Sunday, August 5, 2007

Seafood Gumbo

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned my adoration for southern cuisine around here before. There's just no denying the complexity of flavours and for the most part, family recipes that have been passed down through multiple generations. I love this because everybody does it differently, no two recipes are the same. I also really enjoy a dish that takes some time to make, you know like chili, stews and in this case Gumbo.

This was my first time making Gumbo, I omitted the usual addition of sausage and strictly went with seafood. Gumbo is a perfect example of a recipe that literally has hundreds of variations and this usually scares me a little because it can be a serious hit or miss. So I spent a lot of time doing my research and ultimately came to the conclusion that the two most important parts of a great Gumbo are the roux and the stock (in this case shrimp stock.) Now that I've made it I have to agree and being in on this little secret has put me at ease because neither are hard to do. The Gumbo was really easy to make and it was bursting with flavour from the slow cooking. No miss here, it far exceeded my expectations, it was sensational!

RECIPE loosely adapted from Gumbo Pages:

Shrimp Stock:
8 cups shrimp shells
2 onions, peeled and quartered
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
2 lemons, halved
4 bay leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried tarragon
1 tsp dried oregano
1 TBS whole black peppercorns
2 tsp salt
16 cups cold water

Rinse the shrimp shells quickly under cold water and place them in a stockpot with the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour. Allow to cool thoroughly, strain and refrigerate. You can easily freeze leftovers after they have been cooled.

Seafood Gumbo:
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup flour
1 large onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound okra, trimmed and sliced
8 cups shrimp stock
1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb fresh lump crab meat, picked over
1 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp lemon juice
Salt, freshly ground black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste
3 cups cooked long grain white or brown rice

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over medium and add the flour. Cook the roux, whisking constantly, until it's the color of peanut butter. Just before the roux reaches the proper color, stir in the vegetables. When the vegetables are tender (about 5 mins.), add the stock, salt, peppers, thyme and bay leaf. Stir until the roux is dissolved, and simmer over low heat for 2 hours, adding more stock if you need to.

Add the shrimp, crab meat and fresh lemon juice about 5 minutes before serving, cook over low heat just until the shrimp turn pink and the crab meat is warmed through. Serve in large bowls over about 1/2 cup of cooked rice per serving.

Makes 6 servings

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