Gumbo has one million moving parts, as does my grrrl, MacDiva. A few words on Gumbo, & my New Orleans sojourn:
briefly interned @ mr B’s, where they eclipsed every other grill i had ever worked: as their grill person, i built a wood fire from scratch daily. New Orleans restored my faith in southern heritage soul food, when done right from beginning to end.
i’d originally thought of staying there, but the 90 + degrees & punishingly humid thing, before 8:00 AM was intolerable.
when i got back to town, one of my flyest grrrrls, on her way to becoming hip-hop-lit royalty, needed a caterer for the independent film that she was directing. of course, i immediately offered my services, & next thing I knew, she had hired me to do curry fried chicken (becoming a signature) & gumbo for her brilliant film I Am Ali. I showed up on set, w/my pots in tow & we set off on our karmic road, one that wove food/ritual/the blessing of the muses into a tapestry that I mine for inspiration up till now. MacDiva has been my food muse for over 20 years, either suggesting or pushing me to conceive of some of the most inspired food of my damn near 30 years in kitchens.
& inspired by my brief tete-a-tete w/new orleans, i made
during this period, & forever after, inspired by ancestral studies, i combined some of my heritage into a genealogical fusion:
curry fried chicken:
1 3-lb. fryer cut into pieces.
curry paste – Pat’s
curry powder to taste mixed w/flour
mixed seasoning salts – old bay, borsin, or salt & pepper
coconut oil to fry
marinate the chicken in a mixture of yogurt, garlic, ginger, & curry paste 8 hrs – to overnight
heat the oil to popping
pull the chicken from the marinade, dredge in flour/curry mixture & drop in oil till the pieces float.
& because of the concerns of cooking for a crew that was essentially going to be grazing all day, i wanted some things that could sit @ room temp for some hours:
mushroom rice with turmeric:
found in the turmeric post here in Homeslicemag
real potato salad
1 2# bag lovely baby potatoes: idaho, yukon gold, redskin.
2 – 3 TBSP. aioli (found in this blog) or lemon mayonnaise
3 sticks celery, w/leaves fine diced
6 cloves black garlic fine diced & blended w/mayonnaise
1/2 tsp chopped parsley
2 shallots, fine diced
1/4 tsp. dried mustard
2 sprigs thyme
1/2 tsp. celery seed
seasoning salt – old bay, borsari, camp. etc.
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
make a cross @ either end of the potatoes & drop into salted, boiling water.
when a fork pierces each easily, remove & chop in half cubes
boil potatoes till soft, & rough chop, tossing the excess skin, & retaining just enough to keep the potato salad comfortably toothsome. add in rest of ingredients & mix lightly, till all are combined.
warm frisee salad w/shallot mustard dressing w/lardons, (pork, duck or turkey)
lardons, about 8 (moderate) – 16 oz (scandalous), rendered of all fat on an extremely low flame & set aside
shallot-mustard vinaigrette – (follows)
st. andre croutons
poached egg/devilled egg garnish, (follows)
2 shallots finely diced
1tsp. dry mustard
1tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 Diced jalapeño
6 cloves garlic pulverized
Red wine vinegar
Sea salt & pepper
8 – 10 TBSP olive oil
Whisk to combine & let settle. @ this point you can either poach an egg or do a deviled egg garnish:
Devilled Eggs for garnish here, also to be served as an app on their own as follows:
1 dozen cage free, minimum
apple cider, champagne sherry or red wine vinegars added in dashes
dash hot sauce of any kind, cayenne or both
seasoning salts such as old bay, borsari(!!!), any of your faves
optional: shredded crab1/3 #
boil eggs, then cool in cold water. peel then cut in half length or crossways. scoop yolks into a bowl, & reserve eggshells.
whisk these till creamy then pipe or spoon into reserved egg white shells
optional: fried capers shaved truffles truffle oil tobiko
toss greens w/vinaigrette & serve w/lardons, st. andre croutons & egg garnish
A few (more) words on MacDiva: Detroit to the marrow/hustle bred in the bone. One of the finest/most powerful rainmakers that I have ever seen in action – this includes seen as in on tv(on some Oprah type shit)/in a magazine/from afar. She is a filmmaker par excellence. A writer who lives/dies by her killing wit. A force of nature.
We met in ’95, right around the time she saved my ego/will to ever leave my house again in one phone call, post a harrowing experience @ her DOPE assed birthday shindig:
‘Hey sexy. Your Afro was the talk of the party…’
‘Before, or after it caught fire???’ this gasped between sobs over the 1/8 of an inch loss, le deep sigh
A few cackling peals of of laughter later, my Michael Jackson moment was just something that happened. Before the call, The Afro Incident was, – in my mind – The 4th Horseman of the Apocalypse. I mean who throws their head back to laugh w/a 20″ hair circumference in a room full of open candles???
we were just babies @ the time; she was a shining/sparkling/dimepiece glamorous cohort of my main damie/ace boon coon/doggg, D The Lothario (incidentally the one who put out the fire), & any friend of his… was just another addy to my friendship gumbo, a delicious brew that sustains me to this day… Her resume spoke for itself – she was, i discovered from whispers in the community, also a titan of cultural criticism, a card carrying member of the niggeratti. apparently, everyone knew that she had helmed, in a ceiling shattering power move, The Source (magazine, & hip hop lit bible), one of the only bitches to ever do it like that. & everyone knew she had given The Notorious One 5 mikes, thereby legitimizing his early career. everyone knew that ‘Pac had been damn near her own personal barnacle during his personal trials. what everyone didn’t know was that close proximity to her availed the lucky one of her subtle/blistering humor, to the pristine tastes of a true aesthete, devoted to her art & community, raising an excellent/glowingly beautiful child, who gleefully rolled in spaces where no females could be found, fearlessly debating w/aplomb & from a feminist perspective, some of the most skilled (& sadly, chauvinist) wordsmiths of our time.
a boss bitch to the nth degree.
MacDiva was the one to request lobster mac & cheese when I catered her (sumptuously gorgeous Mickalena Thomas themed) ‘thee satisfaction’ video in 2013. from the start, MacDiva would have a craving & start the conversation, & i would fill in the details: this is how the (summer 2015) Color of Change benefit saw her proposed menu of steak salad in lettuce cups become marinated & grilled porterhouse, cubed into raddichio leaves. Her desire for truffled crab deviled eggs demanded a slightly different seasoning mix than I usually use; champagne vinegar for this elegant celebratory egg. & why not some black tobiko? What’s an elegant party without champagne & caviar?
The mushroom ragu for the polenta had to be the wildest: a chanterelle/porcini/hen of the woods affair complete w/the most silken shallots I could possibly caramelize.
steak raddicchio cups w/grilled porterhouse:
1 # porterhouse marinated in a paste BK pepper & pulverized garlic
Set aside while heating grill & prepping other ingredients:
6 heads radicchio
3 heads endive
Mustard vinaigrette from above in this post
Separate radicchio leaves into about 10 cups. Garnish w/whole leaves of endive @ random in a large platter. Set aside in refrigerator. Make vinaigrette & set aside. Fire charcoal grill. Mesquite or hickory are perfect hardwood additions. Should be about 30 – 45 min. When coals are white, grill marinated porterhouse till desired doneness -hopefully mid rare- & dice into 1/4 inch cubes. Sprinkle dressing over cups then spoon steak into cups.
polenta w/wild mushroom ragu:
2 & 1/2 C water, boiling
1 C polenta
1/2 tsp. salt
sprinkle the polenta “pioggia” – like rain – into boiling water. simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 – 45 min, depending on your preferred texture, more or less firm. spread over a plate or make rough quennelles w/a kitchen spoon, & pan fry in
2 TBPS oil: grapeseed, olive, etc toll edges are crispy & lightly browned.
1 lb. criminis, chanterelle. Hen of the woods, lobster/a combination of these sliced medium
sliced vidalia or yellow sweet onion
sea salt & pepper
caramelize onions: sautee on low heat, occasionally covered for 20 min approx. or until golden & dark brown, thoroughly wilted/transparent. add mushrooms, saute on increasing heat till they give up their water & begin to crisp around the edges. serve over crispy polenta cakes.
steak raddicchio cups w/grilled porterhouse
when it was time for me to set foot in the social media sphere, it was MacDiva who gave me the shine i needed w/her New Year’s Day Gumbo post on instagram. i promised the followers that she generously shepherded to my page, the recipe, & so here it is: a witch’s cauldron/dark muses’ bath of the years of sisterhood & bubbly that i have been gifted w/courtesy MacDiva.
for the chicken stock:
chicken bones & parts
cover w/water & boil for @ least 2 hours. start this @ the beginning of gumbo prep for best results & most richness.
for the shrimp stock:
same veg w/shrimp shells in place of bones. simmer for 1 hour & add alternatively w/chicken stock
for the roux:
butter stirred & fried on low flame till cherry brown color
for the gumbo:
start w/New Orleans Mirepoix:
fresh bay leaf
celery & leaves
diced tomatoes about 3 – 6 depending on taste
saute onions/garlic first to almost caramelize then pepps & celery. add
parsley, all chopped then add
gumbo file, about 1 tsp & add
6 chicken andouille, sliced. &
@ this point add both stocks,
creole seasoning to taste – yes, i am a Chachere’s fan, along w/Old Bay, & my own seasoning salts…
simmer while prepping the next step:
for the fried chicken: (i know, gumbo purists – what in the F*CK is fried chicken doing here??? – no worries. you’ll see.):
marinated chicken, about a 2# fryer cut into all 10 pieces (breasts halved, all pieces as small as desired)
in old bay & seasoning salts to taste as well as desired aromatics such as garlic, vinegar, fresh hers or just salt & pepper
heated oil to about 375
dredge chicken pieces in seasoned flour & drop into oil till pieces float. once fried then added to the simmering, thickening broth.
1# okra, sliced
simmer for 90 min.
shellfish: i like to add shellfish last for obvious reasons.
shrimp shelled (shells go to stock @ the top of this recipe) then marinated w/seasoning salts, lem garlic & hers & sauteeed @ last minute before adding w/juices to gumbo
crab, thoroughly picked through
clams, soaked w/water & cornmeal (makes them release the sand) for some hours – if adding mussels, same treatment.
oysters, marinated w/lemon juice, zest & some shredded garlic, then sauteed
lobster claw tail or both gets marinated in lemon j, spices herbs & touch garlic, then sauteed & added w/juices to
individual bowls upon service w/white rice.
*you can use scraps from the prep here, any onion family scraps, carrots, celery or herbs in fact when you are cooking can be added in addition or instead of. this is a casual ‘a la minute’ (on the minute) stock that will be added 2 hours in.
add laughter, the sweat of 2 adrenaline junkies, & some inside jokes.
Gumbo = the definition of labor of love.