When Inauthentic Is Delicious: Weeknight “Gumbo”

Ok, let me preface this by saying that this is not authentic gumbo.  No need to point it out to me.  I am aware.

I set out to make authentic gumbo with the brown roux and what not, but if you know anything about gumbo, it’s pretty labor intensive and time consuming.  That’s not my bag, baby.

I am going to tell you a little anecdote (if you can even call it that) from my week, so you get a feel of how I work in the kitchen.

I went to three different stores looking for fish sauce for this gumbo recipe.  Not sure why.  I read it in a cookbook, so I figured it’s important.  So, 3 stores and nothing.  Then my Dad found it and got it for me (love you, Dad!)  It was such a huge bottle of fish sauce, so I  suppose I was set for many future gumbos.

Except, I couldn’t get it open.  That dang top would not come off.  I guess this would be where an extra set of (not weak old lady) hands would have been beneficial.  Honestly, I probably could have gotten it open, but I have no patience or perseverance for such a task.  Don’t I sound like a fun person?

Long story short: no fish sauce made it into this dish.  So sad.  But true.

Here’s how it all went down.

Weeknight “Gumbo”

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Gridiron Grub: Southern Seven-Layer Dip

The beginning of fall is always bittersweet for me, because I love summer with all my heart. The silver lining to this new season, though, is that fall equals the return of football, which equals daydrinking, snacking, and of course, tailgating!

I love tailgating. Lounging outside in the sun, downing beer, and chowing down on indulgent snacks? Hell yeah. Now that I’m a Texas transplant, I have fully committed to the southern tailgate lifestyle, and I am here to tell you it is way more intense than anything I experienced in Washington. Here in Austin, a city with no pro sports teams, college football reigns supreme. It doesn’t matter if you attended UT or not, on game days you proudly sport all the burnt orange you can muster and hook ’em horns with the best of ’em. My boyfriend, Rob, is a born-and-raised Austinite and a huuuuge Longhorns supporter with a reserved tailgate spot and season tickets to all the games, so I knew it was important to make a strong “I’m committed to this, y’all!” statement among the other fans at my first UT tailgate.

Mulling over all the traditional choices got a bit tedious. Chips, queso, pulled pork, chili, salsa… I couldn’t make up my mind and didn’t want to just settle for one of those cliché (albeit delicious, don’t get me wrong!) choices. Suddenly it dawned one me: why not combine all my favorite fatty football foods in one epic dish?! If people can do that with Mexican food, why couldn’t I do that with Southern food?! And thus, the Southern Seven-Layer Dip was born.

Southern Seven-Layer Dip

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New Favorite Type of Potato Chip: RIB FLAVORED

Just when you thought the world of meat-flavored junk food couldn’t get any more exhilarating… may I present to you:

Baby back rib flavored chips from Zapp’s. What?! I know. I had never even heard of Zapp’s until I moved to the south, and now they are my very favorite potato chips (even before this rib-flavored discovery!) Made in Louisiana, they’re crunchy, Cajun-made kettle chips with all sorts of great seasonings and flavors—try the Voodoo flavor if you can get your hands on them.

These ribby wonders were discovered via my roommate Eric, who Tweeted about them (complete with Instagram of the bag, of course). We were both home at the time (“the Tweets were coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE!”) so I ran downstairs to sample the wares. Of course the bag was already torn apart and a bunch of chips devoured.

“Sorry,” shrugged my roommate Lisa. “I couldn’t wait to open the bag properly, I just had to tear into it. Literally.”

Fair enough! Wondering what they taste like? Well, kind of like BBQ flavored chips, but with a little more…salty, porkiness to them, I guess. Is it just a placebo effect? Whatever. The more meat-flavored snacks the better, I say!

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Carolina Sushi

Collard leaves behaving like nori?  I was pleasantly surprised!

Growing up in the South I’ve become fond of a few standard staples, such as: tomatoes n’ cucumbers swimming in vinegary pools of pleasantries, banana puddin’ in my wife’s belly button, and reclaiming Darwinian fusions in food.  So I’ll embrace my heritage in a way that will make most neighbors cringe: sushi!

This dish comes from an idea that I’ve held onto for some time: “why not combine vinegar-based Carolina barbecue with rice in a sushi delivery system?”  My food muse gave an agreeable smile through her vodka-Kool-Aid-‘stache, whereas my wife was repulsed by the idea.  With the wife and kids away house-sitting for the in-laws this week, I’ve lived what she’s termed a “semi-bachelor week.”  She’s right, I’ve done all those things I don’t get to do: blast classic rawk, leave my socks on the couch, revisit my forsaken porn stash (no longer shall I eighty-six the pics of sixty-nine), play Madden, and watch Tosh.0.  I ran with the opportunity to create these with immunity.  And guess what?  Truth is, I’m miserable without her—talking to an invisible muse makes a man lonely—and I can’t wait to recreate these high-maintenance morsels when she returns.

BBQ Chicken and Collard Green Sushi

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A Very Southern Potato Salad

Down here in Texas it’s already feeling like summertime. Days have been in the 80s-90s, which means long afternoons of day drinking and barbecuing. The other weekend I decided to make a potato salad for a backyard barbecue party, but I wanted to do something a little more exciting than your average white potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and celery. (You will never find celery in my picnic foods, actually! It’s the bane of my existence.) I was inspired when I found some beautiful Texan collard greens at the store.

One thing (out of the katrillion things) I love about Austin, that you might not expect if you’ve never been here, is how strongly this community promotes buying and eating locally. I decided to take these greens and incorporate them into a potato salad celebrating all my favorite aspects of southern sides… namely, sweet potatoes, collards, and pork fat.

Sweet Potato Salad with Collard Greens, Caramelized Onions, and Bacon

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