Favorite Seafood Gumbo Recipe?
I'm looking for a seafood gumbo recipe . . . I don't eat pork so no ham/sausage please! I love shrimp and okra (will okra serve as enough of a thickening agent, or will I need to make a roux as well?). I found a few general recipes, but I've never made gumbo before so any advice is welcome! Thanks!
I make gumbo quite often and though I do add okra, I still started it with roux. Not only roux acts as thickening agent, but it also adds flavor to gumbo; nutty and somewhat smoky. Personally, I think the trickiest part of making gumbo, is the roux itself. The constant stirring to prevent it to burn and the length of time to get it to the right color. Once roux part is done, everything else is pretty easy.
The other thing that I like to do is to chop the holy trinity to 2 different texture. Say, the recipe calls for 2 cups of bellpeppers. I will chop 1 cup of it very very finely. It's a personal taste thing, I guess. :) By having half amount of the holy trinity finely chopped, it gives extra 'weight' and thickness to gumbo. I also love the small specks it creates.
Happy Gumbo Cooking!
ceciel - I do the same thing with the veggies, as my wife doesn't like all of the vegetables cooked to mush.
iheart - start off slow and simple. It will take twenty gumbos, at least, to perfect your own recipe. Don't try and cook the roux too dark, use stock instead of water, and make sure that your stock is hot when you add to the roux. Use the vegetables to hydrate the roux first before adding the stock. Use a cast iron pan for the roux.
Emeril Lagasse has a Shrimp and Okra Gumbo recipe in his "Louisiana Real and Rustic" cookbook, that uses okra as a thickener. I made it a couple of weeks ago, and it was quite good. As soon as I can find some more small okra I'll make it again. The recipe calls for 2 pounds of it, and I had to go to 4 sources before I finally found some that actually looked good enough to eat.
I just made my annual end-of-the-summer gumbo yesterday, as fresh okra is affordable now in the farmers' markets here in NY. Go slow with the roux -- medium low heat -- it will take longer, but there's less chance of burning it. Don't leave it un-stirred for more than a minute or two at a time. While it's cooking, you can do all of your slicing and dicing. I make mine with chicken, sausage, and seafood. I boil up the chicken the day before (which makes it easier to remove the fat) and use that stock and the shredded meat.
Tossing my two cents in here. You've found some recipes to start and you should follow them at first. There is a bit of an art to making gumbo and it's best to start with proven recipes until you learn enough to start playing around. When I decided to try my hand at gumbo, I picked up Justin Wilson's Homegrown Louisiana Cookin'. I highly recommend this book for many different reasons. Simple recipes, simple instructions and pictures of a roux during different stages. This is very helpful for your first time, since you don't know what to look for. I started with his Andouille Sausage and Rabbit Gumbo recipe since it's pretty uncomplicated.
The best gumbo starts with homemade stock. Prepare your own seafood stock by using bones/shells, onions, celery and various herbs, simmer for about 30 minutes and strain well. I make a boat load of stock with crab leg shells and shrimp shells that I save up, freezing in in gumbo recipe increments.
Make sure you have ALL your ingredients prepped and ready to go, placing meats in the fridge. This way, you're not caught chopping onions instead of watching your roux. The pan doesn't matter too much but you want a pan that will heat evenly so you don't risk burning the roux. Go slow, stir often and watch your color changes carefully. At first, it doesn't look like much is happening; the roux goes from blonde to lightly toasted pretty slow. Once the oil and flour are hot, things happen pretty fast and it doesn't take much to burn it. Roux is like lava; it will burn you.....BAD. Keep your hands away from the roux.
Stir frequently in the beginning with almost constant stirring as it darkens up. Use a wooden spoon. Don't use metal unless you've got a heat shield for your hand. Oil and flour are relatively inexpensive so I recommend experimenting. Take your time and watch how the colors change; you'll get better with practice. A darker roux (think milk chocolate) will add a nice smoky/nutty flavor. When the roux is at the color you want, add the trinity one ingredient at a time, stirring well and cooking a bit between each addition. I do onions, peppers (or carrots, since I'm allergic to peppers), celery in that order. Spices follow for a brief few minutes and then slowly add the stock one cup at a time, stirring well to make sure the roux is incorporated. At some point, it might look like the roux is separating. Keep stirring and adding stock. It will meld again.
If you don't use okra, you can pass file powder at the table for additional thickening. Do not add file powder to the whole pot. Both are personal choices, IMHO.
My first roux took 75 minutes (yes, I timed it) and my gumbo was really good. I've got it down to less than 15 minutes now for a really dark roux and people tell me I make the best gumbo they've ever had. Gumbo is what ever you want it to be; okra or not, sausage or not. You can add anything you like; just make it good!
I'm planning a gumbo party this weekend and have a question - if you use okra do you also include file, I've seen some recipes that call for both, some that call for just okra and some that call for just file.
I'm guessing it's a matter of personal taste so I'm looking forward to hearing CH's opinions.
If you're not an experienced roux'er you might want to check out Alton Brown's oven baked method: