a Gumbo story | plus Recipe

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Several months ago Chad & I were on a train to Prague, tucked into our own little cabin when at a stop along the way, we got a roommate. Corey was his name, nice guy from Ireland. The three of us naturally got to talking- we were curious about Ireland and Corey was curious about Louisiana, more specifically New Orleans. And our food. Love talking about food, so we did for quite some time. Turns out Corey had spent some time in the New Orleans area years ago. He smiled as he spoke fondly of our food here, our jambalayas, gumbos, he even knew about the trinity (onions, bell pepper, celery). That Corey knew more than he gave himself credit for.

Before Corey hopped off the train at his stop I promised to send him my seafood gumbo recipe. I made that promise back in early September. I am a procrastinator, but the truth of this one is that I kept waiting for the weather to turn cool here before doing a gumbo - seems sacrilege any other way. But it's South Louisiana, it ain't getting cold until February, and I can't keep poor Corey waiting much longer. So I made a gumbo yesterday morning- took pictures and jotted down my recipe as I went. This is for Corey and all the other Coreys out there that need a good seafood gumbo recipe,
I n g r e d i e n t s:
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup flour
2 cups chopped onions (approx 1 large onion)
1 cup chopped bell pepper (about 1 medium sized bell pepper)
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic (about 3 cloves)
1.25 pounds shrimp, heads on unpeeled
1.25 pounds lump crab meat
3 cups cooked rice

Like my Pops always told me, "If you're going to do something, do it right." So we're going to do this gumbo right. We're making shrimp stock, and we're making a roux. None of the jarred stuff. Because I know Corey can't get jarred roux in Ireland anyway.

First things first- shrimp stock. You can buy shrimp (seafood) stock from the grocery if you'd like, but I prefer making my own only because it's super easy & fresh. Just peel your shrimp and throw the shells and heads into a pot. Add water to cover which is about 7 cups. Semi-boil covered, so it doesn't all condensate, for about 45 minutes. Strain to separate the shells, and you have your stock. You'll need about 5 cups for this recipe.

I say 'about' a lot in my recipes. Taste along the way, and add more or less depending on your taste buds.

So, while your stock is brewing, mix the first 5 ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. If you prefer more heat, kick up the cayenne. Chop your onions, bell pepper, and garlic, and set aside.

Now, on to the roux. Grab a whisk, sifter, and a medium sized cast iron pot. Pour your oil in over medium heat. As soon as you see tiny bubbles at the center of the pot, sprinkle a dash of flour in - if it sizzles and turns a light cafe au lait color you're ready. If it pops and immediately turns dark brown, your oil is too hot. I've burned roux before, Chad has pictures, smoke, me red-faced. Let's hope those don't make their way out of the camera.

So, you've got your oil at just the right temp. Gradually add your flour and whisk, continuously, until you've used it all. I like to use a handheld sifter, it's just convenient since you're adding flour with one hand and whisking with another. Keep whisking until the mixture turns a rich caramel brown. Mastering the roux takes practice. Poke around online if you want to see any how-to videos.

Once you've got your roux, add in the seasoning mixture and garlic and stir for a couple of minutes. Fold in the onions and bell pepper, continuously stirring. Add your shrimp stock, bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes. Add in the shrimp & crab. Cook for about 30 minutes, then let the gumbo sit for a bit to thicken.
As my gumbo was cooking, I caught sight of our snow globe in the bay window. Sun shining in, simple object reminding us of Christmas around the corner. Even if it was 75 degrees out and the back door was wide open all day.
Ding! Grab some bowls, remove the bay leaf and serve over rice. This recipe should feed about 8. A dollop of good potato salad takes it over the top.
bon appetite-

Images, are mine


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