Friday, December 01, 2006
Okra, Cajun Style
I actually wanted a vegetable with my steak tonight. And I didn't want potatoes, which I don't really think of as a vegetable. I also wanted to get rid of some of the peppers and celery sitting around my refrigerator. And then it hit me: OKRA! Yes, my northeastern friends, okra. Available all over New York City, it keeps well and is real easy to cook. It takes a heating without a beating. Anyway, I made the Male Martha version of "Cajun Style" okra. Although my Gulf friends may be offended by my idea of creole, in general, if you add white pepper, onions and red pepper you've got Cajun! The dish takes a little over an hour to make, but requires little attention and is good as part of a larger meal that will also take some time. Okra is one on those foods helped by cooking in a little vinegar, emphasizing the importance of my post from a few days ago. It has great color, and goes well with pale foods such as beef or chicken.
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 pound okra, cut into 1/4" pieces with ends removed (don't worry about the slime)
chicken stock (have a quart ready)
3 chopped celery stalks
Red bell pepper, chopped
5 Italian style tomatoes, mushed by hand (if you are really fancy blanch them. You can also use canned if that's all you have)
Olive oil for sauteing
1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
salt (depends on stock, but likely 1/2 teaspoon
white pepper, 1/2 teaspoon
onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon
garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon
OPTIONAL: 1/2 teaspoon oregano and 1/4 teaspoon thyme
EQUIPMENT YOU WILL NEED
a NON-CAST IRON POT (cast iron blackens okra) with a cover
Chop the onions and garlic and saute for at least five minutes in olive oil, on medium or high, stirring frequently. Add celery and pepper and continue sauteing until onions are soft and golden. Add okra and vinegar. The vinegar supposedly reduces the sliminess of raw okra but I don't believe it. It does help the taste. Stir for a few more minutes and add the mushed tomatoes. Add enough stock to cover the vegetables, and place flame on low. Cook covered for about a 1/2 hour, stirring when you remember to do so. Add the spices (add only a bit of salt, as the amount of stock you end up using will change the total amount of salt in the recipe). Add a little stock if the mixture is not "moist looking after this, and then cover and cook for another 20 minutes to a half hour. Again, its not a bad idea to stir the mixture every now and then and add stock if the mixture is drying out.
Remove the cover and cook open on a low flame. Continue cooking. When ready, the liquid should be mostly gone, leaving the okra and a thick mix of root vegetables and peppers. The okra should be somewhat soft but not mushy.