There you go. folks. It is as savory as any thing could be. I can finally, after all this while, say "Been there, done that." Roux was cooked on the stovetop, and the sauce is much darker than it looks in the picture. And it tastes so goddamn good. Butter all the way down.
p.s. Jon. You want a gumbo throwdown? I'm not a big fan of okra; never have been. But it's on, bud. Bring it!
I like to cook. This was a rather late development in my life. Growing up, I could certainly cook the basics, except rice which challenges me to this day, but I simply didn't take the time in my earlier adulthood to actually find the 'joy in cooking'. In some part, that's because I will always be intimidated and in awe of my very good friends, the Sullivans. There is not a one of them who is not an outstanding chef. Still, I do my best.
The other night, I had a yen for etoufee. I was just a little tired of pasta, didn't like the idea of leftovers and wasn't really prepared to grill anything that took time. Now, I've made etoufee before, twice. But I haven't been very happy with the results. It was tasty and all, but I had to cross the line that apparently can spark foody wars. Cooked tomato or no cooked tomato. (No, I'm not discussing the common practice of chopped tomato on top of the finished product.) What I learned, among other things, is that you use tomato if the flavor of the roux isn't right. Mine wasn't. I've attempted roux multiple times (notice that's more than 2) but the only success I've had is in making blond roux. This will not do for etoufee.
So, this was it, the moment, the challenge, the Super Bowl of the simple. I was going to make dark roux. And I did. This is the roux after 30 minutes.
Okay, a couple of things. I've talked to everybody, friends, fellows, countrymen, about how to do this right. I've gotten every piece of advice worth listening to, and many that weren't. So let's challenge the myths right up front.
Paula Deen, the 'goddess' of southern cooking, is flat fricking wrong. She says, and I quote:
Note: To make roux, use oil instead of butter, because butter burns
No. She did not just go there, but she did. And she ain't the only one. If it ain't butter, it ain't roux. Adios, Paula.
Emeril Lagasse get's the point. Butter is mandatory for good eats. But he, and seemingly everybody else, requires that roux be cooked in cast iron (skillet, dutch oven ...). Uhh, no. Notice, I'm working that up in an aluminum skillet, albeit a really good one. Cast iron, not required.
Others have given me suggestions. 'It has to be cooked over flame, on a grill or gas stove'. Nope, it doesn't. 'STIR CONSTANTLY!'. No, sorry. Stir a lot, yes, but constantly? No. 'Cook over medium heat'. That has been my failing before. Cook over low heat, 2 to 3 to 4 on a numbered stove setting. And for pity's sake, don't be afraid to play with the heat. Turn it slightly up or down and pay attention. 'Wisk the recipe amount of flour into the melted oil/butter'. DO NOT DO THAT! Add flour somewhat gradually wisking all the time. Then worry about cooking it. Ignore recipe amounts of ground wheat. You'll know when it's right.
This is the roux after about 50 minutes. Yes, I know that the photo sucks. I really need a digital SLR, really. The roux was much darker, and smelled so much better then. Unfortunately for photography purpose, my beloved got home shortly after that. I pay attention to my wife, more than I do pics for the web. Sorry.
The whole process took about an hour and 10 minutes. The roux is the color of a milk chocolate candy bar. Notice that I say "is". That's because I haven't used it yet. Remember , roux hates me. When Chris got home on Tuesday, the roux wasn't done, but it can be and was refrigerated. We had leftover pasta stuff that I created for dinner a couple nights before, and it wasn't bad at all. (Fresh Parmagiano and Asiago are also a secret nuke in cooking wars.) So, no ettoufee.
Wednesday, I got home from the salt mines, salivating about making a shrimp extravaganza. However, I was overwhelmed by the weary about 4, and laid down after that to clear my head. I didn't wake until well after 7. Uhh, more leftovers. Okay, no etoufee.
Last night. I grilled the necessary meat items. I plucked the most succulent green onions from the garden, and fried them to clarity. I grilled and skinned bell peppers, chopping the meaty pulp in with the onions to be panned in butter. Oh yum. And then I was cutting green onions for a top relish. I changed my grip on the knife, and got lazy. My stupid bad. I sliced my thumb to the bone.
No I will not post pictures of the gore. But it was really awful. I keep my cooking knife very very sharp, and it did exactly what I told it to do. Which at that point was apparently "remove my thumb!" Lots of blood and despair later, my beloved got home and helped me bandage the damage. But certainly, there would be no etoufee last night. ~sigh~ So we had grilled hot dogs on French bread, which were actually kind of awesome!
I think, no, I am convinced that roux simply hates me and my Montana northern ways.
UPDATE: So, I finish the post and go off to make etoufee. I pull all the containers out of the fridge, start the stock and add the meat and vegies. The roux won't come out of the Glad container, though, so I put it in the microwave for two minutes to soften it up. It burned through the bottom of the container, and I now have melted plastic roux on the Microwave plate, not to mention a new couple of lovely oil burns on my legs and feet. It was perfect roux, perfect, and now it's history.
Roux fucking hates me. That's the only explanation.
Bunnies in Beer is really very good. It's smokier with a more bitter (in a good way) sauce than I expected, possibly from frying the bacon a touch too long. But the rabbit was very tender, and Chris liked it a lot. I used a bottle of Samual Adam's Cream Stout (it's what was in the fridge) and I do think that Guiness would have been a touch better, and or even Sierra Nevada Stout. I'll have to experiment more sometime.
Regardless of beverage, it was great fun to cook. I've become a real believer in peasant cooking, whether French, Mexican, or Chinese. The fancier the meal, the more it stresses me to cook it, and gourmet can be over-rated, in my opinion. I've had coq au van at Boodle's before, and I don't think it was much better than what I cooked last night, but certainly pricier. Now, if I could cook their Lamb's Leg in Cajun Cream Sauce, I'd be a happier fellow. Naw, I'd probably just stress too much over it.
I do recommend using more bacon than is called for in the basic recipes, though. The bacon is to kill the gamey taste, which rabbit doesn't have a lot of though wild hare would, but also to provide grease for searing and sealing in the juice of the meat. That may be fine for chicken, but rabbit has no fat (and I mean NONE) to work with. I had to add a little oil to finish the searing. I used olive oil, and I'm of the opinion that it added a slight off flavor. With the beer it worked well, but if I was doing rabbit in a sweet wine, I wouldn't want the added flavor of olive. That's just my opinion, and I welcome disagreement (except against the fact that rabbit has no fat. It doesn't, and I mean notta, zip, squat).
I've never cooked in a Dutch oven before last night. I've never owned one, and then my mom gave me hers at Christmas because she never used it. I think its going to become my favorite cooking utensil. Cast iron totally rocks. If you've never done Dutch oven cooking, I'd suggest trying it. One pot cooking is a blessing all can enjoy.
(Crap, I really have to remember to start taking pictures of my food. Have I learned nothing from Jon?)
Because of the difficulties I've had with my camera and my scanner on XP, it's taken me almost a week to get this post. To any of you who remember the story of Neverending_leftovers, I offer an apology for not taking pictures of that event. The kitchen was simply too dangerous a place to have the camera out that night. So I offer this instead:
Before, (He's the big guy in the middle).
That roaster is full sized, and we cooked an entire 21 pound turkey in it last Thanksgiving. This is just one thigh/leg, and one breast from Neverending_leftovers. It was dinner for most of the week.
My beloved works with a lady who several months ago, purchased turkeys to raise. Knowing my fondness for turkey, the wife purchased two of them, that the friend offered to slaughter and clean for us. We soon discovered that these were no normal turkeys; no they were mutant Hutterite Turkey Beasts of b-movie fame ("The Turkey That Gobbled San Francisco" ... you've all seen that, right?) The first one was dressed out a month ago ... at 24 pounds. Note, that was a hen. Well it seems that our tom got a slight bit larger than that. It was having trouble supporting itself on its legs. While the friends were feeding the turkeys on Monday night, the tom (henceforth known as Neverending_leftovers) keeled right over with a heart attack. Thinking quickly, our friends grabbed the axe, bled the creature, and dressed him out for the fridge.
They did, however, have quite a problem pulling the feathers from Neverending_leftovers. If you've done the slaughtering of fowl thing, then you know that you dip the carcass in boiling water to loosen the feathers for pulling. It appears that our tom was too big to fit in any pot for boiling, so they poured boiling water over him, and pulled what they could, featherwise. Final dressed weight: 35 pounds.
My beloved brought Neverending_leftovers home in a garbage bag, a bag too freaking big to even fit in the sink. Now, we have a stand up freezer, but some things just defy the laws of dimension. There was no way this thing was fitting in the freezer whole. We thought the first step of preparation should be to pull the remaining pin feathers. Armed with needle nose plyers, we savagely attacked the beast, but quickly despaired after a small math calculation showed the surface area of the turkey to be approximately the area of a football field. Skinning it would have to be the answer.
Next on the agenda was to thoroughly rinse the turkey. Purchasing birds from your local supermarket does have the advantage of getting a clean bird. But, commited as we are to farm raised animals, cleaning is just something you accept. Please imagine us wrestling a 35 pound hunk of bird around in the sink trying to spray it clean with the sink faucet, when the bird wouldn't even fit in the sink. With more water on the floor, and on me and my beloved, than on the turkey, I calmly suggested we take the thing outside and hose it down in the yard. Note to self: such humorous notions do not go over well with a woman who's losing a fight to a dead bird.
The primary problem still remained. How does one fit a half-cleaned half-plucked ostrich sized turkey into the freezer? The answer became clear as day; violence was the answer to all our problems. Out came the carving knives. First to come off were the legs. I offered to get the claymore and hack them off, but the beloved can be very determined about doing things right. So we cut and hacked and bent until both legs came free. Each one weighs about 4 pounds, but on the plus side, you can at least clean a 4 pound object without turning your kitchen into a swimming pool. We thought about just sawing the breast in two, but the chainsaw would have been very messy afterwards. No other power tool we have would have done the job. So we carved the breasts away, cleaned and bagged them. Each one is as big as a small ham.
The final bit of entertainment for the night was my suggestion that we boil the rest of Neverending_leftovers for stock. We pulled out the big stock pot, and it wouldn't fit. We pulled out the biggest stock pot and it still wouldn't fit. Denied.
The moral of the story: Beware the Hutterites and their will to dominate the world with giant turkeys. They will perfect their breeding one day ... and then the world will be theirs. This year, your Thanksgiving dinner, next year your turkey overlord. Think about it.