Thursday, October 23, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
Ya see, the Marriott has these beautiful plush fluffy beds, with lots of big fluffy down pillows on them. Well, guess what? Miss Ginger is alergic to goose down! That explains why she felt better when she would go home, and worse again when she came back. And why she got REALLY sick when she was here for 2 straight weeks!
So this time when she checked in she had the housekeeper switch out the pillows to synthetic, and guess what? No sneezing, no coughing, no hacking- just a great night's sleep!
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
AOL Journals is shutting down at the end of October, so Miss Ginger is packing up her stuff and moving to Blogspot. Her new URL is http://missgingergrant.blogspot.com. She'll start posting there from this point forward, so please reset your bookmarks and head on over for some of her Southern hospitality, wit, and wisdom! See ya there!
Monday, September 29, 2008
You're going to need a tissue for this entry.....
Tonight after arriving back in NOLA, Miss Ginger and 2 of her dearest work friends decided to make an easy night of it and grab a quick bite at the Metairie outpost of Acme Oyster House. We sat down and ordered our drinks, and I noticed an old man sitting by himself at the table next to us, eating his dinner and drinking a beer. He looked like a million old "coon ass" men I knew growing up, and I thought it was cute that they still dress the same way today that they did (hmm hmm) years ago when Miss G was a kid. Then I noticed something that made my eyes water. Propped against the salt shaker, he had a photograph a stunning older woman, with perfectly coiffed white hair and pearls around her neck. No, it wasn't Barbara Bush, silly, it was his late wife!!! He brought her to dinner with him, and she was keeping him company while he ate! Awwwwwww!!!! Isn't that just the sweetest thing thing you ever saw?! No, not yet! One by one, the waitresses each came by when they got a chance, kissing him on the cheek, sitting and visiting if they had time, and just making sure he was okay! His actual server even brought him dessert to go, and she had labeled the styrofoam container "bread pudding 9/29/2008" with a ball-point pen so he would know how long it sat in his fridge.
It was one of those "wham!" moments that brings life into perspective, and when I pointed it out to my dining companions, we found ourselves all wiping tears from the corners of our eyes as we admired his devotion to his wife and the kindness of the servers, who clearly see him on a regular basis. As we left the restaurant, we noticed him lingering at the hostess stand, visiting with his friends, sharing the happenings of his day and catching up on the thrill of their young lives!
How ironic as I write this that Christina Aguillera is singing "we are beautiful" on my ipod and reminding us all that everyone is beautiful and deserves our love, devotion, and compassion!
Here are the lyrics:
Don't look at me
Every day is so wonderful
And suddenly, it's hard to breathe
Now and then, I get insecure
From all the fame, I'm so ashamed
I am beautiful no matter what they say
Words can't bring me down
I am beautiful in every single way
Yes, words can't bring me down
So don't you bring me down today
To all your friends, you're delirious
So consumed in all your doom
Trying hard to fill the emptiness
The piece is gone and the puzzle undone
That's the way it is
You are beautiful no matter what they say
Words can't bring you down
You are beautiful in every single way
Yes, words can't bring you down
Don't you bring me down today...
No matter what we do
(no matter what we do)
No matter what they say
(no matter what they say)
When the sun is shining through
Then the clouds won't stay
And everywhere we go
(everywhere we go)
The sun won't always shine
(sun won't always shine)
But tomorrow will find a way
All the other times
We are beautiful no matter what they say
Yes, words won't bring us down
We are beautiful no matter what they say
Yes, words can't bring us down
Don't you bring me down today
Don't you bring me down today
Don't you bring me down today
Love to all!!! Please love someone who is lonely today!
.........Miss Ginger Grant
Sunday, September 28, 2008
People often ask me the difference between Cajun cooking and Creole cooking. My late Momma explained it like this: “Creole housekeepers went to the French Market each day and bought the finest, freshest ingredients available. Cajun housewives walked into the yard and grabbed whatever didn’t run away. And they took it to the kitchen a cooked pretty much the same thing!” The common thread is fresh, local ingredients and some common classic French techniques. Many people think these foods are spicy, and they can be if hot peppers are in season and the cook wants it to be that way. I personally think that “flavorful” is a better way to describe it, because I don’t like food that’s so hot it burns your tongue just so you can say “it’s Cajun!”
There are as many ways to make Gumbo as there are Cajuns in Louisiana, and every Cajun claims to know someone (usually their Momma or Grandmother)
who makes “the best gumbo in the world”.
I’m going to share what my Momma taught me about making gumbo. I’m not saying my way is right or other ways are wrong. This is just the way I know how to do it. One thing I do love about this gumbo technique is that it can be done in one big pot, from roux to finished product. I know Cajun women who still won’t own or use a dishwasher (“it won’t get my dishes clean enough!”) so easy cleanup is a popular feature.
Also, Cajun cooking is family cooking, so shortcuts and conveniences are common “tricks” that can speed up the process. Many people use jarred roux from the grocery store, which can speed upthe process, but in only comes in one color, so it often has to be darkened to make the right flavor. In that case I’d just as soon make it from scratch.
On the subject of roux: the most flavorful meats, like wild game and venison, should be used with the lightest roux, which is a golden brown color. More delicate meats and seafood should be balanced out with a darker roux. Chicken falls somewhere in the middle, and the correct color is like a copper penny. That was Momma’s rule of thumb, and it works for me. We’re making seafood gumbo, and for that Momma made the darkest roux she could without burning it. It looked like melted dark chocolate when she finished.
There are 2 kitchen tools you really must have to make roux: a really heavy pot and a “roux paddle”, or wooden flat-edged spatula. My brother John inherited Momma’s heavy cast iron Dutch oven, so I bought this one.
The heavy weight and black interior make it easy to control the heat.
The first step is to dice your vegetables- onions, celery, and bell peppers. Here's the amount I'll use for this 8 quart pot.
Cajun cooks call this “the trinity” and is included in many Cajun dishes. Momma Ginger used the food processor (another favorite invention of Cajuns) to chop up pounds of it, which she kept frozen for times when she was in a hurry.
Set them aside, and then cube your sausage and brown it in the Dutch oven. I’m using andouille here, which is all the rage, but honestly I never even heard of it until I was an adult.
Momma Ginger used local sausage from a Cajun market, but it wasn’t called “andouille”. Andouille, like most sausages, is a combination of beef and pork, but andouille also includes onions and potatoes in the mixture. (Those clever Cajuns know how to stretch a dollar!) It is characteristically very coarse in texture, and red pepper gives it an orangey color. It is not particularly smoky, and not really all that spicy. The Internet savvy among you could have it shipped in dry ice, but really: use what you can get. It’s all good!
Once your sausage is browned, drain it on a paper plate and deglaze your Dutch oven with water. Set aside the glaze to add to your broth later.
You’re going to need about 8-12 cups of broth to make a good size batch of gumbo. If you are making chicken gumbo, you can use canned or fresh chicken stock. For seafood gumbo, you can buy or make seafood stock, but I prefer vegetable stock, which is easy to make from leftover ends of onions, celery, and whatever else you chop off the vegetables you eat. Keep them in a gallon Ziploc until you’re ready to make stock, and then just boil the hell out of them to make the stock.
When you have your vegetables, sausage, and stock ready, you can start your roux. I use a little less than a cup of peanut oil, and a little over a cup of flour to make roux for about 8 cups of stock. Keep your vegetables handy, because you are going to need them quickly when the time comes.
Most Cajuns prefer to make gumbo outside, at least the roux. Honestly, it stinks the house up something awful, and it’s a hard smell to eliminate!
Heat your Dutch oven over medium heat until it’s good and hot, and then pour in the oil. With a whisk, shake in the flour a little at a time and whisk until smooth.
Now switch to the roux paddle and repeatedly draw the flat surface across the bottom of the pan, wiping it clean with each pass.
Move the paddle evenly and consistently to ensure no parts of the roux burn. Adjust the heat to keep the roux darkening at a rate you can control.
Here is the golden brown color. This is where you would stop for venison or game gumbo.
Here is the "copper penny" color you would use for chicken:
And here is the dark brown color I use for seafood.
Keep cooking until the roux reaches the desired color, and then stir in the vegetables all at once to stop the browning process. A dark roux for seafood gumbo takes about 15 minutes on medium heat.
Once the vegetables are stirred in, let them “smother” for a while with the lid on to release their water. You can add the sausage now and a can of diced tomatoes if you want them. This would also be the time to add okra if you wish. I use frozen okra discs, which seem to be less “slimy” the fresh okra. Stir it all occasionally. It’s going to be thick and lumpy. Keep cooking it until the vegetables start to soften.
Now, stir in the stock a cup or so at a time until you have reached the desired quantity/consistency. Seafood gumbos are generally thinner, and chicken generally a bit thicker.
Let the gumbo simmer until the vegetables are no longer crunchy, and adjust your seasonings with salt and red pepper to get the desired “heat” and saltiness.
When you’re almost ready to serve, add your shrimp, crab, oysters, or whatever seafood you want. They cook quickly, so once they are done, turn off the heat. Serve it now with rice, or let it cool to freeze for later!
Speaking of rice: please don’t use “minute” rice or boil in bag types of rice! They taste like cardboard, and they don’t lump together enough to make a proper “blob” of rice in the center of the bowl. Use long grain rice in a ratio of 2 cups water to one cup rice. Don’t rinse it; just dump a cup of rice and 2 cups water into a heavy saucepan (with a tight-fitting lid) and cover over high heat just until itboils. Upon boiling, turn the heat all the way down to low and leave the cover on for 20 minutes. Don’t peek! After 20 minutes, use a basting spoon to scoop out perfect blobs of rice to drop into your bowls of gumbo.
Freeze the leftovers if there are any!<PCLASS=MSONORMAL style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt">
Saturday, September 27, 2008
When Miss Ginger went outside to feed Nog it was actually COLD outside!!! You see, in Texas, the air conditioning runs at about 70-74 degrees in most people's homes, depending on how thin your blood is. If it's below the a/c temp when you go out, it's "cold outside". Most of the time the outdoor temp is above 74, so it usually "hot outside". Once it's cold outside, you can make Gumbo. When the sun comes up, it won't be "cold outside" for much longer, but that's okay- if it was "cold outside" in the morning, you can still make Gumbo even if the temp rises. That's the rule and I'm sticking to it. To hear Miss Ginger's late Daddy tell it, once it's cold outside you MUST make Gumbo! Anyway, since Miss G had to throw out her stash of freezer containers after Ike, she is thrilled to be able to restock the freezer, since a batch of Gumbo can make enough to feed an army! So, it's off to Sam's Club for Miss G to get the stuff she needs. She'll try to snap some photos of the process (it's more of a process than a "recipe") and post them for you later! Meanwhile, here's a song from Miss G's childhood that she always sings when she cooks Cajun food:
And for Miss G's hearing impaired readers (love ya, baby!) and those die hard St. Karen of Carpenter fans, here's a karaoke version with the lyrics. (Kind of ironic that St. Karen sang a song about food! Just sayin'....)
And for all of Miss G's readers, but especially those on alerts, she thinks we finally have this YouTube think licked so they videos will work and you won't have to endure 10,000 alerts as Miss G and her peeps try to get it right!