I was born a couple of blocks from the Gulf of Mexico and one of the dishes found along the entire southern coast is gumbo. It's always been one of my favorites. Gumbo can be made with wild game, chicken, turkey, duck and/or about any kind of seafood. It's kind of like chili, there are really no rules.... In this batch, I used some of my smoked sausage and a smoked thigh in there. Of course being a seafood lover, there is plenty of that too.
Here is the ingredient list, and like I said this is very flexible. I love just plain chicken gumbo too.
1/2 onion - chopped
3 stalks celery - chopped
1 bell pepper - chopped
3 or 4 cloves of garlic - chopped
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups or more of water
1 can Rotel tomatoes
sea salt to taste
picked crab meat
1 thigh -shredded
1 link smoked sausage - sliced
1 green onions - chopped
handful parsley - chopped
Here is the 1-2-3 for anyone not familiar with gumbo. You make a roux which is a 50:50 mixture of flour and either.....butter, lard, bacon grease, or oil. Heat on medium high in a heavy bottom skillet and constantly stir for 30 or 40 minutes. (The batch shown is 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of oil). If you have some bacon grease it's good to add to the oil or lard for a flavor bump. It will go from an off-white color to a caramel or darker color. Once it starts to darken, it will go fast. The darker the roux, the more flavor it will have. You MUST constantly stir or whisk it.
Have the trinity and garlic prepared before making the roux.
When the roux is ready, remove from the burner and gently add the onions (one handful at a time, this stuff is hot) watch yourself because it can splatter. Continue to stir. Then add the celery. By now the roux will be cooling a little. Add the peppers. Continue to stir, cooking the vegetables until they are tender, about 10 minutes, then add the garlic. You may need to go back on the burner during this time. Remove this mixture to a dish for cooling.
In a stockpot, heat the broth, water and tomatoes and simmer 15 minutes to blend. You can add more water than called for. (I also like to put the crab shells and a few of the shrimp shells in as well, then remove them before adding the roux, but this is optional) Spoon in roux one tablespoon at a time and dissolve. Sample the flavor as you go to get a feel for it. Simmer for about 30 minutes to an hour, add your sausage, chicken or other cooked meats along with some okra (saute the okra in a little oil and it won't be slimy) and simmer a little longer. Taste for salt and add as needed. Once the base is ready, add your raw seafood like shrimp or crawdads. Then add crab, clams or mussels last. Cook just a few minutes longer, (don't over cook the seafood) then add chopped parsley and green onions. Sprinkle with gumbo file and you are there.
Gumbo is then served over rice. The rice I used in the opening photograph is some really small grain rice from Bengal.
As an alternate to making the roux from oil, lard or bacon grease, there is a product on the market which gives a lot of the flavor without any of the fat found in a traditional roux.
Okay, okay ..... I know what you are thinking "instant roux is like instant grits or instant coffee", well yes it is. But it works and the best thing is that using it allows me to have a gumbo more often.
The following are the changes in the basic technique from above. In a stockpot, heat the broth, water and tomatoes and simmer to blend. (I put crab shells and a few of the shrimp shells in as well, then remove them later, but this is optional) Simmer about 15 minutes. Sample the flavor as you go to get a feel for it. While the stock is cooking, saute the vegetables is some oil until they are just soft, then add to the stock. Simmer a few more minutes.
Now it's time to make Tony's instant roux (this takes 3 minutes), the directions are on the can..... Over medium heat, whisk 1 cup of roux mix with 2 cups of cool water. Bring to a boil. When mixture thickens, remove from heat and stir until well mixed.
Spoon the roux into the stock a tablespoon at a time, mixing well. Since you are thickening and adding flavor, taste once or twice and watch the thickness of the stock. Once you are happy, add your sausage first, then any raw chicken and simmer this until the sausage is done and the chicken is tender. Lastly, add any smoked chicken, and the seafood, Cook just a few minutes longer, (don't over cook the seafood) then add chopped parsley and green onions. Sprinkle with gumbo file and you are there.
There is a recipe on the Tony's can where they call for mixing the roux in the same pan used for cooking the veggies. I find making the roux separately gives me more control with it.