Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Oh Danny Boy, When Are You Going To Get Your Own Show?

Rescue Chef with Danny Boome

Lucy's Gumbo

Chicken and Seafood Gumbo
Blood Orange Lemonade
Grilled Savory Zucchini Flat Bread

The good news is that Danny has left the tri-state area, and, happily, we don’t have to hear him refer to places just outside the city as “Upstate” New York. The bad news is that the concept is the same – helping people make dishes that they’ve enjoyed elsewhere and had little luck cooking on their own.

Freelance writer Rebecca from Texas wants to recreate her mother’s gumbo recipe. I’m still not getting why she would ask DANNY how to make gumbo. Oh wait! I have an idea. ASK YOUR MOM! We’re not told if that’s impossible.

There’s a cooking set-up in the middle of the backyard. THAT looks normal. NOT!!! Instead of a stove, (well, there IS a burner) they use a barbecue for the pots and pans. This is never explained. Maybe Mom cooked on a clown train in uncertain surroundings or maybe Rebecca’s kitchen is being renovated. Danny is cooking outside as if it’s not weird. But everything seems weird to Rebecca.

She is perpetually confused: even as Danny is explaining something as simple as using vegetable oil to make a roux.
He adds oil to a hot pot and then stirs in the same amount of flour. It has to cook for a long time, at least 15 minutes, he says, until it’s golden brown. Well, at first he says golden brown. Then, without explaining, he changes it to mahogany brown. Make up your mind.

My authority on a Cajun roux is Paul Prudhomme in his Louisiana Kitchen book of 1984. He refines what Danny says. The oil has to be added to a perfectly clean pan. That’s important if you’ve just been frying chicken. You heat the oil over high heat until it’s just smoking and THEN the flour gets added gradually, being stirred all the time. It should take only 3 to 4 minutes to get a dark brown roux. The vegetables go in next to stop the cooking. PP also calls the roux “Cajun napalm” because it’s capable of bestowing serious burns on the cook, so beware. Danny leaves the roux behind while he cooks it painfully slowly.

Danny slices 3 shallots, while pronouncing them SHALL-lots first and then shall-LOTS. He needs them for a zucchini flatbread, which Rebecca seems never to have associated with her mother’s gumbo…for a good reason. It’s NOT!

Oh, he’s using store-bought pizza dough, but at least it’s a good one. He brushes a baking pan with olive oil. Poor Rebecca is just lost. He stretches the dough to fit the pan and brushes the whole thing with more olive oil and sprinkles over salt. He presses sliced zucchini, which he actually allowed her to do, into the dough followed by the shallots. Danny tells her to grate ½ to 1 cup of Parmesan cheese over the top. 2 cups later, he puts the pan on a preheated medium grill for 20 minutes, with the top down.

Back to the roux, he prepares the triumvirate of Cajun vegetables – chopped celery, green peppers and onions. He lets Rebecca do some of the prep. She has a furrowed brow most of the time, but she does everything that’s asked of her, including the ridiculous camera close-up personal interview “Well, I was a bit suspicious when Danny said we’d be using okra. It’s kind of slimy.”

Honey, you’re making a GUMBO! Chances are it will have OKRA in it. Although, truth to tell, not every one of Paul’s gumbos has okra, but I’m sure your momma’s did.

As usual, Danny doesn’t even trust his cooking companion with the rice. He adds 2 cups of rice to 4 cups of boiling water. He adds the too-big vegetables to the roux.

Danny says she’s going to make her own hot sauce, which can be her signature addition to the gumbo. They chop lots of peppers, seeds and all and it goes into the food processer with canned tomatoes, sugar, apple cider vinegar and garlic. She questions him when he says the heat is in the seeds. I thought it was in the membrane, she says. (She’s right.) “There too”, he says quickly, wanting to change the subject. They process the whole mixture and it goes into a saucepan. The saucepan goes onto the grill, with the top down, to cook. Danny points out that the handle is stainless steel and won’t melt.

The problem with this show is that the other people are incidental to it. Danny doesn’t particularly teach anyone anything or let them do much anyway. I would rather see him in his own kitchen, making his own food, instead of pretending that he’s helping someone.

He takes out the flatbread. (I thought the zucchini should have been cooked first.) Rebecca claims to like it.

They cut 2 lbs. of boneless chicken thighs into 1inch cubes. Danny stirs in bourbon and 6 cups of chicken stock. He adds the chicken. No way does this look like the deep brown it should. It looks positively anemic.

He slices the okra thinly and tells Rebecca it’s the thickening agent. He add tomatoes and bay leaves and says the gumbo will cook for 1 ½ hours. (Paul's don’t cook that long.) He adds shrimp at the end and cooks it for 2 to 3 minutes. My, that looks pale.

I’m not being mean, really, well, ok, just a little, when I say that Cynthia seems a bit…mature to still be trying to duplicate her mother’s gumbo. Isn’t that something you do when you’re younger? By now, she should have asked a relative or experimented on her own enough to figure it out.

But I guess I DO know how she feels somewhat. Very, very, very unfortunately, my own mother is not around and there are times that I’d love to ask her about a certain recipe. Luckily, she left a very detailed recipe box and I have various family members that cook well and have good memories, so I’ve never been completely stumped.

Let’s use this as a lesson, though. Even if your kids can’t stomach being in the kitchen with you (okay, it’s MY kids I’m talking about), WRITE DOWN what you’re doing, especially if it’s a favorite dish. Many years, I give my brother and sister-in-law a favorite recipe for Christmas, plus the pot to cook it in and the other accoutrements needed to cook it. That’s a good thing to give to grown children too. That’s the one thing this episode encouraged me to continue.

Danny plans to serve a Blood Orange Lemonade. Rebecca even squeezes some of the fruit. He mixes 1 cup lemon juice, 1 cup blood orange juice and simple syrup. They cut orange wedges and add sparking water to the mixture. He adds a bit of mint and Danny pours. They toast to Mom.

He spoons the rice in bowls and then the gumbo goes over. She loves it and says it’s to die for. Her mom would be so proud. Okay, unless Mom is on a long, long trip, she’s definitely not coming back to taste it.

This mystery hangs heavy (in my mind at least) during the entire show. By the end of the episode, no other explanation seems plausible. It must be that her mother has gone to her reward.

That’s kind of a downer, especially for a episode that was shown on Mother’s Day weekend. Well, Rebecca, you’ll just have to take Danny’s word for it that you’ve made a good gumbo. In the future, write your recipes down and don’t depend on an energetic Englishman to capture the true essence of your mother’s Cajun cooking. And, Danny, find a real kitchen to cook in next time.


Emiline said...

I feel awkward just reading about this show. I'm sure watching the show itself, is even worse. I don't like how he brushed past the part about the pepper and the membrane. Maybe he needs more culinary training? If you're going to be on tv, you should really know your stuff.

Gumbo sounds pretty good right now.

I bet you have a huge recipe collection, Sue. I'll take pictures of mine someday and post about it.

Heather said...

I must admit that I have never used oil for making roux. What are the advantages of using oil instead of butter? Just a higher smoking point in cases where you need a darker roux or a matter of taste or..?

Anonymous said...

Love you Sue, and think you're hilarious. I read a lot of the blogs that you read as well, but notice French Laundry at Home isn't one of them. You should check it out--she's almost as funny as you are.

Sue said...

No, Em, I think the problem is that the format is too constraining for him. He should just forget pretending to teach and just DO!

I do have quite a lot of recipes. A few years ago, I even organized them into different piles. Let's see who can post first about our recipe collections. Get ready, get set, GO!

(But please don't hold your breath for my post.)

Hi Heather,
Yeah, for a Cajun roux, it's always oil, because butter would burn. You're cooking it to such an extreme point and on so high a flame that, just as you said, you need the higher smoking point.

A French style dish would always use butter for the flavor.

Hi Anon,
Welcome! Thank you for the kind words. I do love French Laundry At Home. I reviewed her blog in my Sidebar Reviews, which live at the moment in archived form. (You can click on them from my sidebar, just below the Foodie Blogroll.)

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

The seeds don't have the heat? Now that's something new. Do you know how many FN hosts will tell you the heat is mostly in the seeds? (And the membranes as well)

I thought your roux observations were interesting as well. I made a gumbo from Emeril once and it instructed me to use butter and cook that sucker over low heat for a half hour.

My gumbo had chicken and sausage, but no okra. Emeril said okra only goes in an okra gumbo. I found that an odd thing to say because I always though okra was what made gumbo, gumbo. But I made this particular gumbo mainly because I fall squarely into the "Okra is too slimey to eat" camp.

Sue said...

Hi Rachel,
That's what pepperphiles's all in the veins...

That's interesting about your roux. I looked at a lot of Emeril's gumbo recipes and they all have oil. From what I've seen, you don't have to add okra, which is probably a good thing for us Yankees...