To commemorate the series premiere of HBO’s Treme, I thought it would be a good idea to try my hand at Louisiana cuisine, opting for the classic shrimp gumbo. I knew several things going into this dish which I will outline accordingly.
- This would take some time because all good dishes take some time. I would have to start early.
- I don’t have a lot of experience cooking Southern food, but I do know that the color of the roux is very important. It will take time to develop a deliciously dark base – much like my last Mexican vacation.
- As a principle of My Kitchen Moovement, I try and do everything from scratch. That means making a shrimp stock.
- I would follow Alton Brown’s recipe because he employs an excellent idea of baking the roux instead of standing over the stove top stirring the pot for 90 minutes.
- I already had all of the ingredients including shrimp with heads on, minus file powder.
- I thought I could be successful with this because I had all day on a rainy Sunday to make it. However, I was tired and sore in many ways.
I went wine tasting on Saturday and did a couple of “out-of-character” things, namely drinking entirely too much. While I don’t remember any of the wines I liked, I do recall waxing lushly at how certain wines had earthy undertones and others had aromas of freshly cut grass. Overall, I think I had too many varietals and all the wine seemed similar. I know, this is very unsophisticated.
Also, I happily volunteered to carry a case of wine home for a friend. This exhausted me beyond belief and when I got home I passed out on the floor in front of our guests. I think I started to snore. I hope I didn’t fart. How embarrassing.
Thirty minutes later I awoke and decided I needed a slice of pizza. Upon returning from the pizza shop, I tripped up the stairs of our building lobby, flinging the slice of pizza out of the box, while getting a vicious carpet burn on my chin and simultaneously slamming my thigh into the stair. I now have a huge bruise above my right knee and I don’t bruise easily. So, with that said, I still attempted to make this dish the next day.
One thing I want to underscore about this recipe is that the shrimp stock is stronger in aroma than any other stock I have made. It really carries a punch in the olfactory department, so be prepared. My neighbors are giving me strange glances, because of either 1) the fishy aroma in the building or 2) the pizza in the hallway.
Below are Alton’s directions verbatim from the Food Network site. The only thing I did differently was that I used a chicken andouille, and I didn’t use okra or file powder as thickening agents. If you have these ingredients in your pantry I would use them. I also added one tablespoon of Cajun seasoning to give it a little more flavor.
- 4 ounces vegetable oil
- 4 ounces all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 pounds raw, whole, head-on medium-sized (31-50 count) shrimp
- 2 quarts water
- 1 cup diced onion
- 1/2 cup diced celery
- 1/2 cup diced green peppers
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1/2 cup peeled, seeded and chopped tomato
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and browned
- 1 tablespoon file powder
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Place the vegetable oil and flour into a 5 to 6-quart cast iron Dutch oven and whisk together to combine. Place on the middle shelf of the oven, uncovered, and bake for 1 1/2 hours, whisking 2 to 3 times throughout the cooking process.
- While the roux is baking, de-head, peel and devein the shrimp. Place the shrimp in a bowl and set in the refrigerator. Place the heads and shells in a 4-quart saucepan along with the 2 quarts of water, set over high heat and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour or until the liquid has reduced to 1-quart. Remove from the heat and strain the liquid into a container, discarding the solids.
- Once the roux is done, carefully remove it from the oven and set over medium-high heat.
- Gently add the onions, celery, green peppers and garlic and cook, moving constantly for 7 to 8 minutes or until the onions begin to turn translucent.
- Add the tomatoes, salt, black pepper, thyme, cayenne pepper, and bay leaves and stir to combine. Gradually add the shrimp broth while whisking continually. Decrease the heat to low, cover and cook for 35 minutes.
- Turn off the heat, add the shrimp and sausage and stir to combine. Add the file powder while stirring constantly. Cover and allow to sit for 10 minutes prior to serving. Serve over rice.