John, Tyler, and the Spirit of the Sweet Indian Prince
Most of what happens at Jay's Bay stays at, well, Jay's Bay. However, this being a food and drink blog, I thought it would only be right to feature some of the wonderful food that got cooked up over the New Year's weekend. Thursday evening brought New Year's Eve and, along with it, an amazing fish fry.
Hushpuppies in the Oil and Slap Ya Mama Battered Catfish Filets
For any of you who have never had Slap Ya Mama fish fry I suggest you try it, and soon. They make an amazing blend of corn meal and spices that adds just the right amount of flavor to season the fish without overpowering it. Tyler and Lauren helped me cut the fresh catfish filets into strips. We then dipped them in whisked eggs and milk, followed by giving them a coating them in Slap Ya Mama fish fry, before dipping them into the hot oil. The fish turned out crispy, moist, and delicious. To add to the fish we also fried up a couple batches of hushpuppies. The guys from Texas brought some jalapeño hushpuppies and I found a bag of homemade corn balls at Southside Produce back in Baton Rouge so we did a little taste test. I liked the jalapeño spice from the Texas puppies but the Louisiana spheres had more overall flavor and pizzazz. They definitely won the show so I'm glad that I found them at the local produce stand.
New Year's Day brought on my efforts to try to watch football... and gumbo! I brought everything that I needed from the bayou to the bay so that I could make a duck, chicken, and sausage gumbo for the gang. The ducks were killed during our duck and goose hunt near Jennings, La. You can click here to see the blog post and video from the hunt.
Step one for the gumbo was to roast to the chicken and ducks for a few hours to get them cooked to the point that I could pull the meat off the bones. The night before I cooked the gumbo, Tyler helped me liberally season the birds inside and out with fresh sea salt, cracked black pepper, cayenne, onion powder, garlic powder, and thyme. We let them sit in the fridge overnight and then in the morning I covered them in foil on a roasting pan and put them in a 350 degree oven for an hour and a half to two hours. I let them cool for a while after pulling them out of the oven until the temperature lowered enough to get my hands dirty. I pulled off all the meat from the birds and placed the shredded chunks of goodness into an appropriately sized mixing bowl. All of the skin, fat, and bones from the poultry were placed into my large stock pot to be rendered down even more for the stock. I also poured a little bit of the liquefied duck and chicken grease into a sauté pan for later.
Two Ducks and a Chicken after Roasting, Stock Simmering in the Pot
While I messed with the avian proteins, Tyler graciously cut up my vegetables. He diced two medium yellow onions, two green bell peppers, and 4 stalks of celery (known as the Holy Trinity of Cajun cuisine). I also had him press six or seven cloves of garlic to mix in with everything. All the vegetables and garlic were blended together in another large mixing bowl. I took several handfuls of the vegetable medley and added them to all of the chicken and duck leftovers in my stock pot. I then added about 3 quarts of water (that's a guess) and let the stock simmer for another couple of hours while I watched football on TV. It was New Year's Day, after all, and the Tigers were playing. That's all I'll say about that!
When the football game ended I returned to my wild game in the kitchen to get the full gumbo in the pot. I turned the burner off on the stock and removed the lid to let it cool. I then heated the sauté pan that I put a little extra duck and chicken fat in and added the remaining onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic to start cooking it down. The veggies were stirred while the stock cooled until the onions started to turn clear. Fortunately there was no shortage of large bowls and pots at Jay's Bay. I poured the stock through a strainer into another pot. The strainer collected all of the bones and skin segments for me. However, it also had all of the cooked down vegetables that I placed in with the stock, and I didn't want to waste that flavor. After shaking out all of the liquid, I placed the strainer over the trash can and started picking through the solid remains. The bones and skin that I found were moved to the trash can while the rest of the tender meat that fell off the bones, as well as the soft and translucent Trinity morsels, made their way back the pot.
Back at my now empty, original stock pot, the time had come to add all of the ingredients together. I started with the freshly cooked down vegetables and garlic, then added all of the de-boned meat that I had placed in the fridge. Oh, and don't forget the two pounds of Manda Cajun sausage the John sliced up for me. All of that was covered with the stock that I had previously strained into the other pot. I added more garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black pepper, and cayenne, threw in a couple bay leaves, a few shakes of gumbo file, and several heaping tablespoons of previously made roux, stirred the pot real good, and let everything simmer for a few more hours while we sat by the fire that Chad and Ashley made outside and told stories. When the time was right the gumbo got served over some fresh Louisiana rice that I also picked up at Southside Produce (where all of my vegetables came from) and some potato salad on the side.
The finished product tasted amazing:
Jay's Bay Video: Duck, Chicken, and Sausage Gumbo and Fireworks!
Now I'd like to share a brief booze story. There was plenty of booze flowing throughout the weekend including several types of bourbon and whiskey, unique flavored vodkas, and an assortment of St. Arnold's beer out of Houston. However, for NYE, Katie and company brought a couple bottles of sparkling wine to celebrate the occasion. Having seen several celebrities open Champagne and sparkling wines with a knife or sword on TV, I thought that this would be a perfect time for me to give it a try. It took an old heavy knife out of the kitchen drawer and went out to the back porch with my buddies. Taking the back end of the blade, I struck the bottle just under the rim. Success! The cork, along with a portion of the glass from the neck of the bottle, shot off into the yard like a baseball shoots off of Albert Pujol's bat. Liquidy delight bubbled out of the opening that I created, and we were ready to toast 2010!