The city of New Orleans is the unofficial reason I am a professional cook. It was the first time in my life I had eaten food that required experienced preparation, and I was hooked; immediately determined to be able to recreate it for myself. . . . whenever I wanted. Thus my vocation presented itself to me, over little white rice. Gumbo was the first dish I took on, and believe me it didn't go well. It has since been how I've gauged my progress in my field, progressively getting better little by little.
It is distinctly different from my general manner of cooking at this point in my life. With lots of steps and ingredients to deal with. But I can't turn my back on my old friend, if for no other reason than I love to eat it so much. Let it be known, I really enjoy the process of cooking, but it is only the means to my true love . . . eating, and gumbo is one of my favorite things to eat. For the first time in quite a while, I revisited the ritual that is gumbo for super bowl Sunday.
I want to start out by saying that with any soup-ish dish, or ones composed primarily of liquid, it is absolutely imperative that said liquid is yummy. So the key to a great gumbo, is a great stock.
Heads* and shells from 2 lbs of medium shrimp. Allowed to dry a little and come to room temp.
2 Cups of white wine
1 head of garlic
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1. Heat your stock pot over a high flame until it is screaming hot.
2. Add enough oil to generously coat the bottom of the pot, it should smoke immediately.
3. Toss in your shells and stir vigorously at first, then occasionally, until the shells a decent amount of browning. They will also turn a bright pink color
4. Deglaze this mess with the white wine.
5. Add the garlic, bay leaves, tomato paste and peppercorns.
6. Cover it with COLD water by about three inches and lower the heat to medium low.
7. Simmer this stock until the shrimp shells poke out of the surface of the water. Despite lacking salt, this should taste amazing. If it doesn't, simmer it until it does.
8. Strain it through a colander. Using a container or a small pot firmly press the shells in the colander, you'll squeeze out a considerable amount of juice. Re-strain the stock through a fine sieve.
This recipe should yield 6-8 cups of stock.
*Note: The shrimp heads are crucial to building great flavor. Just the shells from 2 lbs. of shrimp will not cut it. However, shells from other crustaceans will work. (lobster, crab & crawfish or any combination thereof)
Now for the gumbo part.
1/2 cup Vegetable oil
1/2 cup All purpose flour
1 Large onion, medium dice (bet. 1/4 to 1/2 inch)
1 Green pepper, medium dice
3 Stalk of celery, medium dice
5 Cloves of garlic, chopped
3 Sprigs of thyme
3 Bay leaves
1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper
1 tsp Tobasco
2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
Shrimp (from the stock recipe above)
6-8 oz. crab meat
6-8 oz. white meaty fish, (snapper, flounder, grouper, redfish, etc)
Optional: 8oz. andouille sausage, cut into half inch coins and nicely browned.
1. Heat a 4 qt. (or larger) stock pot over medium hight until it is screaming hot.
2. Add the oil and wait for it to smoke, once it does add the flour and whisk immediately, being sure to get into the corners of the pot. Be careful not to go so fast as to spatter this roux on yourself, because it will leave a mark. It begins a blond color and graduates to peanut butter, continue to stir until the roux arrives at a milk chocolate color.
3. Add the onion, green pepper and celery to the roux, continue to stir until the veggies have softened a little.
4. Stir in the garlic, thyme, bay leaves, Tobasco, worchestershire and cayenne.
5. Add the shrimp stock (7 cups) and bring to a simmer.
---> If you're using the andouille, add it to the mix now.
6. Simmer for an hour skimming the foamy scum off when it arises.
7. Fold in all of the seafood and turn off the flame, the residual heat will cook the seafood. Allow the gumbo to just "marry" for 10 minutes before you eat it.
Serve it over white rice.