Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Three-Time Gumbo

When Thanksgiving's just past and everyone has gone home, you're left with what some might consider leftover hell. Some eighteen pounds of the massive turkey that you and your family tried valiantly to eat on Thanksgiving Day is still left and there is no way you can stomach that many turkey sandwiches.

Some would say throw it to the dog, like my great uncle - “Never seen a dog that couldn’t eat a turkey carcass.” Thanks, Uncle Roy. But don’t feed your dog the leftover turkey - for at least two reasons: (1) if the dog is not used to eating those small hollow bird bones, and it will most likely kill the thing, and (2) The meat and bones are a wonderful base for a fine gumbo.

Of course, you can still save the white meat for sandwiches and the revisited thanksgiving dinner. This recipe uses all that hard-to-get meat, the stuff stuck to the bones. Gumbo is a an American tradition, especially in Louisiana, but you don’t have to be from there to eat like a Cajun. Pretty soon you will all be saying: J’adore me gumbo (I love gumbo).

This gumbo recipe is called Three Time Gumbo, but it can be made in a day - a long day, but still one day. It's called Three Time because it freezes really, really well. So well, in fact, that when a batch was entered into a local contest it won. The next year the winners decided to enter more of the same batch - why risk a bad batch? It won then too, and then again the next year. Hence, three time prize-winning gumbo. We will have to go freezer-diving to see if it can make Four Time but we're content with three for now.

Three Time Gumbo

The Dallas Cowboys or the Detroit Lions are on TV. All the relatives have headed for home. You've put away the desserts. All the sliced turkey and cranberry sauce is in the fridge. But there lays the turkey bones and a bunch of meat on them. What do you do? That turkey was pretty awesome. I'm not going to throw it out.

I think ahead. There's a gumbo contest coming up next fall. There's room in the freezer. What do you do? Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Gumbo.

Thursday, late afternoon (Thanksgiving Day)

Six seconds after Kirstie Alley showed up

- 1 Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey (Bones, Juice, Skin, Everything that you haven't carved)

- 1 Root end from a bunch of celery, what you have left when you cut off the bottom 2-3 inches, quartered (or an equivalent amount of leaves, ends, trimmings, etc.)

- 2 onions, Quartered and just rinsed, skin and all

- The bottom ends of a bunch of parsley, if you've got it. A tablespoon of dried parsley if you don't.

- 1 tbsp peppercorns

- 2 cloves garlic, smashed

1. Cover carcass with water in the biggest stock pot you can find. Simmer about an hour, or until halftime of the football game. Pull out any pieces of the turkey that may render any meat using a slotted spoon. Rest until cool enough to handle. Pull any meat, roughly chop, and refrigerate.

2. Throw everything else back into the stock and simmer through the rest of the football game, at least three hours. Strain the stock, throw away the vegetables, skin and bones. Refrigerate the stock.

Black Friday

The quickest way to lose faith in humanity

You're so sick of Thanksgiving food, cooking, and everything else. Go back to work for the day and don't think about any of this stuff. Should you have any inspiration, you can start shopping for your Saturday gumbo cooking extravaganza, just try and avoid malls, boutiques, and for goodness sakes don’t go near Wal-Mart. Suicidal ideations never helped anyone make gumbo.

Saturday (Time to Cook!)

"I ga-ron-tee that you find my stereotypical Cajun accent amusing"

- 1/2 c oil (or preferably bacon grease)

- 1 c flour

- 1 c chopped onion

- 1 c chopped green onions

- 1/2 c chopped bell pepper

- 1/2 c chopped parsley

- 1/2 c chopped celery

- 1 gallon turkey stock (from above)

- 3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped

- 1 tbsp fresh mint or 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried mint

- 3 cups okra, sliced 1/2 inch (frozen is fine)

- 1 pound andouille sausage or smoked sausage (sliced about 3/8 inch thick)

- 1 pound (2 c) leftover turkey meat (or more if you don't have other uses)

- Cayenne or hot sauce to taste

- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

- Salt to taste

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat, and add the flour to make a dark roux. (Most good Louisiana cookbooks will give instructions on a roux.)

2. When the roux is a good chocolate brown, add the next five ingredients in stages, stirring carefully until onions are translucent. Stir in the part of the stock to make a paste. Add the garlic and stir into the paste.

3. Transfer to your large, heavy bottom stock pot, and then add the rest of the stock. When all the stock is stirred in, then add all the remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer over low heat at least three hours, stirring frequently.

Serving: All this makes about 8 quarts or so of finished gumbo. Each quart will serve about 4. Serve over rice with crusty French bread and butter. Whatever you are not eating, cool, package, and freeze in quart containers. (I generally use quart freezer bags.)

This is a basic and traditional gumbo. It's good served as-is. Add shrimp, oysters, and/or crabmeat to make it a seafood gumbo. You can do that when you heat up a quart. Just always have some frozen. There's always a gumbo contest out there somewhere.

- Dirt McGurt

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thunderdome: Man B Que v. Professional Hamburglar

Sadly, The Hamburglar Touch led to the Hamburglar Restraining Order and the Hamburglar Tamper-Proof Ankle Monitor.

As has been frequently documented, Man B Que has a borderline-unhealthy fixation with burgers. This is something we share with Kevin Pang, who, no kidding, holds the title of Chicago Tribune Cheeseburger Bureau Chief. While I still think Professional Hamburglar is a much cooler title, being the the host of The Cheeseburger Show isn't exactly a bad resume line either.

Aside from being a dream title, I imagine that Pang has a pretty tough job. Imagine it - you love cheeseburgers, then suddenly you have to grind through tens of dozens of them on deadline. And I'm guessing it's not all top of the line gourmet jobs. Anyone's who has had a ketchup-drowned hockey buck on a soggy bun would likely agree. Point being, the man's got some authority, and has used it to create 16 observations on the state of Chicago burgerdom.

I applaud this Herculean cheeseburger effort, but it's apparent that Pang and Man B Que have somewhat diverging taste. And given that Man B Que is no slouch in the burger category, we're going to throw in on the matter. So herein, we are going to use the beauty of Fair Use to offer our comments on Pang's final sermon in Hamburglary. No hard feelings, and no veggie burgers. Our comments in italics.

Pang's Cheeseburger Commandments

1. Ketchup and mustard are overrated as condiments. Too acidic and pungent, respectively. If you must, add a little. Underrated: mayo.

Agreed about the criminal overuse of ketchup in a lot of burgers. Have you been to Portillo's and ordered a burger? It's like eating a ketchup sandwich with beef garnish. But mayo? Underrated? Mayo is a disgusting abomination, and putting it on a burger detracts from its original intended use - as salad dressing for ridiculously fat people.

2. Tallgrass beef, for the most part, lacks the unctuousness, moisture content and brawny flavor I seek. That said, the Tallgrass beef burger at Harry Caray's Tavern, above, is most excellent (3551 N. Sheffield Ave., across from Wrigley Field). Order it rare or medium-rare.

Second one in, and you're starting to lose people. Not a lot of people refer to a burger by the name of the purveyor. Strike one. Strike two - unctuousness. Sure, you get what he means, but that doesn't change the fact that he's saying it sort of like a douche. And if you don't get it, that means it's two things you have to look up. That's a lot of work for a line in a burger article.

3. Texture and mouth feel are important considerations. Easiest way to improve this: Ask for toasted buns (buttered, preferably). You can actually taste the difference between toasted and untoasted buns.

Again, a good lesson wrapped in a thin candy shell of fancy-pantsery. Toasted buns are good, soggy burgers are gross. Why must we bring "mouth feel" into it? A lot of people who love food and cooking would still sooner punch you in the back of the head than listen to you rave about "mouth feel."

4. Favorite casual sit-down chain restaurant burger? Red Robin's A.1. Peppercorn Burger.

This tip brought to you by Red Robin.

5. Favorite turkey burger? Found at Marc Burger, Marcus Samuelsson's food court burger joint on the seventh floor of Macy's in the Loop.

Favorite turkey burger? That's like saying "least painful root canal." Also, many may not feel like going up to the 7th floor of that godforsaken store to eat a food court burger.

6. When they say "Kobe" ... With very few exceptions, any burger labeled "Kobe" is essentially a burger that costs $5 more. (Also, the "Kobe" label is misleading. It probably doesn't come from the Hyogo prefecture in Japan. It's like wrongly labeling sparkling wine as "Champagne" when it didn't come from the Champagne region in France.)

Excellent tip - also of note: that Kobe business costs $16-30 an ounce. So that $6 plate of "Kobe sliders" at Finn McCool's is just a plate of lies.

7. The best patties I've had are cooked on a griddle top. Something about stewing in their own fat.

Amen! Hallelujah! Steamed Hams!

8. Fries? Glad you asked. Although french fries fried in duck fat are in vogue, serious gourmands know potatoes fried in beef tallow are far superior. The flavors are more robust, buttery, savory. Top Notch Beefburgers (2116 W. 95th St.) and Labriola Bakery Cafe (3021 Butterfield Road, Oak Brook) do excellent beef tallow fries, pictured above.

Honestly, most of us are never going to seek out fries on the basis of the substance in which they were fried, but those Hot Doug's duck fries are tasty. Chicago's a good town for fries. It's a good town for heart disease too, but that's a separate story.

9. Consider balance. Don't just pile your favorite ingredients and accouterments between two buns. Example: The smokiness of bacon demands to be paired with American cheese (or perhaps a less-sharp Cheddar). The earthiness of mushrooms pairs better with a milder cheese, such as a Swiss or provolone, perhaps Gruyere.

And this marks the first time someone's ended a sentence in a cheeseburger article with "perhaps Gruyere."

10. Steer clear of feta, bleu and brie as cheese options. They just end up overpowering the burger.

Agreed. Feta can be alright, but bleu tastes like kitchen chemicals and brie smothers the sandwich like the haughty judgment of a chain-smoking Frenchman.

11. Lettuce and tomatoes end up getting in the way.

Damn straight. A big piece of lettuce ends up acting like an emergency exit for the more delicious toppings.

12. There is no greater flavor combination than bacon plus cheese plus caramelized onions.

I call subjective. It's the food blogger equivalent of calling someone a witch.

13. Look out, bacon. Egg with runny yolk is the new sexy topping.

Here we find that Kevin's been spending a little too much time around other food industry people, and a little too much time eating a sit-down burger places. What your bok choy-loving friends might find cute doesn't translate to the rest of us poor schlubs. Also, "look out bacon"? Don't warn meat. It's unseemly.

14. Best bang for your buck. Schoop's (19 locations, mostly in northwest Indiana and Calumet region of Illinois), and Illinois Bar and Grill, above, (4135 W. 47th Ave. in Chicago's Archer Heights; 1131 S. State St. in Lemont; and at Midway Airport).

This tip brought to you by ... oh, wait I made that joke already. Maybe we can go with 14 commandments next time?

15. Favorite fast-food burger? A tie between Steak 'n Shake, above, and Schoop's. Both have something in common: beef patties with thin, crispy edges that accentuate the "steak" flavor.

Do I hear 13? 13 commandments? Also, Steak 'n Shake is a cop-out answer. That's not your classic fast food. Casual sit-down or diner, perhaps. Although give it to Steak 'n Shake, their northwest burbs branches have enough surly, toothless waitstaff to compete with any fast food place in pure customer service misery.

16. The biggest rule of all: There is no rule. If it tastes good to you, it tastes good.

So to sum up, we have 4 rules that are really just the names of places to eat, and 1 that negates all the previous rules. And an editor couldn't have cut this down to an even ten?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Harvest Ales: 'Tis the Season to Be Hoppy

Alright hop heads, it’s my favorite time of the beer-drinking year - fall. When the leaves turn and the temperatures start to drop, I can’t help but think of the arrival of seasonal harvest brews. Harvest (or wet-hopped) beers are special because they utilize the freshest hops available. The result is very much evident in the fresh flavor profiles of these once-a-year beers.

When hops are harvested, they are typically dried and either kept in whole leaf form, or made into pellets or plugs. The drying process allows the hops to stay fresh for a longer period of time so brewers are able to make beer all year round. But once a year when the hops are ripe, brewers get a unique opportunity to use the freshest hops around.

Wet-hopped beers are different from most others in the fact that the hops never go through the drying process. The hops are picked straight from the vine and are immediately used by the brewer. The only way this works is that the hops have to be directly thrown in the brew kettle right after harvest time. Because the hops haven’t been dried, time is of the essence and you need to get them into the boil before they go bad.

The resulting beer is very much akin to using fresh herbs and spices as opposed to dried when cooking. The flavor is less biting and you can taste a “green-ness” that is unmatched. What you are looking for in a great harvest ale is that beautiful grassy hop flavor. It is for this reason that you DO NOT age these beers. Even after the beer has been bottled, the hop profile can die with age just like any other beer. We wouldn’t want that now, would we?

Make sure to pick up your harvest beers from a reputable beer retailer that rotates selection often. This ensures that you’re not getting last years batch. Place the beers towards the front of the fridge so you don’t forget they’re there. There’s no such thing as drinking too much during the hop harvest season.

Cheers from Hop Cast!

Some examples of wet-hopped beers to look for…

Three Floyds Broo-Doo
Two Brother Heavy Handed IPA
Founders Double Trouble
Sierra Nevada Chico Estate Harvest Ale
Great Divide Fresh Hop Pale Ale
Surly Wet

- Hopcast Ken

Monday, November 9, 2009

Manly Mixtape Monday: Mom and Dad's Records

The Manly Mixtape is a weekly six-pack of songs on a theme. It will rock your face every Monday.

As adolescents and young adults, the great majority of us spend time rebelling against the music of our parents. Certainly, we reason, the new contemporary stuff builds on the shoulders of all that came before. Which stands to reason that Incubus on CD is totally better than Pink Floyd on vinyl. This, dear friends, proves that you and I were fucking stupid as teenagers. The truth is, as much time as we spend swimming against the tide, we often end up not only embracing, but really loving the same stuff as our parents. That is, unless your parents were nerds, lame, or bible-thumping weirdos. Mine weren't - I didn't admit it until much, much later (well, now) but they had some taste in music. Here are six of my favorites.

The Police - "So Lonely"

Before Sting became a hilarious parody of ... well, Sting, he fronted a group that had excellent, tight ska-infused rock/pop songs. You might not get this from some of their later or more popular work (drunk people have ruined "Roxanne"), but the Police started with two albums of startling urgency that still hold up well today. You'd do well to check them out.

America - "Horse With No Name"

This song personifies the music of my parents - I initially hated it just for that. But this song remains catchy and haunting, even 200 listens later.

Willie Nelson - "Whiskey River"

As a child, I didn't know much about whiskey. I just knew it figured into a lot of the music my family enjoyed. Certainly I didn't connect it with the fact that when my dad took the 7-Up out of the fridge and poured a glass, the end result looked darker and tasted stranger than when I did the same thing. Kids are dumb. Later, I would learn it was the greatest thing in the history of things.

Creedence Clearwater Revial - "Bad Moon Rising"

Even as a kid, I loved the Creedence tapes in the house, and I hated the fucking Eagles. This is one of the many reasons The Big Lebowski blew my mind.

Jim Croce - "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown"

A provincial chap like myself has to work a Chicago reference in here somewhere. And this song - about a badass getting fucked up by another, bigger, badass - appeals to my Chicago love. Never mind the fact that as a longtime North Sider, I'm genetically frightened of anything south of Jackson. This song about the South Side kicks ass.

Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young

Clearly, this was a Neil Young contribution to the supergroup. As a kid, this song gave me chills, and I had no idea why. As an adult, I know why, but the power hasn't diminished one bit.

The next time you're visiting the folks, take a look through their music collection. You might be surprised. I left out at least a dozen classics. If you find nothing but the Bay City Rollers, however, I command you to destroy the site with cleansing fire. I'm fairly certain it's legally justified.

- J.B. Mays