Wednesday, January 15, 2014
The Rue to Roux
Sure, I could have said, "The Road to Roux," but what fun would that be! After all, I was a court reporter for 14 years and words are what we do! Plus, the mischievous side of me compels me to play with words. My family won't play Scrabble with me. They are just no fun. Why wouldn't they all want to play a game with someone who inevitably will win? Wouldn't you?
Anywho, this isn't about Scrabble. No, my friends, this is about Gumbo. And the road to getting it right. Now, this isn't a throw it all in the pot kind of dish and dinner is ready. This is a carefully planned and thought out dish. This is a wait all day for dish. This, my friends, is a masterpiece and so worth the wait. This is something you want to take your time with, something you want to nuture, something you need to make.
So what is the rue to roux? More importantly, do you know the way to San Jose? Oh, wait. Wrong state. You need to take a mental trip to Louisiana. Where seafood is fresh. Where culture is abundant. Where longstanding traditions rich in a varied culture abound. You see, you need to make your own stock. You need to blend your own seasonings. You need to make your own roux. What is roux, you ask? It's a thickener. It's a slow process of cooking flour in oil until it turns a rich, dark coppery color. It then thickens and flavors the dish. Some people use what's called gumbo file (pronouned fee-lay), which are ground sassafras leaves, to thicken their gumbo. I've personally never used it. I've always made a roux and used okra, which when cooked becomes a thickener in and of itself.
The key here for the stock is to save shrimp shells. Throw them in a bag in the freezer and save them for when you want to make seafood stock. It really adds a flavor element that is needed for gumbo. And use a good quality sausage. Andouille is generally what is used for gumbo, so find a good one. You will be amazed at how a little extra work makes such a spectacular dish.
Laissez les bon temps rouler!
FOR THE STOCK:
Shrimp shells from 1 lb shrimp
10 C water
1 onion, rough chopped (you can even leave the skins on)
2 carrots, rough chopped
2 stalks celery, rough chopped
1 bulb garlic, smashed (skins are okay)
1 green bell pepper, rough chopped
1 T Creole Seasoning
4 bay leaves
FOR THE ROUX:
1 C vegetable oil
1 1/4 C flour
FOR THE GUMBO:
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined (use the shells for the stock above)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 lb crawfish tails
1 lb andouille sausage, sliced (or your favorite)
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 lb fresh or frozen okra, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T tomato paste
8 C seafood stock
Salt & pepper, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Cooked rice, for serving
Bring all of the stock ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat slightly and cook, while still bubbling, for at least 30 minutes to an hour. Strain and reserve the liquid.
For the roux, combine the oil and flour in a large pot or dutch oven. Cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly, about 15 to 20 minutes and until the mixture is about the color of a copper penny or caramel. You can do this in advance and remove it from the heat.
In a large skillet, cook the onion, bell pepper, and celery in vegetable oil until tender. Add in the chicken and cook until almost done, 4-5 minutes. Add in the sliced sausage and brown. Remove this from the heat.
If you cooked your roux in advance, bring it back up to medium high heat and add the chicken, veggie and sausage mixture to the roux. Add in the 8 cups of seafood stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat slightly and add in the okra and garlic. When the broth starts thickening, add in the tomato paste and the shrimp. Cook for a few minutes until shrimp is pink all the way through and done. Stir in the crawfish tails to heat. Adjust seasonings with salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. Remove from heat and serve over rice.