Due to a rescheduling, my dear friend, Phil from FlavorPhil, is the second “Man in the Kitchen” post this week. Lucky me, getting to eat all this food that Phil and Cherry cooked, plus today past Man-in-the-Kitchen Mario is coming over to make me his signature “best in the world” fried chicken :)
If you read TheWeekendKitchen often, then Phil doesn’t need much introduction; he is a regular star here, participating in the various chocolate tastings in this blog, photo shoots, and other food adventures like popping up eateries for Restaurant Day and cooking gumbo for 200 people at Berlin Design Night. He wrote up a lovely post on how we met and our friendship.
Phil in the Kitchen
On American and German foods. Whenever I go back home, people always ask me, “What’s German food like?” and they have in their minds that German cuisine is heavy on the meat and potatoes, which is true to an extent.
I used to get the opposite here in Berlin, when Germans would ask me what American cuisine is. You know what? Apart from Southern American cuisine, I wouldn’t know what American food means. There’s fries and burgers. There’s the American bistro food, which mostly serves up interpretations of other cuisines, which is OK, because we’re a country of immigrants. Our cuisine is a melting pot of all the cultures that came to America.
There are regional foods, like in the Northeast with lobster rolls and New England clam chowder, the Philly cheese steak, Chicago pizza. Maybe we’re too big of a country to have a national cuisine.
On American and German supermarkets. Most American supermarkets focus on food products and convenience, not factual food. Food products take up the most space in the supermarket and usually only the peripheral areas are dedicated to fresh produce and foods. It’s convenient to have food products that lasts a long time so you can eat it at your own convenience, however it is a false sense of actual nourishment and nutrition.
In major American supermarkets, you have entire aisles dedicated to a specific food product, and I must add that the small supermarket in our Baltimore neighbourhood is still three or four times the size of a regular REWE or Kaiser supermarket in Berlin. So you have twelve to fifteen metres of shelves with just packaged loaves of bread.
A loaf of bread that one would buy in American supermarkets would last two or three weeks, depending on the manufacturer. One could go to the bakery section of a supermarket, and the breads made there are more similar to what we get in Europe, they’ll go off in a couple of days. Most people are conditioned to stay in the bread aisle though, because it’s convenient. I have also been guilty of that.
If I go to any bakery here in Germany, the bread I buy will go off in a day or two. That’s how food should be. Food should go bad.
The organic food movement is huge in Germany, and it’s affordable, and it’s everywhere, you don’t need to go to specialty food shops. During my recent visit home to Baltimore, I was happy to see it gaining traction. For example, markets like Atwater’s in Towson, Maryland are popping up everywhere. Even organic sections in the supermarket are expanding as people get more educated in food and nutrition.
You know, every day we each get three votes on what we’re going to eat that day. We decide for ourselves what we’re going to eat.
Eat real food.
What is/are your favourite food(s) to eat? As far as guilty indulgences go, I love fried chicken, and I love cheesecake. Pretty much every culture has a fried chicken version, but I love the Southern American fried chicken. My grandmother makes the best, and I grew up eating that.
Once, when I was a kid, just after my parents separated, my dad was left to cook for me and my brothers, Derek and Kevin. Somehow my dad got it in his head that his fried chicken was better than my grandmother’s and challenged his mom to a fried chicken cook-off. The crazy thing about it was that he spent all day, went all out on it. My grandmother was the type of person with quiet confidence who would breeze into a kitchen and twenty minutes later have a meal out.
That day of the cook-off, I was the judge along with my aunt, Carla, and my brother, Derek. My dad just kept shit-talking his mother, and of course it didn’t work out for him in the end. His mom kicked his ass.
I still think of that particular batch of chicken she made for the competition and she told me what went in it and I try to make it the way she does.
What’s your favourite cuisine to cook? Why? It’s probably Southern American. I was introduced to it at an age where I had an awareness of food.
Moving from Hawaii to Louisiana, being introduced to all these new flavours that I didn’t have before, or had access to (the ingredients) in Hawaii really left an impression on me. Those years I spent in Louisiana were super special to me in so many levels, but especially the culinary level.
Advice you’d give a first-time cook or homecook enthusiast? Just go for it and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Invest in really good knives, and keep them sharp. That makes all the difference.
Any favourite food blogs or food films? I like yours, I read yours. Hehe. I occasionally look at Nigella Lawson’s, because I love how she talks about food, how she puts soul and humor into food. I like Food911, and Food Inc, I like anything with Michael Pollan in it.
So tell us about gumbo. It’s a Southern American stew, that borrows from African, Spanish and French cuisines. I grew up eating it, my grandmother made a really good gumbo, and still does.
The general rule for gumbo is that you can put in it anything that walks, crawls, swims or slithers. Yes, there are rattlesnake and alligator gumbos, though I’ve never had either. Typically it’s eaten with rice and/or cornbread. Some people even eat it with potato salad. I love the rice and cornbread best.
Thank you, Phil!
Phil’s Easy and Quick Chicken Gumbo
What you need
- ½ cup sunflower oil or other neutral-flavoured oil.
- ½ cup of plain flour.
- 1 red bell pepper, 1 green bell pepper, 1 yellow bell pepper, all diced to small pieces.
- 4 chicken breast, diced to 2cm/1-inch pieces.
- Chipotle peppers, according to taste, chopped finely.
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced.
- 1 onion, medium diced, about 1 ½ cups.
- 6 celery stalks, medium diced, about 3 cups divided.
- 6-8 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced.
- 2 bay leaves.
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika.
- 1 ½ teaspoon dried thyme.
- 6 cups chicken stock, warm.
- 1 ½ teaspoon sea salt.
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper.
- 1 pound chicken or turkey kielbasa, sliced diagonally about ¼″ thick.
- 1 pound chicken breasts, cut into large bite-sized chunks.
Make the roux
Start by making the roux. To make the roux, whisk together the flour and sunflower oil in the bottom of a 6-quart pot until the flour is lump free. (Note: if you’re doing this in a enameled cast-iron pot, whisk the flour mixture in mixing bowl, then add it to the cast iron pot to prevent scratches to the surface of the enamel.)
Heat the pot over medium-high heat and cook the flour mixture, stirring often with a heat-resistent rubber spatula, adjusting the heat as needed. You want the pan to have a slow, steady hiss, rather than a full on sizzle. If any black specks appear in your roux, you’ll have to start over. Black speckling that resemble cracked pepper means you’ve burned the roux and it will affect the taste of your gumbo. The roux will change from chalky in color, to toasty and golden, to a peanut buttery-brown, then a deep-dark caramel. You can stop there or continue developing the roux until it is brick red. It’s up to you.
Add everything else
Once you’ve reached your desired color, between dark caramel or brick red, stir in the onions, green bell peppers and half of the celery. Add 1 cup of the hot stock to stop the roux from cooking. Make sure to warm your chicken stock before adding it to the roux. Otherwise, it will clump up the roux and not thicken properly.
The mixture will resemble a very thick gravy. Then, add the garlic, chipotle peppers, bay leaves, smoked paprika and thyme. Continue cooking the vegetable mixture for 2 minutes.
Then, stir in the remaining hot chicken stock. Add the sea salt, pepper, kielbasa and chicken to the pot.
Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble
Once the pot starts to bubble, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the chicken is fully cooked.
Serve it with rice and/or cornbread. I personally love and use Phil’s recipe for gluten-free cornbread. Don’t forget to sprinkle the yellow and red bell peppers, chopped celery and spring onions on top of your gumbo. Crunch and colour!
As delicious as ever. I personally love Southern American cuisine, especially when Phil makes it. His gumbo tops the list, with grits and brown butter a close second. It’s hearty and comforting and colourful with just enough kick of the chipotle.
I pity the fools who haven’t been over to Phil’s for dinner.
See you in the next episode!