Sunday, February 21, 2010

"You mess up the roux, you mess up the whole dang thing." - Little Brother

Roux: a cooked mixture of fat and wheat flour.

Simple enough right? Anyone who has attempted a roux based dish will testify to the deep complexity of oil, flour, and stirring. With two Louisiana natives scheduled to attend party #24 and the determination to not only master the roux but do so in a gluten free version I was more than a bit nervous. But, like most things in life, all it took was a willingness to stir through the burns.

I began Fat Tuesday prep in the early morning hours with the King Cake which I have renamed King Bread. The required time to knead, let rise, punch down, and roll out does tax your patience, but it also makes the house smell like a bakery; take the good with the bad! The entire process took about 4 hours and apparently should have taken about 4.5. I’ll get back to that. Once the cornbread muffins were complete, and the deviled eggs plated and set to chill, it was time to move on to the roux. I put my 2 year old down for a nap, turned off the TV and set in for an intense twenty minutes. Twenty-five minutes later I scrubbed out the pan, measured a new mixture of flour, another cup of oil and rubbed salve on my burned chin and hand. Thankfully, the second attempt gave me the lovely aroma of toasted pecans, and the coveted ‘old penny’ color. Still a bit paranoid of failure I attempted to taste the roux at this stage. Do not try this; hot oil and flour should not be put inside your mouth.

A few hours later, the party kicked off and beads and deviled eggs made the rounds. I was surprised not only by the tangy-not-spicy flavor of these Cajun Spiced Appetizers, but their utter popularity. If done by accident, the flavor profile was a great precursor to our spicy meal and guests enjoyed these morsels one after the other. Once gathered round the dinner table, the gumbo was served and instantly (thankfully) deemed delicious. The GF concoction did not inhibit the flavor or my guests willingness to devour their bowls, as well as what was left in the serving pan. With the gumbo pot empty, and the cornbread plate littered with mere crumbs, it was time to decide who would have a year of good luck with the King Cake.

I passed the cake knife to someone not privy to the baby’s location and slices were passed and admired. One bite of this cake and I tasted the doughy salt of uncooked flour.
“I don’t think this is cooked!” I yelled to my guests.
“That was my thought.” Ava answered.
Yes, my four hour feat resulted in a cake with a beautiful exterior and a raw inside. So, in true Mardi Gras fashion, tops came off... of the King Cake as that was the only part that was suitable for eating. (I did offer two boxes of Thin Mints which were a welcome substitute for those squeamish of eating any part of this disaster.) I was disappointed in my failure, but it did give everyone a fantastic laugh and the freedom to turn up the evening sillies. The night ended with Ava as our lucky baby recipient; perhaps we will celebrate at her house next year. I think it is safe to say that the bar is set low for dessert, but for great company and laughter it would be tough to beat. When it comes to good cake or good friends I’ll take the later. And, is it really Mardi Gras without at least one disaster?

Cooking Notes:
Deviled Eggs: It seems these once tacky buffet additions have a new following. Make some the next time you are stumped for appetizer ideas. With the wide variety of flavor profiles you are bound to find one to compliment your meal.
Cornbread: If you haven't thrown together a batch of cornbread you are truly missing out. It’s easy, it’s complete in under an hour and it is such a great addition to any chili or soup night. I love Martha Stewart’s recipe . This recipe calls for cheddar cheese, however I use any leftover cheese I have on hand. It’s especially good with pepper jack!

The Party in Numbers:
Parties Completed: 24
Weeks Before Deadline: 28
Bottles Consumed: 5, 6 were opened but one was corked and undrinkable!
Justified Purchases: zero!

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