Home Food DigiBites: Forget The Headlines – Let’s Gumbo!

DigiBites: Forget The Headlines – Let’s Gumbo!

Our enthusiastic travelers from 2019 – representing Moraga, Lafayette, Danville and San Jose – getting in the Mardi Gras spirit! Photo: Epicurean Exchange

Mardi Gras in the 24/680!
I have countless friends in New Orleans. I can’t get a hold of anyone because they are celebrating – yet again – the coming of Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras)! The party starts early and next Wednesday (Ash Wednesday) they are in recovery! And then, Epicurean Exchange Culinary Travel arrives on Sunday to begin our week in the fascinating city!

Chef Charlie

In anticipation of Mardi Gras, I present my version of Gumbo. We are holding 2 classes to learn to make this classic dish – Tuesday, February 25 at 6:30 PM and again on Thursday, February 27 at 10:30 AM. On the menu: Sazerac Cocktails, Gumbo, Red Beans and Rice, Braised Collard Greens and Pecan-Brown Sugar Bread Pudding. Contact Chef Charlie directly to register 925-368-4181.

Also, if you would like to join us for our next NOLA tour, March 1 – 8, 2021, see details here.

Gumbo: West African in origin, gumbos are in a class of their own – neither soup nor stew. Gumbos are made with a roux and the trinity, and can include a range of other ingredients, including seafood, chicken and andouille sausage. Gumbos are thickened with either okra or file powder.

Trinity: This refers to onions, green bell pepper and celery, the three “holy” vegetables used in as a base in nearly every savory Cajun and Creole dish. When garlic is added to a trinity, it is referred to as the Pope. The typical proportion of a trinity is two-parts onions, one-part green bell pepper and 1⁄2-part celery. “Mirepoix” is the French term used to describe these vegetables, but instead of green bell peppers, carrots are used. This variation, using peppers, is necessary due to the fact that carrots are not grown in south Louisiana due to excessive ground water. And, for the same reason why burials are above ground in crypts in the local cemeteries!

Shrimp: the best source I have found for wild, line-caught Gulf Shrimp is at Whole Foods – 2 pound bag, head-off, unpeeled frozen for $22. You want them unpeeled to use the shells for making your shrimp stock.

Okra: Suggest frozen-cut product in the freezer section.
Andouille Sausage: recommend Silva brand available at Whole Foods.
Serving: Serve with the Red Beans and Rice recipe I posted earlier!
Happy Mardi Gras from Chef Charlie and the Epicurean Exchange Culinary Travel Team!

Shrimp and Okra Gumbo (served over red beans and rice). Photo: Epicurean Exchange

Creole Shrimp and Okra Gumbo

2 pounds fresh or frozen 40 – 50 count shrimp (unpeeled)

3 quarts water

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 cups diced Andouille sausage

1 – 12 ounce bag cut frozen okra

2/3 cups canola oil

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 medium onions, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 green pepper, cut into 1/2-inch dice

2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 – 15 ounce can diced tomatoes

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
•     Peel and de-vein the shrimp, and set aside, covered, in the refrigerator. Rinse the shrimp shells and place in a non-reactive stockpot with 2 quarts of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes to make the stock. Strain; discard the shells and set the stock aside.

•     In a heavy-bottomed skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the sausage and sauté over medium-high heat for 5 minutes until browned. Remove the sausage from the pan, set aside, and repeat with the okra, cooking for 10 – 15 minutes or until the “ropiness” is gone.
•     Make the roux: Place the 2/3 cup oil in a large (8 quart) heavy bottomed non-reactive Dutch oven. Add the flour and, over medium-high heat, make a dark brown roux (this will take time).   As soon as the proper color is achieved, add the onions, bell pepper, celery and garlic. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender. During this process, allow the vegetables to  stick to the bottom of the pan a bit, then scrape the bottom with a wooden spatula. This allows some of the natural sugars in the onion the caramelize, rendering a greater depth of flavor.

•     When the vegetables are tender, add the tomatoes, bay leaves, the three peppers and salt. Cook for 10 minutes, repeating the stick and scrape process with the tomatoes. Add the cooked okra and cook for 10 minutes more. Add 3 cups of the shrimp stock. Stirring constantly, bring the pot to a boil. Lower the heat, partially cover and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. If the gumbo appears too thick, add more stock to adjust. Add salt to taste and adjust the pepper. Add the peeled shrimp, return to a boil, and simmer until the shrimp are just firm, about 5 minutes.

•     Serve in large bowls over steamed rice.
Serves 6 – 8 

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