Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Since I am from New Orleans and the daughter of an amazing cajun cook, it is only natural that I decided to attempt Gumbo early on in my cooking career. Gumbo is a stew or soup originating in Louisiana, and found across the Gulf Coast of the United States and into the U.S. South. It consists primarily of a strong stock, meat and/or shellfish, a thickener, and the vegetable "holy trinity" of celery, bell peppers, and onion. The soup is traditionally served over rice. One huge problem I encountered early on in my gumbo experience is that I am not confident that I can make a proper roux. A roux is a mixture of wheat flour and fat. It is used as a base for gravy, other sauces, soufflés, soups and stews. My mom uses a roux as a base for almost all of her traditional New Orleans fare. She would be ashamed of my lack of confidence in something she defines as the pulse of a good recipe. However, my mother's cooking style and mine differ in more ways than just the ability to make a roux. My mom, as noted above, is an amazing cook. I like to believe that I am also an amazing cook. But we are two very different cooks - I have never, ever, not even once seen my mom read from a recipe. I, on the other hand, utilize recipes almost daily and take great care to follow them to the utmost detail. So to stay true to my usual approach, I attempted to make Gumbo from a recipe found on the back of (mom, skip to the next sentence) some dark dry roux in a jar that my friend Melanie purchased for me at Target.
All in all, the gumbo turned out pretty well. I found the after taste to be a little chalky, which I am sure can be attributed to the fake roux. Despite the roux issues, the flavor was pretty enjoyable, it looked like a traditional gumbo (although a little thin) and it was a good taste of home away from home (but of course not like Mama's - not that I expected it to be)!
Gumbo (Using Ragin' Cajun famous Fixin Dark Dry Roux)
Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a 5 quart pot. In a separate skillet spray Pam & saute 1/2 cup bel peppers, 1 1/2 cups chopped onions, 4 cloves chopped garlic, & 1/2 cup chopped celery. Remove skillet from fire and add 1 cup of Ragin' Cajun Fixin's Roux (1/2 jar) to vegetables. Add this mixture to the boiling water and cook on medium for one hour. Add your meat or seafood or whatever else you've got and cook until the meat is tender. (Chicken about 1 hour - seafood takes less.) I used Andouille Sausage (that my mother in law purchased from La Place - the Andouille Capitol of the world) and chicken. Add okra for a thicker gumbo and season to taste with your favorite cajun seasoning. Serve over steaming rice. Sprinkle cut green onions on top and file' if your taste buds agree.
You will notice in this picture that we have a family tradition of eating hard boiled eggs in our gumbo. It is a family tradition that I am not willing to let die with me - so I introduced Forrest to it during this meal.