Directions for Gumbo
1. Peel and devein the shrimp. (If making your own stock, rserve the heads and shells to make the stock.) Refrigerate the shrimp and crabmeat until ready to use.
2. If using fresh tomatoes, fill a medium saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Carefully drop the tomatoes into the boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and let them cool. The skins will slip off easily. Remove the cores and coarsely chop the tomatoes over a bowl to retain as much juice as possible. Set aside (If using canned tomatoes, chop each tomato into eighths and return them to their juice in can.)
3. To make the roux, in a large stockpot (about 10 quarts), heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, gradually add the flour, whisking continuously, and cook, stirring and adjusting the heat as necessary to keep it from burning, until the roux is a dark mahogany color, 25-35 minutes.
*Be careful: if the roux burns, you will have to start all over again! (See roux tips at the end of recipe)
4. Carefully add the onion to the roux and stir with a large wooden spoon for 2 to 3 minutes. (The onion will sizzle and steam when it hits the hot roux, so caution is advised. All seasoned gumbo cooks have roux battle scars on one or both arms.)
5. Add the celery and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 to 3 minutes.
6. Add the bell pepper and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 to 3 minutes more. The mixture should resemble a pot of black beans in color and texture.
7. Add the heated stock and the tomatoes with their juices. Stir in the salt, black pepper, cayenne, thyme, bay leaves, oregano, basil, Creole seasoning, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well. Bring the gumbo to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to maintain a slow simmer. Add the crab bodies (if using) and simmer uncovered, for about 1 hour.
8. Add the okra and bring the gumbo to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to
maintain a slow simmer and cook uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until the okra has lost its bright green color and cooked down like the other vegetables. If the gumbo gets too thick, add a little water. If it is too thin, continue to simmer it, uncovered.
9. Gumbo is always better the day after it has been cooked, although I’ve never had a complaint when I served it the day I made it. At this point, you can cool the gumbo. Turn off the heat and let it stand for about 30 minutes. Then place the pot uncovered in an empty sink. Fill the sink with cold water and ice around the stockpot (try not to get any in the stockpot itself). Stir every 15 minutes to facilitate cooling. (The gumbo will spoil if improperly cooled.) When completely cool, refrigerate the gumbo in the stockpot uncovered.
10. When ready to serve, slowly bring the gumbo to a simmer over medium low heat. Thirty minutes before serving, add the green onion, parsley, and lemon juice to the gumbo. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Add the shrimp and crabmeat, mix well and cook for 2 minutes. Cover and turn off heat. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes more to cook the seafood. The gumbo will stay hot for a long time. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Taste and adjust the seasonings; serve over cooked white rice with French bread and butter.
Directions for Shrimp Stock
1. At least several hours before you plan to make the stock, fill a clean, empty 1-liter soda bottle with water to about 2 inches from the top, seal and freeze it.
2. Run cold water over the shrimp shells to rinse. Place all the ingredients in a medium stockpot. Bring to a boil over high heat.
3. Reduce the heat to medium, or until the stock is simmering. Skim off the foam that rises to the top. Cook for a couple of hours, skimming again about every 15 minutes.
4. Place the stockpot in an empty sink. Fill the sink with water and ice around the stockpot. Let the stock cool completely uncovered. When the stock has cooled down a bit, about 30 minutes or so, put the frozen soda bottle in the middle to cool the stock from the inside out. Strain the stock, discarding the solids, transfer to storage containers and refrigerate or freeze immediately.
About the Roux:
Don’t rush it. It takes time. Adjust the heat, keeping the roux just this side of burning. Patiently coax it from light brown to the copper color of a penny to a deep dark brown that’s almost black. All of a sudden, the roux releases the smell of roasting nuts. I let it go a tad longer. When one more second will be too long, I sprinkle in the onions and nudge them gently with my wooden spoon. The onions steam and sizzle. Hot roux spits on my hand and arm. I stir on. Time for celery and then the bell pepper. The roux calms down, deigning now to settle in and do her magic, taking every humble ingredient I toss into her mysterious velvety embrace, and making it the star of the show.
· Fresh off the boat is best and I’m passionate about using wild caught seafood to support local fishermen.
· If you are purchasing from a supermarket, it has most likely been flash frozen and that’s perfectly acceptable.
· Keep it iced until you use it. Even in the fridge, put it in a plastic bag in a large bowl of ice. If
the ice melts, drain it and re-ice.
· When it’s time to use, completely rinse the seafood in a colander.
· (Rinsing it every time you pull it out of the refrigerator is the best way to keep it fresh tasting
and fresh smelling).
· If you are using frozen product, the best way to defrost it is to place it in a colander in the
sink and let cold water run over it until it has thawed. After rinsing, pat the seafood dry with
paper towels before cooking.
· For fresh crab, you are most likely buying it in a tub labeled “Jumbo Lump”, “Lump” or “Claw”
crabmeat. It may also say “hand-picked” and “wild-caught”. This is meat is from crab that has
already been steamed and the meat has been picked fresh from the crab. You do not have to
cook the crabmeat. If using fish, I soak it in milk for about 20 minutes before cooking (this
diffuses the “fishy” taste and smell).
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