"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Salvage City Gumbo

When you are trying to be self sufficient, you can't countenance much waste. When you've spent several hot hours back in August pickling okra, as I did, you don't want that effort to go to waste, even if your pickled okra turns out to be so salty as to be completely inedible.

Yeah, I made a mistake. I don't remember right now - maybe I was drunk. In any case, I made the brine MUCH too salty, and my pickled okra is not edible. Disgusting. Rats. I had high hopes for it. I used to adore the crocks of pickled okra on the tables at Burke's, a wonderful Creole establishment back in Ballard. Burke's, where are you now?

But I have eight pints of it. So what to do? Throw it away? NO!!! Pour out the brine and replace it with fresh water. Let sit overnight. Repeat. Repeat. Now the okra isn't too salty anymore, but neither is it particularly appetizing. Where you were anticipating crisp, bright, briny spears, you have limp, droopy, lackluster-green noodles. Never a pleasure.

How to salvage them? Gumbo! Day before yesterday I bought a rotisserie chicken to make Homero's favorite sandwich (recipe in a future post), and so I had about half a chicken left. The following may not be the best gumbo recipe in the world, but it's the best recipe in the world for using up what I had in my refrigerator today. That's what you have to learn to do when you are feeding a family of five on a low-carbon diet.

1/2 to 3/4 rotisserie chicken

remove as much meat as possible; then simmer the carcass in water to make stock.

1/4 stick butter, 3 tblspn flour

melt butter in a large stockpot, then use a wooden spoon to mix in flour over low heat. Keep mixing periodically (add olive oil if necessary to maintain a smooth texture) as you complete the following steps:


the half a red onion that has been languishing on the counter lo these past three days. Also the last five or six stubby little carrots you grubbed up out of the patch that used to be the garden. Two or three cloves of garlic. When the roux has achieved a less-than-pasty color and a semi-roasted aroma, add these chopped vegetables. Keep stirring, between swigs of beer and belting out Tom Waits on the iPod.

In five or ten minutes, add three chopped tomatoes. Add your watered okra, drained and chopped. Add a tablespoon or two of sweet pepper relish from the overstock store. Really, it's okay. I won't tell. Keep stirring.

Then the shredded chicken.

At this point it should be thick and goopy, perhaps hard to stir. Maybe you think it is gluey. Maybe you think you ain't no Paul freakin' Prudhomme and can't dance zydeco and are entirely too pale and scandinavian for gumbo. That's okay. I'm here to tell you your friends are also pale and scandinavian and they will accept your efforts as really good gumbo. What do they know? Add some fresh ground pepper.

Now your chicken carcass stock should be bubbling. Add it, a ladleful at a time. Probably about a quart in all. Whisk. The gumbo should be smooth and hazelnut colored.

Make some plain white rice. You do know how to make plain white rice, right?

Use an ice cream scoop to make nice round mounds of white rice in shallow bowls. Ladle rich red-brown gumbo over them. Shower with finely chopped parsley. Turn up the zydeco. Just go ahead and put the half-case of lager on the table. Go ahead. Drink out of the bottle. It's November, and you're being virtuous enough, using up the scraps. Have some fun with it already.


LilacCottageGoats said...

That is great that you were still able to use up some of your salty okra. You definitely got the hang of being self sufficient. I want to be like you when I grow up to be a big homesteader haha.

Maven said...

Dry the okra really good. Batter dip it and deep fry it:) Srsly good eats.