Your Gumbo Needs a Gluten-Free Roux

With a little over a week until Christmas day, the empty spaces on my Christmas list are filling in as quickly as those in my calendar. I love the way things pick up this time of year and generally enjoy the task of finding the perfect present, though I really could do with a few more good ideas for secondary gifts to round things out. What’s your holiday season looking like?

All shopping and party stress aside, I know a lot of you are looking forward to Christmas dinner, perhaps one featuring roast turkey. Me? I can barely be bothered to cook one for Thanksgiving most years, though I relented a few weeks ago when my father-in-law ordered a gorgeous 20-pound organic turkey for the occasion. So I bent my rules, cooked the bird (breast-side down and the day before), and invited extra friends to our Thanksgiving feast. We didn’t have the house-busting crowds I remember from my childhood, but this band of strays had a terrific time. Here we are late in the day after too much food and many bottles of wine, still in place at the table, laughing over who remembers what:

Thanksgiving Chez Roth | Minimally Invasive

But even with eight people — several of whom took home leftovers, mind you — that was a lot of bird. Gumbo to the rescue!

As ever, I took Michael Ruhlman’s advice for making stock and broke up the turkey carcass in a large stockpot, covered the bones with water and a little cider vinegar, and let it sit in a 200°F oven, this time for about 25 hours. That’s much longer than I typically let it go, but I was rewarded with the most flavorful batch of broth I’ve made yet, so I think there’s little danger of overcooking it.

Gumbo | Amy Roth Photo

But with the wealth of great gumbo recipes available — Donald Link’s Fried Chicken Gumbo is the perfect place to start — the rest of this post is less about the specifics of making a gumbo than the benefits of starting one with a gluten-free roux. So many Cajun and Creole dishes are roux-based that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re trying to convert one for someone who can’t eat wheat, but I’m here to tell you it’s an easy thing to do!

Whether you’re on board with a gluten-free diet, think it’s overblown or just don’t play attention to it at all, there are actually several reasons you might prefer making gluten-free roux for your gumbo:

  • It’s a great way to use bean flours or blends you don’t much care for.

    If you’re anything like me, you have a few odds and ends of these flours in the fridge that you bought in a burst of enthusiasm only to discover they make breads taste weirdly, well, beany.

  • It’s an economical use of alternative flours that can be pretty expensive to buy.

    The longer you cook a traditional roux, the darker it becomes and the less it ultimately thickens. While I haven’t tried every last GF flour available to me, I can say that the more common ones — garbanzo bean flour, sorghum flour and many baking mixes — don’t behave the same way. In fact, if you swap GF out in equal measure for AP flour, you’ll end up with a much thicker end product than you imagined. For this reason, I like to use half the amount of oil and flour called for in any given recipe.

  • It cooks faster.

    SO MUCH faster. In the gumbo link above, you’ll be standing in front of a hot stove constantly stirring that roux for nearly an hour. Even if you have multiple beers for companionship, that’s a long time. But GF flours brown to a nice peanut butter/milk chocolate shade in about 10 minutes, which barely gives you time to remember the beer, much less get through the better part of a six-pack. (At least if you’re like me.)

  • Best of all, there’s no sacrifice on the flavor-front.

With all that said, maybe you prefer tradition and have no need to part with your standard roux. Well, there’s another thing you can do to enter roux heaven: play with your fat. Not a Homer Simpson situation, but just start your roux with something more interesting than olive or canola oil. I keep jars of bacon grease and schmaltz in the fridge and love to work them into meals to amp up the flavor. So if you’re making a turkey gumbo and have some of the seasoned fat left from roasting, try using it in the roux. Building flavor from the bottom-up is a sure way to make any meal (but especially one of converted leftovers) memorable.

Some people recommend you cook the roux in a cast iron skillet with a whisk to keep from splashing yourself, but I like to do everything in one pot because I’m a rebel who loves to take risks lazy and hate washing dishes. A large pot and flat-bottomed wooden spoon work really well as long as you’re careful. Seriously, DO NOT splash yourself with hot roux. They don’t call it “Cajun napalm” for nothing.

Gumbo3 | Amy Roth Photo

I hope you found this post helpful! As long as you follow my tips for adjusting the ratio of roux to gumbo and don’t splash yourself (or burn the roux), you’re golden! Tell me, what’s your favorite dish made with gluten-free roux?

Winner, Winner, Tri-Tip Dinner

Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad weather last week (Seriously, Spring, make up your melon.) gave way to meteorological perfection for Memorial Day, which was the clearest sign imaginable that I was meant to break out the grill. Our freezer has no shortage of candidates for such an endeavor, but I decided something special was in order to pay proper tribute to grilling season, so out came the Wagyu tri-tip I’d been saving for the right occasion.

Tri-tip is a thick, nicely marbled cut popular in California, but isn’t something you normally see around here. I had the opportunity to buy one from Lone Mountain Wagyu when it was featured in a Blackboard Eats email and believe me, I jumped on that deal with both feet! Something new to me and Wagyu, to boot? I’m almost certain I placed the first order after the special went live.

Then I waited. And waited some more. Sure, I could have cooked it in the kitchen à la Bittman at any time over the past few months, but our hood drowns out noise more effectively than it removes smoke, so holding out for “summer” gave me the opportunity to practice patience each time I opened the freezer door. Oh, but the waiting is the hardest part.

Wagyu-Tri-Tip-@-Minimally-Invasive

I decided to go for the simplest Santa Maria-style preparation imaginable, rubbing the steak with nothing more than one part garlic powder to two parts each salt and pepper. That blend tasted right to me, though you may want to change things up a bit. Next time around (and there will be a next time), I’ll try the blend recommended at Simply Recipes. I wanted to keep things very basic for my first time out, though, to really taste the beef without much interference.

Wagyu-Tri-Tip-Rub-@-Minimally-Invasive

I seasoned it pretty aggressively because it’s such a thick cut of meat — a roast, really, more than a steak. As recommended at Simply Recipes, I seared it over high heat on all sides, then covered the grill and cooked over low heat, flipping every five minutes or so, until the interior temperature registered 125-130 degrees. (I like my meat a little bloody.) I took it off the grill and loosely tented it with foil while I made a big Greek salad that let us pretend we were eating with health in mind. To cut through what I knew would be a very rich experience, I made my standard chimichurri with shallots subbed for onions and without the red bell pepper.

I feel I’m stating the obvious, but it was an i n s a n e l y good meal. I’m no stranger to grilled meats, but this might be the best I’ve turned out yet, all thanks to Lone Mountain Wagyu. Do check them out if you’re feeling indulgent or are looking for something amazing to serve your friends at a summer cookout. Their animals are treated humanely and pasture-raised, so the only guilt I felt at this meal was caloric. But even then, it was only a small twinge, easily ignored in the face of such beauty.

Wagyu-Tri-Tip-Close-Up-@-Minimally-Invasive

You Put the Lime in the Coconut

Could this holiday weekend be off to a better start? There’s no snow in the forecast and it’ll be warm enough to ditch my coat! SPRING IS HERE, and not a moment too soon!

To celebrate, here’s a little gluten-free treat that’s appropriate for both Passover and Easter, which overlap this year. I’ve posted about macaroons several times, but these Lime-in-the-Coconut Macaroons are a delicious spin on the original. The lime zest and reader-recommended tablespoon of juice are a perfect complement to the coconut shavings and put me in a tropical state of mind, which this glorious weather only encourages. Spring fever: Catch it!

And really, how gorgeous are these eggs from Nina’s Red Barn Farm? They’re practically ready for Easter without any dyeing at all.

Another Hanukkah, Another Macaroon

Hanukkah treat

I’m heading to Louisiana tomorrow for an extra-long (and warm-weathered) Christmas visit with my family! (Cue happy dance.) Gil has to work this week, so he’ll join us after spending a few days alone with the dogfaces. Since I won’t be around for the start of Hanukkah, I thought I’d make Gil a batch of chocolate-drizzled macaroons to remember me by.

Hanukkah
I was still working on my drizzling technique with these first few, but they’re charming in a jolie laide sort of way, right?

Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate it! Next up: something savory to balance all of the sugar I’ve been posting…

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Another Hanukkah, Another Macaroon”

Cajeta with Crêpes and Roasted Pears

cajeta dessert

I’ll let you in on a little secret that maybe isn’t so secret: Cajeta is the food of angels. It’s essentially a milk caramel sauce, but what sets it apart from dulce de leche or confiture de lait is that it’s usually made from goat’s milk, which makes it more delicious by half, IMHO; it has a little tang and complexity the others don’t. Cajeta’s incredible on ice cream, with cookies or toast, over a simple cake, on a spoon, as a beverage (not that I’ve tried that…yet), or in a million other ways, I’m sure.

still life - pears

But because we have an abundance of pears in the market these days, I teamed the cajeta with crêpes and topped them with, you guessed it, roasted pears. AGAIN.

crepes, roasted pears and cajeta

I looked at a lot of cajeta recipes before starting, and most of them emphasized that you Must Stir Frequently, especially after adding the baking soda, or else! I liked Rick Bayless’s recipe because of his relaxed attitude to the whole thing and, you know, he’s Rick Bayless. So don’t worry too much when you’re making it; I just wandered into the kitchen every now and then (more frequently toward the end) to give it a stir.

Usually, cajeta would be a bit thicker than you see in the picture above, but I was in a hurry to wrap things up and skimped on the cooking time a little. It was still mind-blowingly good. And it would make a great homemade gift for the holidays, if you’re into that sort of thing. I’m pretty sure the recipient would be.

recipes after the jump

Continue reading “Cajeta with Crêpes and Roasted Pears”

Holiday Baking: Gluten-Free Gingerbread

December’s nearly half gone, so I guess that means no Advent Calendar this year! Instead, I’ll be posting some gluten-free goodness that’ll get you in the holiday spirit. First up, gluten-free gingerbread — soft, spicy and completely addictive, especially with a dollop of sweetened creme fraiche.

Gluten-free gingerbread

The instructions called for baking this in one pan, but I tried five mini loaves, thinking these could make nice homemade gifts.

Gluten-free gingerbread

I’d say it worked well.

Gluten-free gingerbread

After cooling in the pans for a few minutes, I moved them to a rack till they reached room temperature.

Gluten-free gingerbread

Even Mr. Movember approved…

Gil's 'stache

And Mr. Movember’s alter-ego (Fritz? I think he looks like a Fritz.) could barely contain himself.

recipe after the jump

Gluten-Free Sorghum Gingerbread adapted slightly from About.com’s Southern Food

I first tried a recipe that used a very precise blend of several gluten-free flours and not only was it more difficult than this recipe, it just wasn’t very good. This one is. And all I did was substitute Jules Gluten-Free AP Flour for regular AP flour. It seems almost too easy just to use an already-prepared flour blend, but I think it’ll become my default option from now on. And this recipe originally called for shortening, but I refuse to eat it, so I substituted coconut oil instead. There was no discernible coconut flavor and the texture was a beautiful thing, so I declare this an overwhelming success.

1/4 cup unrefined/organic virgin coconut oil (I buy mine at Whole Foods, but it’s pretty easy to find.)
1/4 cup butter
1 cup hot water
1 cup sorghum molasses or regular molasses
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (use Jules Gluten-Free, if necessary)
2 large eggs, well beaten

In a saucepan combine the coconut oil, butter, water, molasses, sugar, ginger, and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, stir, then remove from heat and set aside to cool.Sift flour, baking soda, and salt together. Add cooled molasses and sugar mixture; stir until well blended. Stir in well-beaten eggs.Pour into a generously greased and floured 9-x12-inch baking pan, or 5 mini-loaf pans. Bake in a preheated 350° oven for about 25 to 35 minutes.Makes 1 pan of gingerbread. Serve warm or cooled, with whipped cream or dessert sauce.

Macaroons

Gil tends to half-ass his way through Passover every year (since I showed up) and I’m more than happy to indulge that half-assery, as it makes things So Much Easier for me in the kitchen. He avoids the major grains, but still indulges in beans and spices and continues to be all honey badger about pork and shellfish. Yes!

Because I’m already gluten-free, I’ve taken this grain-free opportunity to go more fully Primal this week, using the 80/20 principle (if you’re doing the Primal thing 80% of the time, don’t worry so much about the other 20%). These macaroons were my entire 20% for the day and I wish I’d made more.

Despite lacking the baking gene, I resolved to make macaroons after eating one of those canned abominations so prevalent this time of year. It turned out to be quite easy, surprisingly enough, thanks to Martha.

The recipe didn’t include chocolate, but c’mon. How could I not?

Gil took one look and nearly leapt out of his skin. “They look real!”

I managed to save a few from his clutches, but they’re all gone now. Wait, when does Passover end? I think I have time to squeeze in another batch before then.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Macaroons”

Holiday Treats, Part II

…and a side of insulin.

I’ll continue to post about pralines every year because they really are one of my favorite things of the season. It just doesn’t feel like Christmas until I have my first bite. After my 20th bite, it just feels like I need a nap.

Creamy Pralines

After making several batches of these in one weekend, I have a few tips to ensure success. First, spray the waxed paper very well; these are sticky suckers that need the lubrication. Second, don’t bother with the candy thermometer until about 5 minutes after you’ve added the pecans; it really just gets in the way and the mixture won’t come up to temperature before that. Third, after you’ve added the vanilla extract, beat the praline batter vigorously until it really begins to thicken and your arm is getting tired. If you spoon them out too soon, they’ll spread too much, which leads to thin pralines that take up far too much counter space.

2 cups white sugar
1 stick butter
16 large marshmallows
1/2 cup evaporated milk
2 cups pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla
finishing salt

Cook sugar, butter, marshmallows, and milk over medium heat, stirring constantly until all ingredients are melted, then add pecans. Cook, stirring constantly, to soft ball stage, 235-240 degrees F. (I always go to 240 degrees. The end result is much better at the higher end of the range.) Remove from burner. Add vanilla and beat until mixture thickens. Drop by tablespoon or two onto greased waxed paper. While still hot, sprinkle with finishing salt.

Yield: 48 small pralines or 15 large.

Holiday Treats, Part the First

Hi, everyone. For the second year in a row, I’m afraid my schedule won’t allow for an annual Advent Calendar. (For honestly annual Advent Calendars past, see the 2007 & 2008 installments.) Part of the craziness is just my day job, which always astounds me with its busy-ness — you’d think I’d get used to holiday madness after working for a clothing retailer for 10 years, wouldn’t you? — but also

< < < < BIG ANNOUNCEMENT > > > >

I have a photo assignment! I’ll be shooting photos for a cookbook (not my own) starting next weekend!!!! It’s really just a dream come true, as clichéd and silly as that sounds, especially because I’ve toyed with giving up on this blog so many times. But without it I certainly never would have learned enough about photography to even consider doing this for a living. (Just putting it out there, universe…)

Anyway, instead of the Advent Calendar, I’m hoping to squeeze in a few posts on easy-to-make treats that might be nice for the holiday season. These little chocolate & pomegranate nibbles were inspired by something I saw in a comments section somewhere, but I just can’t remember the site. (If they look familiar, please leave a comment and I’ll give credit where it’s due.) Just melt chocolate in a double boiler, add pomegranate arils to achieve a chunky consistency, spoon onto a waxed paper-lined baking sheet and top with more arils, then chill until ready to serve. The juicy, tart arils really are a delicious foil to the smooth, bittersweet chocolate (or chocolate of your choice). I used only the two ingredients that were suggested, but I’d imagine they’d be delicious with the addition of chopped nuts, warm spices or a little liqueur.

And a little housecleaning:
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I didn’t make latkes this year for my husband because we’d much rather eat McDonald’s fries than any fried potato that comes out of my kitchen, but we did get the dogs to dress up for another portrait session. (One of the really, truly annual things on this blog. 2009 edition. 2008 edition.) Poor guys.

Happy Hanukkah!

not thrilled with this Hanukkah thing
Otis, rakish

Will there be treats?
Rufus, dubious

Stay tuned for Christmas photos next week.