EETS: GUMBO

Categorised as GENERAL.

Chicken and chorizo gumbo with chicken wings and beetroot batons.

I’m on the tail end of a job I took because I was desperate when I decide I need to assemble the gang and start to get to feeling like a real person again. I wake up aching, confer with my girl and then text everyone I’d like to see for dinner. Unusually, I remember to ask for money for food, which I usually forget due to my cash-apathy condition. I set the price of dinner at a steep £2-a-head and head out to shop as we form a guest list. We crash round the supermarket as quickly as possible because supermarkets are fucking awful places. If I wasn’t so broke and useless I’d open my own shop just so I can get decent things in this arsehole end of London.

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The replies roll in and it seems it’s going to be dinner for nine. It’s going to be a soul food Sunday; there needs to be colour and flavour and texture and excitement. No better way to catch up with my people, though a couple of favourites can’t make it. The Director is the most notable absentee here as he’s deep in an edit, taking old Double D with him. That’s the formidable drinkers out; there’ll be no bourbon cocktails tonight. Still, we have a majority of the Brain Wash gang here.

With me in the kitchen tonight I have the capable hands of my wife, a bottle of Guiness Foreign Extra and the iPhone lens of my better-looking look-a-like, Joe. Gumbo begins with onions, garlic, chorizo, chicken and wine, and ends with fresh tomatoes and mixed beans. Somewhere in the latter stages there’s stock and rice, and maybe some other shit. Deep flavours come from some garden-fresh thyme and some chicken wing-ends I trimmed up earlier. When the whole thing is cooked, I taste it and find that it doesn’t need fucking with one little bit. Not even seasoning. I almost get grumpy about having to stop toying with the flavour but my wife talks me down.

‘It’s delicious, don’t mess with it.’

Turns out I’m a one-pot king, which is lucky because the way things are going it’s rice-soup for life.

Chicken wings are one of my all-time favourite eets, even those pieces of shit from Chicken Cottage that taste like illegal farming conditions and make a mockery of my arsehole. Spicy salty chicken is just irresistible, unless it’s some processed, bleached, bubbly shit-nugget. Often lacking in ‘chicken shop’ snacks is any crunch, because most of the stuff available sweats it out on a hot rack for ages, waiting for me to get pissed enough to eat it. Tonight, we’re going for ultimate crunch with our old, broke pal polenta.

My beautiful assistant sets up a battering station: separate plates of seasoned flour, whisked egg and seasoned polenta. The chicken has been soaking in milk for a couple of hours as I hear it helps with tenderness. The chicken wings, flour, egg, polenta, deep fry. I’ve not got a deep fryer so we do it the non-American way using a pan of hot oil. As I need to do loads and want to serve everyone at the same time, I put the finished wings onto a baking tray and leave them in the oven whilst I get the plates out. This also gives me a safety net in terms of cooking because I never truly know how long anything takes to cook.

We’ve also roasted some beetroot in little batons and finish it with a little balsamic vinegar. This becomes a colourful garnish and also a tasty-as-fuck additon to the whole thing. Deep muddy richness with the bouncy gumbo should work well. To finish off, I top the whole thing with a small quinelle (wankiest moment yet) of soft cheese flecked with garlic chives. I go for the huge basic-brand tub of soft cheese from the supermarket, which costs fuck-all and gets put in EVERYTHING. The final flourish will come at the will of the eater, as I put out an array of hot sauces to liven things up.

Entertainment this evening comes from the best sitcom in the West, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. ‘Sunny’ has everything I need: amoral comedy capers, incredible dialogue and an INSANE Danny De Vito. Also, these bastards are eight series deep and the thing still tastes fresh. Anyway, I won’t ruin this episode of Sunny for anyone, because I’m not sure if it’s been shown over here, because we just download it off the gifternet like normal people. I’ll just say get on it, especially if you like it when Dennis and Charlie really show up. Mild spoiler: this series has got me thinking that Mac just may well have written himself gay, but it’s just an undertone, in the same way Dennis is subtly a rapist.

As the food settles in and warms, and innumerable zoots plant their seeds of contentment and immobility, we replace any ideas of dessert with biscuits and move on to the evening movie, Ruby Sparks. And what a piece of shit. Well, it has its moments and is ALMOST good, but without any consistent logic it prevents any kind of believability. Over-sincerity makes it a bit hateable but its lovability is killed by the main character being a complete sociopath. In conclusion, don’t watch it, the girl isn’t even that cute. Despite Ruby Sparks, this is all pretty ideal. Fuck getting a job, I’m starting a commune with the gang.

No beads, tofu or gap-year students allowed.

Craig Ballinger

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