The endeavor began the day before Thanksgiving when, after spending all afternoon in the kitchen prepping and cooking for the following day's meal, we grabbed one of those rotisserie chickens from Breaux Mart for dinner. As we were setting the leftover chicken in the fridge it occurred to us that since Dad had suddenly decided to smoke this duck to go with the turkey this year...
... we had accidentally created for ourselves our first (and perhaps last) ever opportunity to build a stock from the remains of all three birds. And so that weekend we set ourselves to the work. We're pretty sure just about everyone reading knows how to make a damn stock. But since we took all these pictures anyway, here's what happened.
We started by disassembling our 3 fowl carcasses (carcassi?), stripping off as much useable meat as possible, and jamming everything else into this humongous stock pot.
And then that gets the requisite onion, garlic, celery, and parsley. All of these birds have been well seasoned already but it's a good idea to add a little salt and pepper here anyway.
Cover it with water, bring it to a boil, and then simmer it for as many hours as you can possibly spare. Quite honestly, when we began this project, we figured it was little more than a novelty idea. But once the apartment started to catch the smell we thought we might be onto something interesting.
Probably what made the biggest difference was the fact that one of our birds had gotten some smoke cooked into it which imparted quite well into the stock. The smokiness of the duck, the richness of the turkey, and the, um, chickenness of the chicken combined to make us quite happy with ourselves even before the work of making the actual gumbo could get underway.
Again, as is the case with the stock, we're sure just about everyone reading knows how to make a gumbo but, again, we've got all these pictures.
So the first thing you do is get out that big cast iron pot and brown yourself some sausage. The variety we have here happens to be endorsed by NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Rickey Jackson. If you have not yet discovered this for yourself, trust us when we say the man knows what he's talking about.
Add some butter and flour to the sausage drippings and start making your roux. We trust all of you know how to do this but we stood around for a long time working on this one and just wanted you to see what it looked like about three quarters of the way through.
It's difficult to capture the appropriate color of a well done roux using our phone camera in that particular lighting. Trust us, it's darker than it looks there. For a better image, try this one from a few years ago when we last decided to share some post-Thanksgiving gumbo photography with you.
Once you've gotten this far, here's how easy making any gumbo is from there. First pick up this bowl of chopped onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic and parsley.
Next, throw it into the roux and enjoy one of the greatest odors known to man as the vegetables cook.
And once you're done with that, all that's left is to start adding your stock and stirring it in until you've got a full pot going. To this, you'll add your leftover turkey, duck, and chicken meat,
After that cooks a while throw in your chopped okra. Of the several controversial gumbo conventions and orthodoxies that get thrown around, the one we're most adamant about adhering to is that which holds that what you're cooking isn't actually gumbo unless you have added some okra at some point. The slimier, the better, in fact.
As it cooks, you'll want to add some seasoning. We admit to being a little more heavy handed with the cayenne and the thyme than most. Adjust these things to your taste. On this occasion we experimented by adding an ever so slight pinch of Chinese five spice thinking it might complement the duck well. We were happy with the result.
And finally add your browned sausage back to the pot and continue simmering until you've got something that looks this awesome.
We don't know when or if we'll ever make another Turducken gumbo but we are sure glad we made this one. Any gumbo is a perfect accompaniment to a chilly fall evening. It's also one of those foods that only gets better sitting in the fridge overnight. So make sure you've got enough left over to reheat just before you head out into a frigid (but #important) November Monday evening on your way to your nearest commercially sponsored football stadium.
Saints vs. Important Teams
Typically, we go through these re-caps intent on discussing the statistical minutiae, narrative drama, and idiotic controversies of only the most recent Saints spectacle. However, since we've spent the entire important month of November busying ourselves with doubtlessly more important things, we're gonna try and catch up here by focusing on the important big picture items we've observed over the course of the last three games. We present those items below in no particular order of importance.
- This Month's Important Dome Complaint:
Just to be clear we're still unhappy with this naming rights situation. We're just not interested in delving too far into that right now but we did notice that Superdome field crews were made to scrub the name from the turf just one hour prior to kickoff Monday night. To our knowledge no one explained the reason for this. It probably had something to do with ESPN's sponsorship conflicts. We're told that Lexus runs commercials during Monday Night Football, for example. Of course, it could also be that ESPN didn't want to be associated with a high-profile immigration arrest in Alabama, but this is all just speculation.
The important thing here is no matter what they're calling the Dome and no matter how they're decorating it, they sure are making it more and more difficult for individuals to dull the psychological impact of these horrors with alcohol.
For the first time, Dome security is using metal detecting wands on fans who may possibly be trying to sneak a flask or two in through the gates. This resulted in a new low for us as we resorted to secreting our supply of vodka and whiskey into the building via small recently emptied Listerine bottles. Try as one might, it is in fact very difficult to remove the minty effervescence of Listerine from the plastic container it comes in. And while this added a novel mint-julepy quality to our Jack and Cokes, we think we'd prefer a cleaner version next time.
Speaking of next time, we learned that fans attending this week's Saints-Lions game Sunday night are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items with them to donate to Second Harvest. Fans who bring canned goods may choose to conceal them somewhere on their persons and challenge the wand-wielding security personnel to find them. That way everyone can be included in the act of giving. It's what the Holidays are all about.
- So we're told this is the Golden Age of Punting: Thomas Morstead and his legion of fans want him to be in the Pro Bowl. "It's just time" you are no doubt saying. But is it? Morstead is having a great, possibly his best, season as a pro. But statistically speaking, there are guys performing at higher levels in every category. Morstead is 7th in the league in yards per punt (47.8) and 3rd in net (42.5). Because the Saints punt so infrequently, it's difficult to compare his total punts downed inside the 20 with the league leaders. Morstead has 10. If we look at this in terms of a percentage, Morstead's 30% inside the 20 is respectable although it just barely makes the top third among all punters. Just to give you an idea of where the bar is set, Miami's Brandon Fields and Washington's Sav Rocca post freakish 46% and 43% averages respectively. As we have observed previously, we are currently living through a "Golden Age of Punting" where what was formerly considered extraordinary is now just what's expected.
- Let's not burn Gregg Willams at the stake quite just yet:
Here is by far the craziest stat of the season. During the exceedingly important month of November, the Saints' defense surrendered exactly zero touchdowns during the first half of each game. Now one could argue that it's more important to finish these games strong than it is to start them that way. But it seems to us that if you're supporting an offense that piles up points as quickly as the Saints do, few things could be more important than building an early lead and daring the opponent to catch up. As soon as the Giants' final scoring threat of the first half ended Monday night, we got on the Twitter and declared the game over although the score was only 14-3 at the time.
Catching the Saints when you're behind by two scores is virtually impossible. Well, okay so if you're down 10 points with 6 minutes left and realize you can just throw the ball to some dude named Harry Douglass repeatedly that might be enough once in a while. But even then the price for such a thing is having to watch Mike Smith make decisions so really it all evens out to not so good odds for you. The important point here is the Saints are not a team you want to get into a shoot-out with, as the cliche goes. It goes double if you spend the entire first half giving them a head start.. as we guess the mixed metaphor would go.
It also hasn't escaped our notice that Williams has been tinkering with his strategy lately. It's important for NFL coaches to adjust their game plans during the final stages of the season in order to keep a step or two ahead of opponents who think they may have them figured out.
Against the Giants, Williams worked in a couple of new twists. For one, we noticed Malcolm Jenkins lined up at or near the line of scrimmage much more frequently than normal. Understand that the Giants came into that week having trouble running the ball and were missing their primary back but it also looked like they weren't ready to account for Jenkins in run support. Yes, this freed up Victor Cruz deep a few times but we were more intrigued than bothered by that. Maybe under different circumstances we'll feel differently.
The Saints ran a lot more 3-4 than we had seen previously. What was interesting about this was it meant they put more linebackers on the field even without Jonathan Vilma in the line up. Also it reminded us that Will Herring is still on the team.
Catching motherfucker too We'll have to coach that out of him
Call us crazy but we think we're starting to see some of what we expected from this defense when the season began. The depth at tackle... and suddenly at linebacker.. is starting to pay off. We like the willingness to mix things up a bit... mostly because it appears to be working. Once that stops happening, we'll come right back and tell you how stupid it is, but for now.. neato.
- Free Devery!
Speaking of adding wrinkles late in the season. Here are a couple of interesting numbers. The first one, Drew Brees' NFL leading 3,689 passing yards, everyone knows about. But notice also that Brees is threatening to break a major NFL record while his two most dangerous big play weapons have remained relatively quiet. Check it out.
Robert Meachem: 29 receptions 359 yards 4 touchdowns
Devery Henderson: 23 receptions 385 yards 2 touchdowns
Remember, it's important for NFL coaches to have a few cards left in the deck to play during the last stretch of the season when opponents are game planning based on their tendencies. Is there anything wrong with Meach or Devery? Not so far as we can tell. Either of those guys is ready to explode at any time. And these next few weeks, as Jimmy Graham approaches 1000 yards and draws more and more attention are when it could happen.
- Indexes of waning importance
It's been fun Index:
Not that this is tremendously important anymore but let's look once again at Darren Sproles' statistics vs Reggie Bush's just for shits and giggles.
Sproles: 59 carries 402 yards 2 TDs rushing, 62 receptions 476 yards 3 TDs receiving, 18 punt returns for 173 yards and a touchdown 26 kick returns for 697 yards TOTAL 1748 yards and 6 touchdowns
Bush: 133 yards 567 yards and 4 TDs rushing, 35 receptions 237 yards and 1 touchdown receiving, 5 punt returns 44 yards TOTAL 848 yards 5 touchdowns
Diners Drive-ins and Diving to the Ground Index:
If you'll remember back to the start of the season, we thought it might be
importantfun to compare Panthers tight end Jeremey Shockey's touchdowns total to whatever backup Saints tackle might happen to score on a tackle-eligible trick play this season. Those numbers for what they're worth:
Shockey: 1 touchdown
Saints' backup tackles: 0 touchdowns
We should note, of course, that Saints fullback Jed Collins has managed to score 3 in the meantime. Also Drew Brees has scored one now. Also Jeremey Shockey sucks.
Look, the important thing about all of these numbers is it had long been our contention that Shockey and Bush, despite their inexplicable popularity, were essentially fraudulent "superstars" and we expected the statistics to bear that out this year. Mostly we believe ourselves to have been proven right about this. This week, Wang wrote a guest column for the NOLA Defender where he compared Bush and Shockey to their replacements Sproles and Graham this year. Please allow us to quote his summation.
Bush and Shockey were hater magnets, on the field and off. Graham and Sproles haven't just exceeded everyone's most wildly-optimistic expectations on the field, they also don't constantly annoy us with all kinds of other stuff. They're our kind of guys. The kind of guys who'd let you buy them a Peacemaker at Domilise's. And then split it with you. And then insist on paying for it. And then bookmark your blog and follow you on Twitter.
As much as these two guys have upgraded the team on the field, they've upgraded the heck out of our locker room chemistry as a fanbase. And as far as I'm concerned, the latter is deserving of every bit as much praise as the former.
- This month's Jordan Jefferson Try Not to Kick Anybody In The Face Award:
This one is pretty easy. Congratulations to Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh for.. well.. kicking a guy in the face on Thanksgiving Day which is important because it means he will not have an opportunity to do any face kicking in the Superdome Sunday Night.
Not that we would recommend trying such a maneuver against Drew Brees. That dude will Marshawn you out of the way if you make him mad.
In Soviet Russia, passer roughs you!
- Now that the NBA lockout is over, can we stop dunking the football?
We'd like to thank Jimmy Graham and Drew Brees for providing us with this important service during our nation's dunk shortage but the time has come for it to stop. Here's one last look from Monday Night for posterity's sake
And okay, just for good measure, here's a statue of Shaq doing his best Graham impression.
- Speaking of Shaq, he was at the Garden District Book Shop this weekend to sign books and shake hands. Earlier this season, he offered the following commentary on what very well could be best college football team we've ever seen.
We honestly couldn't have put it much better than that. Not only is LSU's 20111 edition the best team we've seen but this has been the best college football season we've watched in a long time. The pendulum is swinging away from the wide open spread passing game and back toward a more defensive, run-oriented style that, to put it bluntly, looks more like what football is supposed to look like.
Here's an interesting article about the return of the option attack to the college game albeit as a derivative of the spread era. Here's another about a perfectly executed option play by LSU vs Alabama.
We can't say enough about how much fun this has been to watch this season... although we suppose following a 13-0 SEC Champion doesn't hurt there. We've already apologized to Les Miles for having doubted his program once this season so instead of re-hashing that let's just let him play us out of this segment.
On the other hand, Morstead is the only NFL punter we're aware of who has made an actual campaign promise offering to attempt a drop kick during the Pro Bowl should the fans see fit to elect him. And without checking, we can pretty much guarantee that he leads all NFL punters in total number of Twitter followers. Those two important items alone make Morstead at least as qualified a candidate as any leading GOP Presidential contender at this point. Keep these facts in mind, voters.
Finally, and most importantly, we admit to a renewed sense of optimism about the Saints at the start of the (we suppose somewhat important) month of December. We thought that Giants game would tell us a lot about whether we could expect to be watching a serious contender down the stretch and, well, we were told a lot of things we wanted to hear. It will be important to keep hearing that sort of thing Sunday night.
More importantly, thanks in part to Varg's discerning the narrative of the Saints as "Destroying Angels" here, we've determined what we think would be a satisfying and reachable goal for the remainder of this season.
The Saints are clearly a team on the come and almost certainly headed for the playoffs. But it's not likely that they'll qualify for home field advantage or even a first round bye so it might not be reasonable to expect them to make another Super Bowl, although we suppose anything is possible. But if the Saints can't have it all, it might be fun instead to draw the Packers in the playoffs and play Destroying Angels once more by knocking them out.
What could be a more perfect fit for the long-term narrative than for the Saints to return to the site of their oh-so-close loss at Green Bay and complete the cycle by finishing the job this time? Plus there's the beautiful symmetry of upsetting a defending champion and sending them home early after having that done to themselves just one year before. Just do that one thing and whatever happens afterward isn't quite as important.
But before we get there, let's enjoy the ride along the way with renewed confidence. We fully expect the Saints to beat the Lions by 2 touchdowns tomorrow.