improper sanitation is what attributes to exploding bottles (as well as adding too much sugar) and poor (or at least inconsistent) brewing results. Soaking everything that will touch the wort or soda in a dilute solution of iodophore (~12 ppm or 1oz diluted in 10 gallons) for 5-10 minutes is sufficient to sanitize clean glassware. While one should try to poor out as much of the iodophore as possible, it is not necessary to rinse the containers- but if you do, make sure to use water that has been pre-boiled and allowed to cool while covered. Most if not all contamination comes from either touching the liquid with something that is "dirty" (i.e. not sanitized) or from being left open to the air. Hope this helps.

Sep 19, 2007
jcb in Recipes


Some friends and I stopped in at Cabo Hermoso on the way down to Big Sur this past weekend after reading this post. The pupusas were very tasty... I agree that alone they may not be that interesting; however, the tomatoe sauce and spicy coleslaw really put it over the top (I recommend the bean and cheese, the pork pupusas were OK, but a little on the bland side). However, the El Salvadorian tamales were some of the best tamales that I've ever had. They came wrapped in bannana leaves and were light and fluffy, not the greasy, heavy things you find at most places. Absolutely delicious! The decor and atmosphere is decidedly casual and the owner's mom is the main chef in the back. This is genuine home-style cooking and a rare find in my opinion for the Northern CA area. The best part is that its super cheap! Order a pupusa and a couple tamales and you'll have a filling (and surprisingly light) meal for under $10.

Sep 13, 2007
jcb in California