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Friday, February 15, 2008

Still on a dubious search for a gumbo that I actually like, I tried another new recipe tonight. This time, no okra, which is fine with me. Iím sure ďrealĒ gumbo is thick with okra, but when I made gumbo in the crock pot a couple of weeks ago, I would have been better off to (a) leave out the okra altogether, and (2) add some major heavy seasoning, to give the stuff some flavor. When the rice provides the tang to a dish, you know you should add something spicy.

So I found a recipe in Rachaelís magazine for Poor Manís Gumbo. This one is made in a skillet, not the crock pot. Itís made with canned tuna, so itís obviously as faux as faux can be, while still maintaining the essence of gumbo-ness. Itís made with celery, onion, tomatoes and jalapeŮos. I had all of those things in the pantry and refrigerator days ago, but I didnít have filť powder. I didnít even know what filť powder was, or what it looked like, or where in the market to find it.

Filť powder, it turns out, is ground sassafras leaves. Itís not something you cook with; itís something you stir into the gumbo after you take it off the heat. After searching through most of my regular grocery stores and not having any luck, I was almost ready to try the gumbo without the filť powder, but today I hit a new market that has just opened on my side of town. Itís only the third store in this family-owned business, and it turns out to be a purveyor of filť powder and many other delicacies not to be found at the big chains.

And it also turns out that gumbo isnít gumbo without filť powder. It is the essential ingredient, although I could have still used a few more pungent spices to give the gumbo a bit more flavor. Youíd think that jalapeŮos and fire-roasted tomatoes and actual filť powder would be enough, but Iíll be experimenting when I reheat it for leftovers. My spice cabinet is loaded with stuff, and there has to be something that will make my gumbo pop. With zing. It needs zing to pop.

15 February 2008

Poor Man's Gumbo.

Probably I should just give up on the gumbo. Maybe bland is the natural state of gumbo after all, and Iím trying to make it into something itís not supposed to be. If thatís so, then Iím going to take that recipe and turn it into something that has some flavor, whether it can still be called gumbo or not. I havenít been cooking long enough to call myself a chef, but I think thatís what chefs do. Except they already know ahead of time what to use, and how itís going to come out.

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