Friday, July 31, 2009
Might as well start with a picture of the finished product.
People stop me on the street and ask, "What's you secret to great gumbo?" I get that ALL the time.
Can't hardly step out of my house without the paparazzi flashing in my face and shouting for gumbo recipes. "Bill! Bill! Show us your gumboes!"
If it gets any worse I'll be forced to live in a bunker at an undisclosed location.
So, anyway, here's my secret, but I'm telling you in advance you're not going to like it. Most people when they think about a Secret Recipe assume it has a Secret Ingredient, like monarch butterfly tongues or porcupine spleen or Kate Gosselin's bathwater. But, that's just hogwash.
The world has asked for it so here it is.
The secret to my World Famous Gumbo is: patience.
Yeah, I knew you'd be disappointed. I can hear the sighs from here; either that or it's the burrito I had for lunch.
But, really, that's it. Patience. You can't rush a good gumbo. It takes 2-3 hours to make a gumbo and if you try to bang one out in seven minutes you're only going to get a heap of disappointment.
The basis of a good gumbo, however, is different than the secret of a good gumbo. The basis of a good gumbo is the roux. And a successful roux requires, you guessed it, patience.
Lately I've been using Danno's recipe for a roux which is three-quarters of a cup of white flour mixed with a half cup of oil. I've been using peanut oil with good success.
In a cast iron pot over a medium heat whisk (pronounced 'Hwhisk') until smooth and cook slowly until the roux is done.
What is done?
Well, that depends on how dark you want your gumbo. A gumbo will only be as dark as the roux and there are several stages: light, blonde, peanut, light chocolate, dark chocolate and mahogany. Oh, I suppose there's "burnt," too.
A roux requires patience because you have to stir it constantly while it's cooking. No slacking off and letting it sit for a while because it will scorch and once that happens it's ruined. There is no way to fix a scorched roux except to pretend you like scorched gumbo.
There's probably a reason why we haven't seen Doritos with Extra Scorch Flavor on the shelves.
Or the McSneaker. Now with extra Scorching! Not only does it have that great Burned Tennis Shoe smell but it tastes like one too!
The bottom line is that it takes about 40 minutes to get a roux to the chocolate stage, like the gumbo in the picture.
Once the roux is ready you can add in the other ingredients in sequence: sausage and the Trinity.
The Trinity is the basis for a lot of Southern cooking: onion, celery and bell pepper. You can use any kind of onion, Spanish, yellow or white, and any kind of bell pepper, green, red, yellow or orange, depending on what kind of color combination you want in your gumbo.
After the vegetables have softened, add the stock, some spices, cover and let it simmer for 90 minutes to two hours. This is the time the gumbo works its magic, the flavors mingle and it develops character.
How do you know it's working? After an hour or so someone in the house should call out, "Hey, what's that wonderful smell?" Unless you scorched the roux in which case they're likely to say, "Aw, man, sneakers again?"
Here's the blueprint directly from Danno with modifications made by me because I didn't have some of the ingredients but I had other stuff and, anyway, gumbo is an art not a science.
Danno's Gumbo Recipe
Okra Gumbo with Chicken & Andouille Sausage
1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
3/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
4 Tbsp Creole Seasoning
1 Cup Onions, diced
1/2 Cup Red Bell Pepper, diced
1/2 Cup Celery, Diced
1 1/2 Cups Andouille Sausage, diced
3 Tbsp Garlic, chopped
1 Cup Okra, trimmed and sliced (didn't have okra)
6 Cups cold Chicken Stock (I used hot chicken stock made with Knorr Chicken Stock cubes.)
3 Fresh Bay Leaves
4 Chicken Thighs, deboned, cut into 1 inch cubes and seasoned liberally with Creole Seasoning (I used fresh shrimp, frozen bay scallops and fresh tilapia)
2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
Hot Sauce to taste
Kosher Salt to taste, if necessary
2 Tablespoons Italian Parsley, chopped
1/4 Cup Thinly Sliced Green Onions
Creole Boiled Rice (My rice cooker did the job.)
Fresh French Bread (I made corn bread, instead)
Mix your onion, celery, and bell pepper together: The Holy Trinity.
Heat the oil in a cast iron dutch oven over medium heat. Whisk in the flour to make a milk chocolate Roux
Add the Andouille, 1 Tbsp of Seasoning, and 3/4 of the Holy Trinity, cook, stirring often, for about ten minutes or until the vegetables soften. Add the cold stock, remaining seasoning, okra, remaining trinity, and Garlic.
Bring to a Boil. Bring this down to a simmer, add the thigh meat and let it go for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
(For seafood gumbo I let the sausage and Trinity cook for 90 minutes. Then I throw in pealed shrimp (B flat or C major), chopped or not. It's up to you. After 30 minutes more I add the scallops and fish because they don't need much cooking and if you overcook them they will simply fall apart.)
About 10-15 minutes before you’re ready to serve, remove the Chicken from the bone and add the meat back to the pot. Add the Worcestershire, Hot Sauce, and 1/2 of the Green Onions.
Serve with Creole Boiled Rice, crusty French Bread, and a good cold beer (I like Dixie or Abita Amber). Garnish with green onions, and the parsley.