Thursday, February 24, 2000

Gumbo


Some general comments:

Remember that gumbo is not courtbuillon (common Noo Awlins pronunciation: cubey-yon) or bouillabaisse (N.O.: boo-ya-bess), although there are similarities. There is some tomato paste in gumbo but NO OTHER TOMATOES. That’s just wrong. The same is true for etouffee. No tomatoes. EVER. There’s no such thing as too much garlic. There’s no such thing as too spicy. Ok, there’s a limit but you know what I mean. Cast iron is strongly recommended. Strongly. Natives would be using crab (blue crab) and shrimp which were prepared in New Orleans “boil” (Zatarain’s or similar). If you’re using plain, unseasoned seafood, think about making your gumbo a littler spicier than you like. The flavor will soak into the seafood overnight. And that brings me to the recommendation – cook it one day, eat it the next. It’s so much better after it rests and the flavors marry. Fresh is not nearly as good as day-old.





Ingredients:

½ lb. butter

Equal amount of flour

1 onion chopped fine

1 bell pepper chopped fine

Equal amount of celery chopped fine

1 garlic (1 whole garlic, not just one toe) chopped fine

Okra cut in thin discs (1 lb. optional – I don’t like it and I leave it out)

8 oz. tomato paste

Bay leaves – a few

Creole seasoning (Tony Chachere’s or similar)

Tabasco or similar

File (ground sassafras leaves) – strong flavor and a thickener, be judicious

1 lb. shrimp (shelled)

6 (blue) crabs cooked, shelled, and disjointed (add only claws and bodies)

Stock ( in descending order of desirability – seafood, chicken, vegetable) or plain water if that’s all ya got.



Process:

First you make a roux. I like a fairly dark roux for gumbo. In a cast iron Dutch Oven, combine butter and flour. Brown it slowly until it’s a coupla steps short of the color you want. In a separate cast iron pan, saute the veggies in butter, starting with the okra a few minutes ahead of the others, and some seasonings. By the time the veggies are “clear” your roux should be about where you want it. Add the contents of the veggie saute pan to the roux in the Dutch Oven. Add the tomato paste. Add some stock and the Bay leaves. (If you boiled your own crabs rather than using store-bought crab meat/parts, add the “fat” you scavenged from peeling the crabs now.) Gradually add more stock and crab parts. Bring to a boil, then simmer for an hour or so, adding the shrimp in the last few minutes of that. Taste. Re-season. Add stock or simmer more to get to the consistency you like. Add file at the very end. Be careful.

Serve over white rice.

To go with it:

Crusty baguette is good.

Salad is good.

Strong red wine is very good.

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