Saturday, December 27, 2008

Casseroles, Sugar Overload and Gumbo Gone Wrong ... Saying Goodbye to the Holidays

The above photo adequately describes my Christmas dinner. Every time someone asks me how my holidays went, I can't help but laugh -- partly because I had such a good time with my family, but partly because (in some ways) the food was an utter disaster. Lest I get too long-winded before I begin, I decided to give my readers a play-by-play of the week's events:

The Eve of Christmas Eve: Getting off of work, early I decide to make a casserole instead of (gasp!) picking up a rotisserie chicken for a friend's potluck. Eat a piece of dark chocolate while whipping it together.

Christmas Eve at noon: Get off work. Avoid the kitchen and the hours of deveining/depooping shrimp, and chopping of meat and veggies for gumbo. Watch "The Good Son." Eat a piece of dark chocolate and two cookies -- and lunch. Later, I had whole milk yogurt and almonds (big mistake).

Christmas Eve, 4PM: Decide to stop procrastinating and get in the kitchen. Start peeling and deveining three pounds of shrimp as I boiled a vat of water. Call my grandmother in Seattle and hear her lecture me for 15 minutes on how much water I should include and the difference between a tablespoon and a cooking spoon. Second decision: beg my brother to help, because looking at the pile of shrimp was making me overwhelmed. He turned out to be my cooking partner in crime the whole night. Thanks, kid.

Christmas Eve, 5PM: Begin the rue.

Christmas Eve, 6PM: Stomach starts to do the conga and I have to lie down at let my cousin (a budding chef) take over. The next two and a half hours was a tango between me, the couch and the kitchen. Lie down, get up and brown sausage, lie down. Get up brown chicken, lie down.

Christmas Eve, 8PM: My aunt gets home and my cousin and I gracefully (but sneakily) abandon ship to let her take over. The last thing I did is eat a bowl of cereal because I was starving and nauseated at the same time (which began the conga all over again) and wash the crab legs.

My aunt and I both washed and smelled the crab legs, which smelled suspiciously fishy to my uber-sensitive nose and turning stomach. However, after a good wash they smelled and looked fine. Second big mistake of the night.

Christmas Eve, 10:30PM: Gumbo was finally finished and tasted good but not quite the flavor I was shooting for. (I ate only a spoonful because my stomach was still partying on its own).

Christmas DAY, noon:
All morning (during a lovely session of watching "The Incredible Hulk") I was fantasizing about eating a good warm bowl of gumbo. My mom takes out the pot from the refridgerator in the garage and was immediately horrified when I overheard my aunt say that the gumbo could have gone bad. After a smell and a good look at it (never trust gumbo that bubbles on its own and smells like a body part that I won't say in print) -- the verdict was in. The $200 plus gumbo had spoiled. We believe the king crab legs did the pot in.

My mom cried.

I ate a cookie, and tried to pull it together.

After we got over the disappointment, my mom made homemade waffles, my cousin started scouring the Web for her macaroni recipe and tried to explain to my stepdad what broccolini is.

All in all, Christmas was celebrated with roasted chicken, macaroni and cheese and roasted veggies.

So now I have a vendetta to settle with this gumbo. After all, my grandmother is from New Orleans and is an expert gumbo cook, so why can't I??? Ironically, when I was at the grocery store two days later hunting for cranberries to make a tea bread, a butcher was trying to coax me into buying ... king crab. I promptly told him "no thank you."

And was quite huffy in explaining why.