Gumbo bayou teche - shrimp and okra gumbo
This is one of my favorite gumbos. Recipe courtesy of John Folse's Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine.
The mise en place:
Clockwise from bottom right:
- 16 oz frozen okra
- 2 lbs shrimp, peeled (recipe calls for 3 but I find that 2 is plenty)
- 1.5 cups flour
- Shrimp bouillon cubes, for stock
- 1 cup oil
- 1/2 cup parsley (to be chopped)
- In the bowl--2 cups diced onion, 1 cup diced celery, 1 cup diced green pepper, 1/4 cup diced garlic
- 1 cup scallions (to be sliced)
- 2 T basil (to be chopped)
- 2 T thyme (to be chopped)
The trinity (bell pepper, onion, celery), along with the roux, is the basis for most great Cajun dishes. For simplicity, tonight I just put the trinity and garlic in my mini food processor, and it ends up like so:
I went with another quick fix and made stock from shrimp bouillon cubes. I get them from the asian market. They work fine, but of course you can make a real one with shrimp heads etc if you want. I make about 3.5 quarts of stock.
The most important part of the gumbo is the roux. This is your base. I'm using oil, but you can also use butter, of course. 1 cup oil over medium-high heat.
Whisk in the flour. Bring some elbow grease--you'll need a brisk whisk for about 10 minutes or so.
The center of your pot is most likely hotter than the edge, so be sure to work the entire area of the pan. Eventually, it'll start to thicken to an almost doughy consistency.
We're making a brown roux. I don't let it get too dark, maybe somewhere between peanut butter and milk chocolate, but you can easily let it get the color of dark chocolate if you want a nuttier gumbo--Chef Folse calls for a dark brown roux. The lighter the roux, the thicker the gumbo (I use more stock than Folse, as well).
Once you have the desired darkness, stir in your trinity and garlic and saute for about five minutes. The roux can still burn so keep stirring.
Whisk in the stock, one ladle at a time, reserving about a quart for later (or put as much as you want until you get the desired thickness).
Keep whisking to break up the clumps of roux and trinity until you get a soupy consistency. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer.
There are different opinions on how to handle the okra. Okra is a thickening agent that will give your gumbo a delicious, unique flavor. It can also make the gumbo slimy, unless you saute the okra down for a few minutes before putting it in.
The goal is to saute until there are no more gross gooey strings, like you can see in this picture:
Saute means jump!
Once the okra is done, stir it into the gumbo with 1 cup of chopped tomatoes. Some people will pooh-pooh tomatoes in gumbo, but if John Folse says it's ok then I'm ok with it too. Stick a few bay leaves in there too, along with the basil and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste. At this point, I put a teaspoon each of paprika, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and ground white pepper. You can also add creole seasoning instead of this medley.
Simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring every now and then. Put your rice on, however you do it. I use a steamer cause it's easy.
After 30 minutes, fold in 1 pound of the shrimp. Give it 15 minutes, then add the scallions and parsley.
Adjust the consistency with stock. I added another quart at this point to get the right soupy feel.
Add the other pound of shrimp, cook for about five minutes until the shrimp are pink and curled, and that's it!
Serve over white rice. You can sprinkle a little file powder or hot sauce on it if that's your thing--I'm partial to Melinda's myself.
Whatever you don't eat will freeze well for a cold winter night. Happy Mardi Gras.