I’m Walkin’ To New Orleans Gumbo
It was one of those days. I had to get to work early with barely enough time to grab a latte and a scone. The morning passed into the afternoon and I became aware of a deep gnawing in my stomach, I needed food and I needed it now. There was a little Cajun cafe around the corner with a gumbo so delicious it creates fantasies about catching the next flight to New Orleans. I could run in, grab a bowl and be back at work in minutes. Of course, the line was torturously long and no one seemed to have the same impatience that I did. A southern spirit seemed to pervade the crowd. Maybe it was the heat and humidity of the day that inspired the slower mood, maybe it was the anticipation of the New Orleans cuisine, but my twitchy nervousness to get in, get out and rush back to work seemed decidedly out of place. I took a breath and inhaled the spicy savory aromas, settled into the blues music playing in the background and waited my turn.
“I’M WALKIN’ TO NEW ORLEANS” GUMBO
The key to a great roux is to be careful about the temperature of the stock when you add it to the roues
Add the roux to room-temperature fish stock (made from shrimp and clam juice) to prevent separating.
One secret to smooth gumbo is adding shrimp stock that is neither too hot nor too cold. For a stock that is at the right temperature when the roux is done, start preparing it before the vegetables and other ingredients, strain it, and then give it a head start on cooling by immediately adding ice water and clam juice. So that your constant stirring of the roux will not be interrupted, start the roux only after you’ve made the stock.
A long-handled, straight-edged wooden spatula is best for stirring the roux. Be sure to scrape the pan bottom and reach into the corners to help avoid burning. The cooking roux will have a distinctive toasty, nutty aroma. If it smells scorched or acrid, or if there are black flecks in the roux, it has burned.
1 cup clam juice (one 8-ounce bottle)
3 1/2 cups ice water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup unbleached flour
2 medium onions , chopped fine
1 medium red bell pepper , chopped fine
1 medium rib celery , chopped fine
6 medium cloves garlic , minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
3/4 pound smoked sausage , such as andouille or kielbasa, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
4 medium scallions , white and green parts, sliced thin
1 1/2 teaspoons filé powder
freshly ground black pepper
Bring reserved shrimp shells and 4 1/2 cups water to boil in stockpot or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 20 minutes. Strain stock and add clam juice and ice water (you should have about 2 quarts of tepid stock, 100 to 110 degrees); discard shells. Set stock mixture aside.
Heat oil in Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed sauce-pan over medium-high heat until it registers 200 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and stir in flour gradually with wooden spatula or spoon, working out any small lumps. Continue stirring constantly, reaching into corners of pan, until mixture has a toasty aroma and is deep reddish brown, about the color of an old copper penny or between the colors of milk chocolate and dark chocolate, about 20 minutes. (The roux will thin as it cooks; if it begins to smoke, remove from heat and stir constantly to cool slightly.)
Add onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, thyme, salt, and cayenne; cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables soften, 8 to 10 minutes. Add 1 quart reserved stock mixture in slow, steady stream, stirring vigorously. Stir in remaining quart stock mixture. Increase heat to high; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, skim off foam on surface, add bay leaves, and simmer uncovered, skimming foam as it rises to the surface, about 30 minutes.
Stir in sausage; continue simmering to blend flavors, about 30 minutes longer. Stir in shrimp; simmer until cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Off heat, stir in parsley, scallions, and filé powder. Let rest until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste with salt, ground black pepper, and cayenne; serve.