Saturday, May 14, 2011

Daring Cook's May Challenge: Gumbo

Our May hostess, Denise, of There’s a Newf in My Soup!, challenged The Daring Cooks to make Gumbo! She provided us with all the recipes we’d need, from creole spices, homemade stock, and Louisiana white rice, to Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh.

I've never really had Creole food so this was an exciting challenge. Gumbo.. it's so raved about by everyone that I was thrilled and eager to get my hands dirty! After a little research I found the definition of a gumbo to be a thick, dark soup containing a mixture of rice, vegetables, and meat or seafood. The vast majority of gumbos fall into one of three categories:  Seafood Gumbo, containing some combination of oysters, shrimp, crawfish, and/or crabs, and more often made with okra than filé; Poultry and Sausage gumbo, which uses either chicken or turkey in combination with pieces of andouille or other smoked sausage, and more often made with filé than okra; and the increasingly rare Gumbo Z’Herbes, a meatless soup created for Lent that incorporates a wide variety of greens.  The greens symbolize different things to different families.  Most often the number of greens a person uses represents the number of new friends he or she is supposed to make that year.
I decided to go for a seafood gumbo and throw as many veggies as I could find (I want to make a lot of new friends this year!)
 I also wanted to make the seafood stock myself but when I went to the supermarket and couldn't find any shrimp or fish heads, I decided to get the cheapest fish and use that to make the stock. So catfish bits were my make shift shrimp. Now for all those people who know me well, I hate hate HATE celery so none of my recipes will ever have that in them, so I will list the ingredient list and recipe as if the celery was in there for all of you celery lovers, but note I ommit this in all my recipes..

Shrimp Stock

¼ cup (120 ml) canola oil
Shells and heads (about 1 ½ pounds (700 gm)) from 4 pounds (2 kg) shrimp (prawns) ( I used catfish chunks instead)
1 tablespoon Basic Creole Spices (recipe below)
1 large onion coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped ( I ommited)
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
6 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (5 gm) black peppercorns
2 cups (480 ml) dry white wine (optional)
3 ½ quarts (3⅓ liters) water
1. Heat the canola oil in a large stockpot over moderate heat. When the oil begins to smoke slightly, add the shells and paprika. Stir continuously, for 2 minutes, until the shells crisp up and turn pink.

2. Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.

3. Add the white wine (skip this step if not using wine) and bring to a boil. Allow the wine to reduce for an additional 5 minutes.
4. Add the water and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, skimming off any foam or oil that rises to the surface, for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
(This is my version with fish instead of shrimp)

5. Strain through a fine sieve into a large bowl. Discard all the solids. Allow the stock to cool, cover and refrigerate, then skim off the fat. Use immediately, or freeze for later use.

Seafood Gumbo

Minimally adapted from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh
Servings: 10

1 cup (240 ml) canola oil
1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm) (5 oz) flour
2 large onions, diced
6 jumbo blue crabs, each cut into four pieces (if unavailable, omit, or substitute another type of crab)
1 pound (½ kilogram) spicy smoked sausage links, sliced ½ inch (15mm) thick (optional, but encouraged if you eat sausage)
1 stalk celery, diced ( I ommited)
1 green bell pepper (capsicum), seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup (240 ml) (160 gm) (5½ oz) sliced fresh okra, ½ -inch (15mm) thick slices (or frozen, if fresh is not available). If fresh or frozen is unavailable, you can leave it out because the roux will provide enough of a thickener.
Leaves from sprig of fresh thyme
3 quarts (3 liters) shrimp (prawn) stock (recipe below)
2 bay leaves
1 pound (½ kilogram) peeled and deveined medium Louisiana or wild shrimp (prawn) (Note: If you are buying whole, head-on shrimp, which you will need in order to use the heads and peels for stock, you will then need approximately 4 pounds (2 kilograms) of shrimp to yield enough heads/shells for the stock. Although the recipe only calls for 1 pound (½ kilogram) of shrimp, you will end up with a little over 2 pounds of cleaned shrimp (1 kilogram), which I found was perfect for this size pot of gumbo)
1 pint (475 ml) (450 gm) (16 oz) shucked oysters
8 ounces (225 gm) lump crabmeat
1 cup (240 ml) (100 gm) (3½ oz) minced green onions (scallions, or spring onions)
Freshly ground black pepper
Basic Creole Spices, to taste (recipe below)
Worcestershire, to taste
Tabasco, to taste
4-6 cups (1 – 1½ liters) (650 gm – 950 gm) cooked Basic Louisiana White Rice (recipe follows)
1. Prepare shrimp stock, if using (recipe above).
2. Make sure all of your vegetables are cut, diced, chopped, minced and ready to go before beginning the roux. You must stand at the stove and stir the roux continuously to prevent it from burning.

4. In a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pan, heat the canola oil over high heat. Whisk the flour into the hot oil – it will start to sizzle. Reduce the heat to moderate, and continue whisking until the roux becomes deep brown in color, about 15 minutes.

5. Add the onions. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir the onions into the roux. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and continue stirring until the roux becomes a glossy dark brown, about 10 minutes.

6. Add the blue crabs and smoked sausage and stir for a minute before adding the celery, bell peppers, garlic, and okra. Increase the heat to moderate and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes.

7. Add the thyme, shellfish stock, and bay leaves. Bring the gumbo to a boil, stirring occasionally.
8. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, skimming off the fat from the surface of the gumbo every so often.

9. Add the shrimp, oysters, crabmeat and green onions to the pot and cook for 15 minutes. Make sure everything is ready to serve before adding the shellfish to the gumbo. DO NOT OVERCOOK your shellfish.
10. Season with salt and pepper, Creole Spices, Worcestershire, and Tabasco.
11. Serve in bowls over rice. I placed mine in see through containers to give it a more elegant look, and garnished with some fresh parsley.

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