Friday, February 16, 2007

Gumbo on My Mind

It is NOT Mardi Gras without a bowl of steaming, spicy, sultry gumbo; the hearty stew popular around New Orleans and surrounding area. Gumbo is wonderful year round, but is usually found up here in the North around Mardi Gras.

Gumbo, in my humble opinion must contain seafood, usually shrimp, crab, oysters or crawfish. Chicken is essential, as is Cajun andouille smoked sausage. Another essential ingredient of the dish is okra, as the word gumbo comes from a West African word for okra. Almost above all is the Holy Trinity: celery, onion and bell pepper.

When it comes to the base stock there are 3 rules:

  1. Always use homemade stock.
  2. Always use homemade stock.
  3. Always use homemade stock.
A good, hearty and flavorful stock is always the foundation of a perfect gumbo. Seasoned perfectly, not too salty, strained smooth with a wonderful aroma.

Then you make a roux. A roux thickens the gumbo. Some use file (feel-lay) powder which is ground sassafras. It can be used in smaller amounts as a flavoring. The lady who taught me how to make gumbo told me, "don't feel bad your first roux is always a mess, I still have trouble with it."

Here is my first roux, pronounced "absolutely perfect" by my teacher:

A perfect roux is the color of a Lincoln penny, slightly circulated. A roux (in this case flower and oil) has to be stirred constantly over high heat to get the right toasted flavor. Too little is pasty, too much is burnt.

A good gumbo sits for awhile and lets the flavor blend. This is gumbo almost ready:

Always serve over plain white rice.



Anonymous said...

You're making me hungry again! Worst of all, I am now living at least an hour from any Cajun food!

Don said...

Callalily, you posted before the entry was finished, so see the final result!

Geoffrey said...

Wow! I was just reading about making a roux online too! Yours looks like really good gumbo! I guess I'll have to try making some of my own sometime soon....very nice!