Let The Good Times Roll....Gumbo!

Monday, January 12, 2015

We traveled to New Orleans this past summer.  It was a bit of a side trip on a trip to Louisiana to pick up a duck boat.  You can probably fill in the blanks on that one.  In short, not the vacation I thought we were doing.

But in an effort to make the most of this "needed" trip, we decided to check out New Orleans.  None of us had ever been and of course it seemed like the natural stop since we were so close.  It wasn't what we expected.  To be fair...it was hot, we were traveling with a 14 week old lab puppy.  Did I mention it was hot?

We found our way to the French Quarter (by way of a few pretty sketchy side streets).  I think we were all surprised that it didn't quite match what we had seen on TV and in magazines.  Maybe I was expecting the Disney version of the French Quarter.  We did a quick walking tour of the area (did I mention it was hot?) and as lunchtime approached we looked for a place to eat that would allow puppies. It is fair to say that none of the eateries with air conditioning allowed puppies.  We found the French Quarter Café and sat at a table along the sidewalk.  Wanting to experience the flavors of New Orleans we all picked something unique that we had never tried.  Gumbo was a must. 

The gumbo was good.  A little bit of everything thrown together that ended up successful. We had gyros and red beans and rice I think.  It was all good.  I imagine all of the food in New Orleans is good.  The best part of lunch was the live band that played all of the sounds of New Orleans.  A hodgepodge group of guys that came together in this little sidewalk band made some awesome music and helped us feel like we had really experienced N.O.

From that trip, we learned that we like gumbo.  Of  course it wasn't in my recipe file, but as the New Year rolled in it seemed like the perfect recipe to break in my new stockpot that I had received from our girls for Christmas.  A special recipe for a special inauguration.

I looked all over for gumbo recipes and ended up combining three different recipes.  Here is the general recipe that I used.  Turn on some zydeco music and give it a try on one of these cold winter days.

Gumbo Recipe:

1 cup butter, plus 1 tablespoon
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup chopped yellow onion chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 medium chopped green pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bag cut up frozen okra
3 cups of chicken stock
1 bottle (2 cups) bottled clam juice
2 can diced tomatoes with juice
3 bay leaves
1 tbs dried parsley flakes
1 tbs Cajun season
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1 tsp dried basil leaves
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tbs Old Bay Seasoning
1 1/2 cups cooked Andouille sausage, sliced diagonally
1 cup diced smoked ham
2 lbs shrimp, cleaned and de-veined
cooked white rice for serving

In a large heavy saucepan, over low heat, melt 1 cup of the butter.  Add the flour and cook on low heat until the roux is dark brown; about 30-45 minutes, stirring constantly. * Cook's Note: Brown does not mean burnt; if you burn the roux you have to throw it out and start over again. Friends at this point I recommend taking your tablet in the kitchen, or turning on your kitchen tv and watching one of those episodes you DVRd.  This step is painstakingly slow.

Add the onions, celery, peppers and garlic and sauté until translucent. Mix in the okra and the remaining ingredients, including the remaining tablespoon of butter and simmer over medium-low heat until thick, about 1 hour.  (I waited until about 5 minutes before serving to add the shrimp).

Before serving remove the bay leaves. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve over rice.

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