Saturday, January 14, 2017

Gizzards 'n' Gravy over rice with salt & pepper oignons ... Soul Food!

     Down Home Cookin'!
     Poor folk food, country style food, down home cookin' and soul food all add up to one thing.  Good old fashioned hearty food that is made from scratch with tender loving care!  Nothing is wasted, nothing is overlooked and the flavors are designed to please everybody's tastes.  This kind of food satisfies the soul in a big way.
     Many people in the Florida restaurant industry end up jobless and homeless during the slow hot summer season.  There is no hope for work until autumn, when the weather cools down and the tourists return.  Living on a Gulf Coast Beach is an option and all it takes is a fishing pole to catch a few meals a day.  Many of those who are subject to seasonal job layoffs end up doing the homeless shelter routine.  The shelters are sponsored by charitable organizations and churches.  Shelters are almost always located in the poor folk's end of town.
     On the other side of the railroad tracks, there is always plenty going on.  Everybody knows each other on a first name basis and everybody is on equal terms.  Church organizations cater to the needs of the local community, especially during hard times.  When folks are in need, church members often provide food and short term odd jobs.
     During one long slow Florida summer there was no hope for landing a restaurant job.  Fortunately a nice church lady hired me to varnish the floor of the old historic community church in Newtown, Florida.  I also earned some pay by trimming the vines that grew on the fences around the old historic Newtown graveyard.  Newtown is one of the oldest Afro American settlements in America and working on the upkeep of this historic site was real privelage.
     While doing those two odd jobs, some of the local Afro Americans passing by actually tipped their hat in respect.  One passer by asked if I was hungry and mentioned that the local church had a chitlin dinner going on that night.  At that moment a deeper sense of understanding and a new sense of pride filled my soul.  Even though I was tired and hungry, I finished the Newtown historic church and graveyard job with pride and made everything look real nice.
     This is part of what soul food is all about.  There are no color, age, race or language barriers when soul food is served.  The only requirements are compassion and caring about the well being of others.  Having a good heart and conducting acts of goodness is what fills the soul with joyous pride.  This is just part of what soul food is all about.
    Today's Gizzards 'n' Gravy Soul Food recipe is not like making a standard Turkey Giblet Gravy.  Gizzards 'n' Gravy is an entrée that has plenty of chicken gizzard meat with a fairly small amount of sauce.  The sauce can be as thin as pot liquor or it can be thick like gravy.  The sauce can be the color of light chicken broth or it can be dark, like a Louisiana style brown gravy.  The sauce can also be like a Tomato Creole Sauce.  When it comes down to it, every cook has their own favorite way of stewing gizzards and there really is no single definitive recipe.
     Gizzards are the set of chicken throat muscles that crush food.  The powerful gizzard muscles crush food up like teeth.  Gizzard meat is tough and gizzards require a long simmering time, so they become somewhat tender.  Even after several hours of simmering, gizzards can still be a bit chewy and many people enjoy sinking their teeth into this kind of meat texture.
     You are what you eat!  It is a proven fact that eating strong tough secondary cuts of meat and cartilaginous material does improve the strength of muscles, heart valves, tendons and cartilage in the human body.  Eating gizzard meat results in a healthy strong feeling.
     Gizzards are usually packaged and sold for a low price at food markets or butcher shops.  Chicken hearts are often mixed in with the gizzards package and this is acceptable to do.  Chicken livers are an organ meat, so they are sold separately because the shelf life of organ meat is limited.  I purchased one pound of chicken gizzards at the local market and hearts were in the mix.  The hearts can be cooked separately or they can just be mixed in with the gizzards when making today's recipe.            
     Gizzards 'n' Gravy:
     This recipe yields about 2 cups.  (1 large portion)  
     Today's Gizzards n' Gravy recipe is made with a dark brown simmering sauce.  This recipe involves simmering the gizzards for a lengthy period of time, so relax and enjoy the mouth watering aroma!  
     Step 1:  Select 9 ounces of chicken gizzards.  (It is okay if chicken hearts in the mix.)
     Trim any thick gristle tendons off of the gizzards.
     Cut any large thick gizzards into bite size pieces.
     Step 2:  Heat a braising pan or a wide sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil or meat grease drippings.  (A combination of chicken grease and lard is best.)
     Add the prepared gizzards.
     Sauté till the gizzards start to brown.
     Step 3:  Add 1/3 cup of thin sliced onion.
     Add 4 crushed whole garlic cloves.
     Sauté till the gizzards are browned and the onions are caramelized.
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Use a perforated spoon to place the ingredients in a container and set them aside.
     Leave the grease in the pan.
     *There should be about 1 1/2 tablespoons of grease in the pan.  If necessary, add a little more lard or vegetable oil.
     Step 5:  Place the pan back over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour while constantly stirring.
     Constantly stir till the roux becomes a brown color.
     Step 6:  Immediately add 1 tablespoon of minced celery.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced green bell pepper.
     Add 2 tablespoons of diced tomato.
     Add 2 cups of chicken broth.
     Occasionally stir with a whisk till the thin sauce comes to a boil.
     Step 7:  Add the reserved cooked gizzards, onions and garlic.
     Add enough water to cover the gizzards with 1" of extra liquid.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 8:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper.  (to taste)
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of allspice.
     Add 1 pinch of ground celery seed.
     Add 5 cloves.  (Crushing the spice clove releases more flavor.  The cloves will be soft after the long simmering time.)
     Step 9:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of Dijon Mustard.
     Add 1 whole dried red finger pepper.  (1 whole chile arbol or chile japone is good.)
     Add 1 teaspoon of cider vinegar.
     Add 1/2 cup of brewed coffee or chicory.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     *The gravy will be very thin and soupy at this point.
     Step 9:  Gently simmer till the gizzards become somewhat tender.  (About 2 hours.  Only add water if the level of liquid drops below the gizzards.)
     *Fairly tender gizzards is all that can be expected.  Gizzards will never become as tender as filet mignon!   
     Step 10:  Raise the temperature to medium/medium low heat.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce till the stewing gravy is a medium thin consistency that easily clings to the gizzards.
     Step 11:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Keep the Gizzards 'n' Gravy warm.
     Remove the dried whole red chile pepper before serving.  (optional)

     Gizzards 'n' Gravy over rice with salt & pepper oignons:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty entrée.
     Step 1:  Cook 1 large portion of plain long grain white rice.  (About 1/2 cup of dried rice.)
     Keep the rice warm on a stove top.
     Step 2:  Place 3 thin slices of onion in a bowl.
     Sprinkle 2 to 3 pinches of sea salt and black pepper on the onions.
     Set the onions aside for about 5 minutes, so they start to sweat.
     Step 3:  Place 1 generous portion of white rice on a plate.
     Evenly spread the rice on the plate as a bed for the gizzards.
     Step 4:  Mound the Gizzards 'n' Gravy on the center of the rice bed.
     Pour any excess gravy over the gizzards and rice.
     Step 5:  Place the Salt & Pepper Onions on top of the Gizzards 'n' Gravy.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     Serve with hot sauce on the side.          

     Viola!  Slow cooked savory Gizzards 'n' Gravy! 

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