Sunday, December 7, 2014

Chicken gumbo

Rachel fell in love with chicken gumbo when she was an impressionable undergrad at Stern. The gumbo came from Mendy's and it was unparalleled, or so she remembers.

Unparalleled, you say? Sounds like a challenge. Let's make gumbo.

Gumbo starts with a red roux. Equal volumes of vegetable oil and white flour (1/3 cup each I believe) are cooked over medium heat.

After 10 or 15 minutes, it will develop into a deep reddish brown:

Next, dice onions, celery and green pepper (the Creole variation on the classic French mirepoix), and toss them into your ruddy roux. Add half a bag of frozen okra, and a 1 kg of chicken wings. Season with salt, pepper, paprika, garlic, and thyme. If you use fresh thyme, tie up a bunch of sprigs with a few other sprigs twisted into a rope, like so:

Cover everything with water and bring to a boil:

We ate this for Shabbat, so once a boil was reached, the gumbo was transferred to a crock pot set on low:

Finally, chop up some beef chorizo sausage and throw it in. Beef chorizo is not the traditional gumbo sausage. That would be andouille sausage which, alas, is not available in Israel. And contains pork. Chorizo it is, then.

Cook on low for several hours. If you put up the gumbo by late morning, and have it on low until dinner, it will be perfect, I promise. Between the starch from the roux and the unctuous polysaccharides exuded from the okra, the gumbo will be thick, wonderfully flavorful, and deeply satisfying.

[One final note - the gumbo will still be tasty for Shabbat lunch, but not as good as Friday night. Some components break down and it isn't quite as thick.]

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Taco night

We've talked about tacos before, but can you believe it's been over two years since Rachel and I made these? That's because these tacos are made with meat #14 (I think it's called פלדה), which is a hind cut, and hard to find.

I was always under the impression that, in Israel, hind cuts are generally available in most places you go to get meat. This impression was based on the knowledge that Israeli shochtim perform ניקור, the process of removing the גיד הנשה. This is true, but it turns out that the reality is this: hind cuts exist in Israel, but most butcher counters don't have them, and frozen meat sections definitely don't have them.

The reason seems to be that the majority of meat is imported from חוץ לארץ, especially South America. There, the hind quarters are simply sold off to non-Jews, so they don't make it here. I'm pretty sure nearly, if not all frozen meat is imported, and a lot of the fresh meat you see at the counter probably is too.

This week I was told that the only brand that does hind quarters is אדום אדום. I'm sure there are other, boutique ranches (in places like the Golan) that offer hind quarters, but אדום אדום (owned by Tnuva) is the only one you're likely to find in a grocery store nearby; specifically Shufersol, which carries א"א. Even then, not all Shufersol locations will have this cut. If you're in the Haifa area, the one in קניון חיפה carries it.

(Also, if you live in Jerusalem, go to the shuk to find the best variety when it comes to meat. That's where I found sausage casings, and that's where I've seen... um... a whole variety of... cow parts that are not usually found in other places... basically, you can probably find beef #14 somewhere.)

Ok, but what if you want to make tacos and, for one reason or another, you can't get #14? The most important thing is that you get a tender cut of beef. The two most tender cuts that are readily available pretty much everywhere are #1 (entrecote) and #6 (false filet, פילה מדומה). In both cases, ask the butcher to slice the meat thin for you, or do so yourself if you're buying a big frozen piece. To cook, season all over and sear in a hot pan with oil for really just a couple minutes, max, on each side. Slice against the grain into little strips.