This will, of necessity, be brief:
Tomorrow will mark my daughter's $%st birthday and the first time in years that we've been together in a place where I could cook her favorite foods. So as soon as I send this off into the ether I'll resume chopping onions, celery, bell pepper, garlic and fresh okra. Then I'll heat two cups of oil, add two cups of flour and then stand and stir and stand and stir and stand and stir until the mixture -- en route to becoming a mahogany roux -- reaches the desired stage of brownness.
In will go the onions, peppers, celery, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, a touch of basil and a smidge of oregano. When all are wilted and heated through I'll add the seafood stock made from shrimp shells and heads, let them simmer. On to the pot of vegetarian black-eyed peas, which will have its own blend of onions, red bell peppers, celery, and garlic. I still have two pounds of fresh blackeyes purchased on my last visit to New Orleans. With the addition of more thyme, more basil, Crystal hot sauce, vegetable stock, another pound of peas bought locally, and a dollop of liquid smoke -- a nod to the vegetarians who will join us -- pot number two will be in full simmer.
I'll add the Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, shrimp, oysters and crabmeat when I heat the gumbo tomorrow.
As guests arrive somewhere around 7 o'clock, I'll heat the andouille through in the oven, slice it and put it in a separate bowl -- a nod to our Jewish friends who don't eat pork. As the hors d'oeuvres supply dwindles down to a few almonds, olives and cheese chunks, the cornbread will go in -- two pans with bacon, two pans without. Within 30 minutes the room will go quiet and those who have found a space to sit and eat will chow down as everyone else finds a spot standing at the kitchen counter or adjourns to my office or, if it's still warm enough, to the patio table I would have cleaned if I'd thought people might end up eating outside.
I have no idea how many people will turn up. Some will be my daughter's friends; some will be mine. We planned a guest list, but then started inviting people we thought would either be alone on New Year's Day or who would add life to the gathering. Their ages will range from early 20s to early 70s. Mixing and mingling with friends across a generation will be a wonderful way to start the new year, made perfect if I wake up and find the dishes washed, the food put away, and no one asleep in the bathtubs.
Happy New Year, and may 2012 find you stirring it up at every opportunity.