Saturday, October 11, 2008

Best Recipe: Gumbo

After living in New Orleans for a year, I have found an appreciation for Cajun cooking. Cajun food, quite frankly, is not the prettiest of cuisines (true Gumbo is actually dirty brown in color,) but the flavors will warm you up, body and soul.

This particular Gumbo recipe is an amalgamation of several that I have picked up--which is in essence what makes good Gumbo. So cook, serve, and let the good times roll.

1/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup flour
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp chili powder
2 large bay leaves
3 cloves chopped garlic
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 cups diced green bell peppers
1 cup diced red bell peppers
1 cup boiled rice
1 package frozen okra
2 cans chicken broth
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 cups boiled crawfish tails, or, raw shrimp (or both)

Rinse 1 cup of rice and boil until cooked. Drain and set aside.

Heat the chicken broth on medium-low heat in a medium pot

On medium-high heat, cook the roux (what thickens the gumbo) in a separate large pot by heating the oil and slowly adding the flour. Cook until the roux has developed a reddish-brown color.

Add the salt, black pepper, chili powder, garlic, onions, and peppers to the roux. Cook until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Add the diced tomatoes (with the liquid) and the chicken broth to the vegetables. Add the bay leaves. Put on medium-low heat, cover and let sit for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Remove cover and add the okra and seafood. Recover and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Once the seafood has cooked, remove the bay leaves. Put the boiled rice in bowls. Serve gumbo over rice.



Thursday, October 9, 2008

Baking: Why Madeleines are Like Girls with P.M.S.

Alright, so French cooking (as I know it) is the most exacting of all cuisines. French recipes are probably (once again, as I know it,) the most difficult recipes to follow and-- more importantly-- get right.

Case in point: Madeleine Cakes.

Madeleines, also know as petites madeleines, are little shell-shaped sponge cakes (often called cookies) that (when done right) are springy in texture and buttery in flavor; sometimes lemony depending on the recipe. These little morsels are delicious, but they are so hard to make.

Here are some little tidbits that I have picked up from experimenting with these suckers:
1. Time it right. You have to be precise when baking madeleines; leave them in too short and they don't get the nice golden color they should have, leave them in too long and you get brown hockey pucks.

2. Always butter and powder the pans in between batches; this way you get consistent coloring with all your madeleines.

If anyone has anymore, please let me know. I love these deserts. I hate the aggravation.


Restaurant Rave: Sushi Avenue

There is one particular sushi joint in my neck of the woods that is absolutely fabulous: Sushi Avenue.

It is located on Green Street in Champaign, where the old Dorcas Korean place used to be. If you're sad or suicidal about Dorcas not being there anymore, not to worry; Sushi Avenue has kept the old Dorcas menu for those craving some Jab Chae with their spicy tuna roll.

Sushi Avenue offers a great lunch special: 2 sushi rolls, miso soup, and salad for $11.28 (including tax.) You get your choice of one basic sushi roll (these include, but are not limited to, spicy tuna, spicy salmon, and, cucumber) and one of the house specials. Now, the house specials are not your typical run of the mill sushi rolls; they are unique to Sushi Avenue and utilize traditional (and not so traditional) sushi ingredients to create mouthwatering sensations. My personal favorite is Hell. You can even sample your favorite cities; try a Las Vegas roll, or a New York roll. Heck, you can even sample Champaign, or Urbana--in your mouth.

So roll down to Sushi Avenue sometime. They redefine why sushi is so amazing.