Like many couples in the New York Metro area today, we stayed home on Valentine’s Day rather than brave the dangerous, ice-covered roads tonight. But that’s fine, just fine — we made us a wondermus gumbo. Nothing better than a pot of gumbo and a 30 year-old episode of Justin Wilson on the TiVo and cuddling up on the couch with your sweetheart on a freezing cold evening.
Making gumbo is more of a method than it is a “recipe”. Louisianans make it with whatever proteins they got in the icebox, and throw it all in. But there are some basic things that are elemental to making gumbos.
If you’re going to make a gumbo, and you have never made one before, I suggest consulting this classic eGullet thread, which I think is the definitive primer on gumbo cooking. What you’re going to want to nail down and absorb from that discussion is the whole process of cooking a roux, which is the core of a good gumbo. At the end of the day roux is simply flour cooked in oil, but it takes nerves of steel — cook a roux too little, you don’t get enough flavor. Cook it too much, you burn it. Getting it right on the edge of burned, where it gets that chocolate color is the real challenge, to get that dark gumbo flavor that we want.
Here’s what went into our gumbo tonight:
Finely chopped celery, onion, and invisible bell pepper. Unfortnately we had all the ingredients of gumbo EXCEPT for the green bell pepper, which is an essential part of the “trinity” that lies at the heart of the Cajun cooking. I was not going to leave my house and hit the icy roads to get bell pepper in a regular sedan without four wheel drive, so you native cajuns will have to forgive me in this instance.
A bunch of fresh Pork and Crawfish sausages which we brought home from one of our Louisiana trips, that we pulled out of the freezer and browned in the pan. These will be just barely cooked and cut up into pieces.
Andouille sausage, also from Louisiana. You could just as easily use Polish Sausage or some other kind of smoked pork sausage. Cubed smoked ham is also good to use as well.
Want some good gumbo? I garontee you like it. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more, cher.
Pound ‘O uncooked shrimp.
Gumbo seasoning, which we purchased at Central Grocery in New Orleans. Despite the fact this stuff calls itself “Creole” gumbo (the company is based in New Orleans and proports the spice mix to be a New Orleans style) this is a particularly good one because it doesnt have any salt or MSG in it. You could just as easily use a standard Cajun/Creole seasoning mix, like Zatarain’s or Tony Chachere’s or Emeril’s or Paul Prudhomme.
Here we’ve got our Le Creuset pot, with the Trinity and some chopped garlic thrown in once the roux has gotten to dark peanut butter/chocolate color. The veggies are cooked up, browned a bit, and then our can of tomatoes and our gumbo seasoning goes in.
We pour in one can of tomatoes, brown it up a bit more, tossed in our
sausage, and then hit it with a quart container of stock, and let things
simmer a bit. We used smoked ham stock, but you could use chicken stock.
While the gumbo is simmering, cook 2 cups of rice in 3 and a half cups of water, with some butter and salt added for flavoring.
You’ll also want to cook up your okra in the oven and get it browned real nice — this gets rid of a lot of the slimyness. We used a bag of frozen okra since its the middle of the winter here and its what we had in the freezer. Once you got it roasted and browned, throw it in the pot.
The very last thing you want to do is throw in your seafood, and chopped scallion. Once the seafood is cooked, you’re going to want to taste it for salt, and tweak the seasonings (like, decide if it needs some more cayenne or hot sauce — our gumbo seasoning mix and the sausages already had some already, so we didn’t add any more.)
Is good, I garontee. Serve with your favorite Louisiana Hot Sauce.