Creole Seafood Gumbo
Why I Love This Recipe
I'm a bit of a gypsy. Went to nine schools in 12 years. Three colleges. Lived in 10 different cities, with houses, apartments, condos, spare rooms, and couches too many to count. I became something new and different with every move, it seems. The years I spent in Louisiana? I became a cook. Using the techniques I learned sitting in the kitchens of some of the finest creole cooks and chefs, I take my culinary inheritance on the road by utilizing the freshest catch locally available, and share a delicious bowlful of South Louisiana culture, like sacred breadcrumbs, along the way.
Ingredients You'll Need
2 chopped whole yellow onions
5 ribs celery, chopped
1 large bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 head of garlic, loose papery skin removed, top sliced off, left whole
Approximately 1 to 1 1/2 pounds (before shelling, peeling,), each, of small shrimp, peeled and deveined, and boiled crawfish tails, peeled
2 dozen oysters, scrubbed, shucked, and juices reserved, or one pint of shucked oysters with juice (reserved)
4-6 blue gumbo crabs, shelled, cleaned of gills, legs and claws removed (reserve legs for stock, and claws for da gumbo), and bodies broken in half.
1 pound andouille, if not abstaining from meat, sliced 1/4-1/2" thick, on the diagonal. (or if a good andouille is unavailable, try a well-seasoned beef smoked sausage, diversion #3)
2 quarts seafood stock (I used home-prepared shrimp stock), or chicken, beef, vegetable stocks, water, or any combination of all, in a pinch.
1/4 c lard
1/4 c vegetable oil
1/2 cup all purpose flour
Seasonings, suggested measurements with which to begin. Adjust, to taste, in last thirty minutes of cooking:
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
1T dried basil
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt
one bunch scallions, green ends sliced, divided
one bunch parsley, chopped, divided
gumbo file' powder
In 3T butter, brown onion, celery and bell pepper over medium heat until limp, and liquid has been reabsorbed. Remove from heat.
Prepare roux by whisking flour into 1/4 cup lard (or butter) and 1/4 cup vegetable oil, in a heavy-bottomed dutch oven (preferably cast iron) a little at a time, until all has been assimilated and is smooth.
Continue whisking or stirring, constantly, over medium heat, until roux is the color of dark chocolate. Make sure to keep the temperature at medium, to avoid scorching. This can take from 40 minutes to over an hour of stirring. Get yourself a stool, put on some music, and hunker down. If you get impatient and turn up the heat, it will likely burn the roux, and then it's ruined. Throw it out and start over. Never use scorched roux. It's a waste of expensive seafood and effort.
When color is achieved, remove from heat and add cooked vegetables, stirring well.
Return to medium low heat, and add stock and whole head of garlic (do not separate into cloves). Increase heat to bring to a low, rolling boil and cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes.
Add crab (along with claws) and andouille, if using, cook for 15 minutes.
Add oyster liquid, parsley, and green onions, cook 15 minutes longer.
Add shrimp, cooking an additional 15 minutes, or until pink and fully opaque.
Add crawfish tails, oysters and remove from heat. Allow to sit, covered, thirty minutes, and stir well just before plating.
Serve over rice or potato salad with a few pinches of gumbo file stirred in well, and garnish with parsley and green onions.