11 November 2010

Gumbo & Burns

I spent this past weekend up in Seattle helping to get my mom ready for her shoulder surgery and spending some time with her and my family. Since surgery and medications are usually pretty rough for mom and I knew she wouldn't be eating anything very exciting for a few days (hello clear liquids and soft foods!), I wanted to make a special "last meal" for her. Given that our lovely fall weather has officially hit, I thought a soup would be nice, but wanted something with a little more kick, so I chose to make gumbo.

This was my first attempt with gumbo, but armed with my Cooksillustrated.com membership (thanks to my aunt Patty), I felt confident I could make it. It starts with a dark roux of vegetable oil and flour. I should really heed the warnings of my recipes. The first line of the recipe says, "Making a dark roux can be dangerous." Yes, the temperature reaches 400 degrees and higher and you are constantly stirring for 20 minutes. I did use a spoon with a long handle, but it didn't matter--I still got 3 pretty good burns. As my uncle used to tell me as I was attempting the Spanish way of making huevos fritos (fried eggs made by splashing hot oil over the top), "You wanna cook? Suck it up!" So, I did...until the pain got the best of me and I had to put my sister's hands at risk.

Luckily, in the end, all turned out well. And in re-reading this just now, I see that I shouldn't have made the shrimp stock at the same time as the roux...oops!

Simmering everything together until it gets a little thicker to hold up the rice

Add a good heap of white rice to serve, sprinkle parsley for good measure

Creole-Style Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo (www.cooksillustrated.com)
Serves 6 to 8. Published May 1, 1999.

Making a dark roux can be dangerous. The mixture reaches temperatures in excess of 400 degrees. Therefore, use a deep pot for cooking the roux and long-handled utensils for stirring it, being careful not to splash it on yourself. 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. Alternatively, you can make the stock well ahead of time and bring it back to room temperature before using it. Gumbo is traditionally served over white rice.

1 1/2 pounds small shrimp (51 to 60 count), shelled, and deveined (if desired), shells reserved
1 cup clam juice (one 8-ounce bottle)
3 1/2 cups ice water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (preferably bleached)
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 table 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
Ground black pepper

1. 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.

2. 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.)

3. 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.

4. 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 and scallions, adjust seasonings to taste with salt, ground black pepper, and cayenne; serve.

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