Sunday, August 7, 2011

Gumbo with Chicken and Andouille Sausage

Spike and I have only made this two or three times since we’ve known each other and I’m not sure why we don’t make it more often. Because I.Love.It!!! This recipe calls for 3 cups of okra and Spike likes to use his home grown veggies. Usually we have plenty to choose from but this being Oklahoma you just never know. By this time of year for the past few years (I think that makes sense) Spike’s okra has been taller than he is and he is NOT a short fella. Right now his plants come up to my knees. Height-wise. Not in the creepy, crawly, they’re about to take me down sense. So, since there’s not much hope for a bountiful crop and he didn’t want what he’d already cut to go bad he asked if I wanted Gumbo. Uh…yeah!

Oh! And I should mention that Spike found this recipe on the Razzle Dazzle Recipe site. I looked it up so I could make sure I give you the correct ingredients and found that they credit Rachael Ray. Our (read “My”) changes are in brackets []so you’ll know what we (I) did. I tend lately to just glance at recipes and then do my own thing. This frustrates Spike. Poor Spike. In fact, he just walked in and is mumbling about that very thing.

And before we get started, Spike wanted me to take a picture of his cooktop. He loves his cooktop. It's usually the cleanest part of his kitchen.

And without further ado:

Gumbo with Chicken and Andouille Sausage

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
1 pound chicken breast tenders, diced
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced (or use 2 pounds chicken breast tenders, diced)
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 1/2 pounds andouille sausage, casings removed and diced [we used 2 andouille and one mystery sausage from the freezer that Spike thinks might have been boudin]
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ribs celery from the heart of the stalk, chopped
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 bay leaves, fresh or dried [oops…we forgot to add this]
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup hot cayenne pepper sauce (for mild to moderate heat) [no mild or moderate for Spike. He should buy stock in the cayenne pepper company]
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 quart chicken stock or broth
3 cups chopped okra, fresh or defrosted frozen [Spike says that frozen just does NOT do the trick]
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, in puree
3 tablespoons fresh chopped thyme leaves, several sprigs [Spike’s thyme plant kicked the bucket so we had to used dried. It’s just not the same]
8 scallions, thinly sliced on an angle
2 1/2 cups white enriched rice prepared to package directions
[Most of you would call this rice. I call it how I annoy Spike by using liquid indredient measuring cups to measure dry goods. Engineers are so fun to cook with]

Preheat a large heavy-bottomed [this makes me giggle] pot over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil, one turn of the pan, [I did not turn the pan. For that matter, I didn’t add the oil either. Spike was not happy. He added the oil soon after the chicken went in and made me segregate them until the oil heated up] and 1 pound of the diced chicken. Season with salt and pepper and a sprinkle of poultry seasoning [Spike had me do this before I put it in the skillet]. Brown on all sides, about 2 or 3 minutes.

Chop your veggies while it's cooking [Spike chopped veggies while I cooked the chicken and sausage and took pictures of him chopping veggies].

Add half the andouille to the pan and cook another 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer chicken and sausage to a dish and repeat with remaining chicken and sausage, remembering to season the diced chicken as you go [or before].

Return pan to heat and add butter. When the butter melts, add chopped celery, peppers, onion and bay leaves. Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce.

[Let me take a minute to tell you how much I strongly dislike chopping onions. I would say that I hate it but, come on people! You shouldn’t hate. I was very glad Spike took this task to hand. And what a fine job he did.]

Cook 3 to 5 minutes to begin to soften veggies. [Before and After. Pretty either way]

Add flour and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly stir in the broth and bring liquid up to a boil [this looked gross so I deleted the pics instead of sharing]. Add okra, chicken and sausage to the boiling broth,
then stir in tomatoes and half of the fresh thyme.

Bring back up to a bubble, reduce to simmer [look at all the colors!].

Simmer for 5 minutes to combine flavors and adjust your seasonings. Serve gumbo with chopped thyme and scallions [Blech! But Spike put some on his] to garnish.

[This is the thyme we had to use instead of the fresh stuff. So, I guess you could say Spike has Thyme in a bottle. Thank you! I'll be here all night!]

Scoop cooked white rice into the center of bowlfuls of gumbo using an ice cream scoop [or just a big spoon]. Serves 8 to 10. The rest of the comments are all me so no more brackets.

The perfect bite! Doesn’t that look all kinds of delicious?

This is what my bowl looked like when I was finished.

This is what Spike’s bowl looked like when I was finished and made him dump what I had left in to his bowl. What?

And this is what was left after we each had one helping and Spike had seconds (not a full helping). This skillet is ginormous!

If you've got a big family this recipe is perfect for you. If it's just for two of you be prepared for leftovers. Spike has no problem with leftovers and this is another meal I don't mind reheating.

Spike has just informed me that okra is used in Gumbo as a veggie AND a thickener. Who knew? So, if you're like me and can't stand slimy okra (which it wasn't this time) use it anyway and then pick it out. Seriously though. I can't stand onions or non-fried okra (it's a texture thing) but I left them both in. There're so many different flavors going on you'll never even notice. If you're adamant about not having okra in your Gumbo (but what is Gumbo without it?) then use file'. Spike said that is sassafrass leaves or something like that. I think he just likes saying sassafrass. Or I do. Sassafrass!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

When I was a young child, (yes, PT, I was young once. I have pictures to prove it.) I watched the original Planet of the Apes. Not all at once, mind you. Even as someone who loved movies that tended to be a tad cheesy, I couldn’t make it all the way through. I still don’t recall whether or not I’ve seen the ending. This was another film (such as Flash Gordon and Logan’s Run) that was played often on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Any time it was on I’d try to make it through. I ended up only watching bits and pieces. I just couldn’t take it. I had no such problems with Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

I went to the midnight showing (shocking, I know). I wasn’t able to come home after work and take a nap this time. I just wasn’t tired. Then. I also wasn’t feeling one hundred percent. And I very nearly decided to stay home and just catch the movie tomorrow (well, today now) afternoon. By the time I got settled in my seat at the theater I was getting kinda sleepy. I wondered before it even started whether or not I’d be able to stay awake. That wasn’t even an issue. They had me from hello.

Let’s see what IMDB has to say:

“An origin story set in present day San Francisco, where man's own experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy.”

That’s mostly true. You’ll see at the end of the movie how they kinda missed the mark. What they managed to leave out of the description above – and all the trailers I saw – was why the scientist was adamant about creating this drug. And I’m not going to tell you either.

I am completely against animal testing so I was on the side of the chimpanzees from the get go. I understand the good scientists reasoning but I still can’t condone it. How else would we test medicines if not on animals, you ask? I have no idea. I certainly don’t want to be that guinea pig, so to speak. And I kept expecting to be forced to side with the humans at some point. It never happened.

This is usually the point in which I start talking about how good the actors/characters were but they all paled in comparison to Caesar, the main ape, played by Andy Serkis. If Andy’s name doesn’t sound familiar, it should. He played Gollum in the LOTR movies. And did a very creepy job of it if I may say so. Caesar is, without a doubt, the star of this film. There was never a point in which I didn’t like him. There were times when his features appeared almost too human but since I am incapable of creating special effects on a large scale, (or at all for that matter) who am I to complain? I did like that you see how intelligent he is. All the other apes are zombies compared to him. At first.

Speaking of Special Effects…Oh.My.Goodness! This has to win some type of award. I guess if it doesn’t I can make one up for them. It’d be a golden TV tray or theater seat or something like that.

I was left with a few questions but I guess I can forgive them for that. For instance, why didn’t the guys tell anyone why Bright Eyes went ape? Tee hee. Sorry about that. Couldn’t help myself. And when the money man told the scientist that he’d get him whatever he needed to further his studies, why didn’t said scientist ask for Caesar? I know, I know. Things wouldn’t have ended the way they did. If that’s the case, though, they should have left that line out. I should totally be a film editor. I’m just sayin’.

Let’s break it down, shall we?

Cursing – I’m ashamed to admit that I have no idea. I was so completely wrapped up in the movie that I didn’t notice. There were a couple parts in the climactic scene where you’d think there would have been a word or twenty but it didn’t happen. I really do think they kept it clean.

Sex/Nudity – Only the apes are naked and no one has sex. That we see or hear. Or assume.

Drinking/Drugs – We see beer but we don’t see anyone drinking it.

Violence – Yes. And lots of it. The blood is kept to a minimum, though, and it wasn’t gory.

Intense scenes – Yes again. The apes are treated poorly in the “sanctuary”. Okay, poorly is putting it nicely. They are abused. During the fight at the end several people are killed.

We know from the original films that the apes eventually take over but I didn’t really want to see that happen. And I didn’t want to see Caesar kill anyone. I didn’t want to see any of the apes kill anyone. It does happen though. Yet still I was rooting for Caesar. I even teared up a couple times as did another woman in the theater. She was about halfway up the section and I was at the very top and I could hear her crying. But I understood.

And let me just add real quick the ending I had playing in my head during the climactic scene. Will, the scientist, who still loves his friend Caesar, is determined to protect him. When the policeman in the helicopter lines up to fire at Caesar, Will jumps in front of him and is shot instead. As Will dies in Caesar's arms we see the hatred grow on Caesar's face. Instead of leaving the humans to their own devices, thus begins the war between apes and humans. Is this what happens? Again...I'm not telling.

I was going to say that I recommend this for pretty much anyone. I think Transformers was much more violent and had worse language (that I noticed). The only difference is the apes are much more believable to a young child than robots in disguise would be. I mean really. How many real robots who turn in to cars have your children seen compared to the number of chimps, orangutans, etc.? I thought so. But I believe it is a judgment call on the part of parents/guardians/relatives/whatever. Will I go see this again? Yes and yes and yes. I loved it. Maybe now I can go back and finish the original movies. Ummmm...I don't think so.

P.S. The only “extra” thing happens at the very beginning of the credits. Once the yellow lines are finished you may go home. You have my permission.

P.P.S. Does anyone besides me find it funny that the puppeteer who “played” the young Caesar goes by the name of Richard Darwin? No? Just me? Okay.

P.P.P.S. (Sorry about all the last minute thoughts) As much as I liked this movie I really hope they don't create a sequel. There's just no way to avoid the cheese factor.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Movie List - July 2011

I could have sworn I saw more movies this month if for no other reason than to escape the heat. I did manage to see all but 2 movies that were listed as showing last week at my local theater. No, I didn't watch them all last week. They were showing last...nevermind...you get the point.

1) Monte Carlo
2) Whip It (the 2nd half anyway)
3) Zookeeper
4) Friends with Benefits
5) H.P. and the D.H.: Part 2
6) LOTR:ROTK (if you need a translation then you're just not cool like me)
7) The Proposal
8) Beastly (Got if for my birthday!)
9) Horrible Bosses
10) Bad Teacher
11) Winnie the Pooh
12) Space Camp
13) Captain America: The First Avenger
14) Cowboys & Aliens
15) Crazy, Stupid, Love