Posts Tagged ‘gumbo’
My first go at sea food gumbo was back around 2006 as a night of culinary excess with Mike and Fayaz. In 2011, as the hurricane threatened New York, I broke out the BIG pot, grabed several pounds of ingredient, and made up some gumbo for the apartment turned storm shelter. Before the water, I started with over 8 pounds of chicken, sausage okra, seafood, mushrooms, and whatever else I found around the house. After hours of cooking it was ready to be served over rice with a generous amount of hot sauce. Thinking about this mix of savory and seafood has me almost drooling onto my key board.
Fortunately there are a couple servings of the gumbo left in the freezer for the New Year. All I need to do is make up another batch of extra moist cornbread.
I’m glad to report that I’m alive and well after Irene blew through. Nick and I prepared for the storm the only way we know how to do things: in excess; and invited over some friends from low lying areas. With 6 people, one dog, one bird, and one hurricane turned tropical storm it was more party than shelter.
Staring down the risk of a multi-day power outage our brilliant idea was to make gumbo. An insane amount of very perishable seafood gumbo. Nick had picked-up sausage and shrimp so, in Irene’s first burst of rain to hit Brooklyn, I made an 11th hour run to Union Market. After trying to shop through the chaos for 5 minutes I realized that the line snaked through the whole New York sized store (aka small and cramped compared to anything in MN). So I got in line and shopped the shelves around me as the line inched forward. A pound of okra here, some canned clams there, a little ahi tuna jerky because the guy behind the fish counter was MIA, some seafood stock, and over 3 lbs of bone in chicken legs and and thighs.
The thing about gumbo is that there really isn’t a “right way” to make it. The stuff basically came about when people started throwing whatever was around into a pot before it could spoil. So I scoured the fridge, freezer, and cabinets and found some great additions. There was the frozen chicken stock I had made a while back. Some lamb bones that I have had sitting in the freezer forever waiting for a chance to turn them into stock. Some onions. Some cherry tomatoes. A bunch of mushrooms. It was time to get things rolling.
Oh, one other thing. Two visitors, who will remain nameless to protect their shameful tastes, don’t like strong seafood flavors and said they won’t be able handle the clams or the other fishy goodness–despite my assurances that the gumbo would be more savory than seafoody. The solution: two pots; one purely chicken and sausage based the second having chicken, sausage, and the seafood elements.
To start the gumbo, cook the sausage (cut into circles) in a big pot using a little oil. Once the sausage is done, pull it out of the pot, set it aside and give the chicken (you should really be only using bone in dark meat here) a solid little fry in the oil. Once the chicken is done or doneish pull it out and set it aside. Now make a little rue with the oil in the bottom of the pan. It’s the rue and the okra that thicken the gumbo. Once the rue has cooked nicely (maybe 5 minutes or so), add some stock, whatever kind works. Or just use water, there are plenty of flavors coming to go around. In this case, I used a mix of the seafood broth I picked-up in my shopping adventure, chicken broth, and some water. Next add a bunch of Orka, cut into about half to quarter inch pieces–don’t bother being delicate, they completely vanish after a few hours of cooking. Oh, and don’t forget to put all that meat back in along with whatever else you’ve found laying around.
Then you let it cook and cook and cook. As the rain fell and we tapped into the large provisions of beer the gumbo cooked away. Every 15 minutes or so it’s important to stop by and give it a good stir and scrape the bottom of the pot. Slowly but surely everything in the pot becomes one. First the okra just vanishes. Then you notice the shrimps have gone and some meat is falling off the chicken bones. Suddenly there is no more meat on the chicken bones. The main solids left are the sausage chunks and what looks like pulled chicken. This is one of the reasons I highly recommend having a little crab or something to throw on top before eating. Another, as of yet untested, thought I have is to retain another batch of shrimp and fish to put in for the last 30-45 minutes of cooking–that way after the base has it’s amazing flavor from the disintegration of ingredients there’ll still chunks of those delicious ingredients to be had.
Of course, with all of these hours of simmering the gumbo, it would be wrong to not make a little corn bread and rice to go along with the meal. Personally, I’m not a fan of really dry cornbread. Some would say that means I’m not really a fan of cornbread. I’m okay with that, but here is how you make the stuff the way I like it:
- 1/2 cup butter
- 2/3 cup white sugar
- 3 eggs (most would have use only 2)
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 cup cornmeal
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 can of creamed corn
- 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
First, in a medium bowl whisk the eggs so that you get some air bubbles in the mix. Next add some buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk around you can make a good substitute by mixing one cup milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice). Let that mixture get up to room temperature. Next, melt the butter in large skillet. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Then add the sugar butter to the room temperature egg/buttermilk bowl. (Note: if you didn’t let your eggs and buttermilk get up to room temperature everything will fail here, the sugar and butter will get cold and start turning back into a solid.) Whisk the liquid for a bit. Combine the dry ingredients in their own bowl. Now slowly whisk in large handfuls of the dry ingredients into the liquid and keep whisking until there are little or no lumps. Then put the batter into a greased baking pan. Spoon a smattering of creamed corn onto/into the batter. Finally, sprinkle the sharp cheddar on top and bake for about 30 minutes at 375 (or until it browns and a toothpick comes out clean).
I wish I had a picture of all of this, but, alas, I didn’t have the foresight. Though, with my freezer full of gumbo, a photo op of the gumbo in a bowl, over rice, with a nice slice of cornbread siting on top is sure to be coming soon.