Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Marvin Woods' Roux, Creole Sauce and Seafood Gumbo

With Mardi Gras this past Tuesday, Lent is upon us, and thoughts turn to the cuisine of New Orleans. Last year I made a delicious ham and shrimp jambalaya, but this year building on my success with a turkey gumbo the day after Thanksgiving that my family literally could not wait for me to finish before they started dipping spoons in for a taste, it was gonna be gumbo. Gumbo is a delicious stew with no hard and fast rules beyond whether one chooses okra (I found some that I had frozen in my freezer) or file powder (ground sassafras leaves) as a thickener in addition to the required roux. Like choucroute, gumbo is great for using sausage, poultry and leftover meats, and like paella it's great for combining sausage and seafood, though poultry could also be a welcome addition. I knew that I would be making a seafood gumbo with andouille sausage and I wanted to serve it with some New Orleans beer that I found at Bassin's MacArthur Beverages, a full service liquor store on my way home from work.

Making gumbo Marvin Woods' way requires some preliminary steps like making roux and the creole sauce, but those steps can be done well in advance. I made my roux and creole sauce on a Sunday and then made the gumbo for dinner on Thursday, but the dish could easily be started and finished in a few hours. Non-southerners tend to balk at the slime factor associated with okra (which makes it a natural thickener), so I used okra in the sauce and served some homemade spicy pickled okra as a garnish on the side with the final dish.

The secret to the success of this gumbo is the creole sauce, which though uncomplicated to prepare, does have a lot of ingredients and you'll note that most of the vegetable and herb ingredients in the sauce are again used in the gumbo. The recipe I followed is from Woods' The New Low-Country Cooking, which is full of so many delicious southern preparations. I preferred Woods' recipe to any I've seen including the one offered by one of New Orleans' biggest proponents, Emeril Legasse in one of his cookbooks. I also love making the roux in the oven, completely eliminating having to stand over it stirring as the roux progresses from blonde to nutty brown. This step I completed while making Sunday breakfast. If you decide to make this recipe in a single day, you'll need about double the amounts of the vegetables and herbs called for in the creole sauce, which will save a bit of time prepping if you cut it all up at once.

Seafood Gumbo
Adapted from The New Low-Country Cooking by Marvin Woods

Makes about 1 1/4 cups

This recipe will make twice as much roux as needed for the gumbo. The leftover amount can be refrigerated for up to a month and is an excellent base for making smothered green beans and potatoes.

2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat until it starts to turn a light brown, keeping an eye on it so that it doesn't burn. Whisk in the flour, combining it with the butter until there are no lumps. Place the skillet in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes checking it every 15 minutes or so until the roux turns the color of peanut butter.

Creole Sauce:
Makes about 3 quarts, which is twice the amount needed for the gumbo

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sliced okra (fresh or frozen), about 3/4 pound
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 white onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup fresh or frozen corn [I used half a can]

2 1/2 quarts vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup brown roux
1 cup canned whole plum tomatoes [I used a small can of diced tomatoes]
2 tablespoons hot sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh sage
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon Thai curry paste or garlic chili sauce
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a 6 to 8 quart heavy-bottomed stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the vegetables (celery through corn) and cook until softened, stirring occasionally for 5 to 7 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a slow boil.
  2. When the liquid is boiling, remove about a cup and mix it with the roux, forming a smooth paste. Whisk the roux mixture back into the pot of simmering vegetables. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes, hot sauce, herbs, chili powder, cayenne, chili paste, and black pepper and simmer for 15 minutes, reducing the liquid somewhat. Taste and check the seasonings, adding more salt and pepper as necessary. Using a handheld blender, puree the sauce in the pot (or transfer in batches to a blender or food processor). Use the sauce immediately or cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 7 days, or freeze for up to two months.
Seafood Gumbo:
Serves 6 to 8

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 links of andouille, about 12 ounces [my addition]
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped [I was out of onion and used 3 leeks]
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 to 3 sliced serranos, finely chopped

1 cup fresh or frozen corn [I used half a can]
1 1/2 cups sliced okra (fresh or frozen), about 3/4 pound
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoons fresh rosemary
1 tablespoons fresh sage

6 cups creole sauce, about half of the above recipe
1 pound striped bass cut into 1 inch pieces [I used tilapia]
1/2 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded [we love mussels so I used 1 1/2 pounds, especially as I omitted the crabmeat]
1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 pound crabmeat, picked over
salt and pepper to taste
steamed rice

In an 8 quart stockpot, heat the oil over medium high heat. Cook the andouille sausage until browned on one side and turn to brown the other side, about 8 minutes in total. Remove the sausage to a plate and reserve. Add the celery, onion, and peppers and cook until softened about 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and stir in the corn, okra, and herbs, cooking another 5 minutes. Add in all the seafood and stir gently, cooking until the shrimp has just turned pink. Pour in about 6 cups of the creole sauce and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile slice the sausage links diagonally into 4 or 5 pieces and add to the gumbo. Serve the gumbo over steamed rice, perhaps with your favorite hot sauce on the side.

1 comment:

  1. I revisited this recipe most recently to do a vegan version for a gathering of friends to watch the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver Games. Was quite pleased to learn that roux can be made successfully with vegetable oil in place of the butter. After that it was just a matter of sauteing veggies (I used the bit of oil that separated from the browned flour) and seasoning it all up! Seracha makes an excellent addition as one of the types of heat I used (plus cayenne, hot cajun, tobasco, and chipotle in adobo).


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