Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Donald, The Guy, and The Frozen Chosen - Mock Choux Succotash

Prince of (Pillow) Thieves

I have to say it: Donald Trump is saying what a majority of Americans want to hear.  So before you hate a politician, look at your neighbors, your friends, your relatives, your coworkers, and all the people you interact with during the day, and wonder how many of them agree with his ideas on immigration.  Beside building a wall between here and Mexico, he also wants to keep illegal immigrant families together by deporting the children with their parents.

I'm not sure what I think about that.  The present law is clear: citizenship derives from "blood" and from "land" - if you were born to American citizens or you were born within the United States (regardless of the status of your parents), you are an American citizen.  So The Donald is saying the law has to be changed to eliminate the derivation from "land".  I have to admit there is something downright appealing about that notion.  Yes, I am all about protecting children, but if you follow that line of logic, we will be throwing open our borders for children from every Third World, impoverished, dictatorial country out there.  I am truly sorry, but we can't go there, as the saying goes.  One thing I learned, the hard way, is that you cannot save everybody. (You want to save children?  Contact your local social service agency and offer to foster or adopt a child, an American child.  Or call CASA or the Guardian ad Litem Program in your area, and become a volunteer to protect the best interests of American children.  Contact your state legislators and tell them to stop cutting funding for child-related social service programs.)

I was watching Triple G, not to be confused the Triple D, on Food Network last night.  I am tempted to re-christen it the Guy Fieri Network, and even though my scalp hurts every time I see him on the screen, I like him and I like both of his evening shows.  Last night it was Guy's Grocery Games, and one of the curve balls thrown at the contestants was a restriction to pick their foods from the frozen aisle. People moaned and groaned like they were being asked to go through the garbage bins at the local Chinese retaurant in order to create a fabulous dish.  Hey, I like frozen foods!  I revere Clarence Birdseye!  Properly treated, frozen foods can work up into awesome dishes.  I'm not dissing fresh here - those were fresh asparagus spears and fresh green onions that went into the quinoa dish last night - but we all know there are times the produce section presents some pretty poor pickings, and the only way to satisfy a craving for green beans or brussel sprouts is to buy them frozen.

I have a garden which occasionally offers up an edible selection of okra, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, and herbs.  As this is my first year gardening, I have made some mistakes and the pickings are still sort of slim.  Like me.  When you get an okra pod every other day, you've got to be creative in using the small amounts in a timely fashion so that the early picks don't go bad before you have just enough to make a recipe.  Same thing with the Ichiban eggplants, but that's what I'm eating for lunch today and that's another blog post.  There was a single perfect cherry tomato and I ate it.  It was the best cherry tomato I have ever eaten.

I am home today, I have neither the ambition nor the strength to venture past my property line.  That translates to frozen food: assuming I want to put those 5 okra pods to good use, and I do, I am going to have to rely on certain frozen vegetables to fill out the ingredient list for what I am irreverently naming "mock choux succotash". Walk this way, I may pull it off yet.

Having said that, my back is killing me, so I need to give the ibuprofen time to work its chemical magic before assembling ingredients.  This recipe is a mash-up from several different sources on the internet, plus two different recipes I've been making for years.

4 oz. tasso ham, diced (yes, I had this in my freezer)
small amount of olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
2 tablespoons butter + more as needed
Emeril's Cajun seasoning
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup sliced okra
1 1/2 cups frozen bell pepper blend
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 1/2 cups frozen butter or lima beans
1-15 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper
Crystal hot sauce, to taste
1/2 cup dairy sour cream (adjust the amount to your taste or leave it out)

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the tasso and cook over medium for about 5 minutes until the tasso takes on deep color and renders out most of the fat.  Add the butter, and once it melts, add the onion, and season with the Cajun seasoning blend. Cook together over medium heat until onion softens, and then add the garlic. Cook for a minute and then add the okra.  Add more butter if needed.  Cook for another minute, then add the corn, lima beans, bell pepper blend, and tomatoes.  Raise the heat and bring to a boil; season with salt, pepper, and some more Cajun seasoning.  Add a few good shots of the hot sauce.  Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the excess liquid has mostly evaporated and all of the vegetables are tender (watch those butter beans, they like to stay toothsome). Take the skillet off the heat and stir in the sour cream.

Yes, pink.  Pink maque choux-succotash.  I said it was "mock" didn't I?  I would recommend trying this with a 10 oz. can of Ro-Tel tomatoes, just because it is a smaller can and has nifty green chilies.  You can find them in different degrees of heat.  You can adjust the ratio of corn to beans, like 2 cups corn to 1 cup beans, as long as it adds up to 3 cups, and if it doesn't, that's okay too.  If you don't like sour cream, leave it out for a more authentic maque choux.  Or stir in a little heavy cream.  

As it is now, I would like it served with white rice.  You could also kick up the protein content by adding cubed, cooked chicken or even shrimp.  If you don't keep a chunk of tasso in your freezer, switch it out for bacon or a zippy sausage.

Eat happy, my friends.

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