Wednesday, September 12, 2007
The mystery of gumbo
Until yesterday, I'd never eaten gumbo. Nor had I made it. I think I haven't eaten it because my aversion and allergy to bell peppers puts a lot of cajun cooking out of reach for me.
But it is Dave's birthday, and he loves gumbo. And I did just see it prepared on "Good Eats." And I had a quart of crab stock in the freezer, and okra is in season around here. I reasoned that I could use a poblano chile in place of green bell pepper, and get a passable facsimile of gumbo. So I decided it was worth a try.
One thing I do when cooking something new or using a new ingredient is a literature search. I comb through my cookbook collection and the Internet for a set of recipes that seem to be what I'm try to get to. With gumbo I discovered that there are as many different gumbos as grains of rice in the pot! Lots of recipes that don't use okra, but since "gumbo" is derived from the West African word for okra, I decided that okra needed to be part of my recipe. So that narrowed things down some.
For the roux, the oven method seemed the most foolproof, and it worked perfectly. For the sausage, I had made some andouille-flavored sausage (using smoked paprika for the smokiness) and cooked it in small balls the day before, and I used that. The seafood was frozen large shrimp.
I didn't want slimy okra, and I found a technique that calls for sauteing the sliced okra until the slime is all gone. So I did that and just added the cooked okra to my pot. The file powder went in at the end, and it sat for a few minutes to make sure all the flavors were melded.
One challenge when you're cooking something that you've never eaten is that you don't have a taste memory to compare with. So since Dave has eaten a lot of gumbo, I used him a lot. Eventually he proclaimed it good, and we wolfed it down with steamed white rice.
Not bad for a first try, even if I do say so myself!
Later today we tackle foie gras...yum....