Dining date: 5/6/12
I thoroughly enjoy cajun & creole food – the food tends to be so full of flavor and comforting that it really jives with me. One of my favorite lunch spots in the downtown area, Fisherman’s Outlet, serves a seafood gumbo that I find almost irresistible. I finally decided to make a gumbo of my own, though it would be a bit different from the one at Fisherman’s Outlet. I decided to start with a more traditional recipe for a shrimp and sausage gumbo. This would be my first time making the dish and I’m pretty inexperienced with cooking in this part of the country; I’ve attempted making jambalaya a couple of times with mediocre success.
I based my gumbo almost entirely on a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen; any substitutions were based on what I could find at the market.
8 ounces seafood stock or clam juice
3 1/2 cups ice water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 medium onions, chopped fine
2 medium red bell peppers, chopped fine
10 ounces okra, cut 1/4 inch thick
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
3/4 lb andouille sausage
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced
4 medium scallions, white and green parts, sliced thin
ground black pepper
1. Bring reserved shrimp shells and 4 1/2 cups water to boil in stockpot or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 20 minutes. Strain stock and add clam juice and ice water (you should have about 2 quarts of tepid stock, 100 to 110 degrees); discard shells. Set stock mixture aside.
2. Heat oil in Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed sauce-pan over medium-high heat until it registers 200 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and stir in flour gradually with wooden spatula or spoon, working out any small lumps. Continue stirring constantly, reaching into corners of pan, until mixture has a toasty aroma and is deep reddish brown, about the color of an old copper penny or between the colors of milk chocolate and dark chocolate, about 20 minutes. (The roux will thin as it cooks; if it begins to smoke, remove from heat and stir constantly to cool slightly.).
3. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, okra, garlic, thyme, salt, and cayenne; cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables soften, 10 to 15 minutes. Add 1 quart reserved stock mixture in slow, steady stream, stirring vigorously. Stir in remaining quart stock mixture. Increase heat to high; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, skim off foam on surface, about 30 minutes.
4. Stir in sausage; continue simmering to blend flavors, about 30 minutes longer. Stir in shrimp; simmer until cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Off heat, stir in parsley and scallions, adjust seasonings to taste with salt, ground black pepper, and cayenne; serve (traditionally gumbo is served over white rice.).
I followed the instructions step by step, first using my shrimp shells to fortify my shellfish stock (directly simmering the shells in a combination of the stock and water). I used stock from a carton; I wanted clam juice but wasn’t able to find it at the market. The roux was the part I was most concerned with since this was my first time making one and I feel like I’ve heard a ton about the importance of a quality roux. The longer it’s cooked, the less it acts as a thickening agent and the more it provides a deep, kind of nutty flavor. I cooked mine for about 40 minutes, stirring almost constantly until it reached a fairly deep chocolate color.
The rest of the steps were rather straightforward, which included sweating the aromatics and adding the liquid to simmer.
I next added the sausage and, after about 30 minutes, the shrimp. I actually had some sea scallops on hand, so I quartered them and dropped them in too. Lastly, off heat, I added the parsley and scallions.
I scooped up some rice in the middle of a bowl and ladled the gumbo around it. My first plate had a bit too much rice – the starch can really soak up the soup so I’d recommend starting kind of small.
Overall, I thought my gumbo turned out okay. I really have no idea if I executed the recipe the way it was supposed to, but I’d like to think I followed the directions pretty well. The andouille is key, providing much of the flavor; next time, I’m gonna try packing in the seafood.