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Creole Gumbo

Creole Gumbo
Creole Gumbo, courtesy of OKRA Magazine Editor Stephanie Jane Carter

The Treme Creole Gumbo Festival is coming up November 10-11 in Louis Armstrong Park, and with it comes the opportunity to taste some great creole gumbo. Get your palate primed with this recipe, which demonstrates in epic detail the complexity of great gumbo. We'd like some now, please! Thanks to Stephanie Jane Carter, editor of Southern Food & Beverage's OKRA magazine.

For this recipe, it makes all the difference to make your own stock.

Creole Gumbo (8-10 servings)

Ingredients
1 tablespoon salt
½ cup + 1 tablespoon peanut oil
4 ½ cups fresh okra that you’ve sliced to ¼” thick (about 3 pounds of whole okra)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 ½ cups finely diced celery
3 cups finely diced white onions
1 cup finely diced green bell pepper
½ cup sliced scallions, white and green parts
2 garlic cloves, sliced
4 cups chopped tomatoes*
8 ounce container of Louisiana claw crab meat
1 ham hock
½ tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
2 quarts homemade shrimp stock (recipe follows)
2 cups water
1 bay leaf
3 pounds medium, Louisiana shrimp with heads and shells (reserve heads and shells for stock)

To serve:
Plenty of cooked white rice
Chopped scallions
Chopped Parsley

*Use fresh, ripe tomatoes if they are in season. If not, use good quality canned tomatoes.

Directions
Place the salt in a little bowl next to the stove so that you can add it in increments. You’ll use it all by the end.

In a large, heavy bottom skillet over high heat, heat ½ cup peanut oil. Add okra and a dusting of salt. Fry until the ropey texture disappears. The okra will stick, but don’t let that scare you. Just scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon as you go. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a 6-quart pot over medium heat, make the roux by melting the butter and adding 1 tablespoon peanut oil. Sprinkle in the flour, stirring or whisking to blend it all together. Keeping the heat over medium, stir constantly, taking care not to forget about the roux sticking to the sides and bottom of the pot, until the roux is the color of a pecan.

Add the onions and some salt and increase the heat to medium high. Stir for about 1 minute. Do the same with the celery and the bell pepper.

Add the scallions, garlic, and a little more salt and cook for approximately 5 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan occasionally.

Add the tomatoes and some salt and stir until they nearly become a paste.

Add reserved okra and cook, stirring occasionally another minute.

Stir in ¼ of the crab and reserve the rest.

Add ham hock, Worcestershire Sauce, stock, water, bay leaf, and the rest of the little bowl of salt.

Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low heat.

Cook for an hour and a half.

Add the reserved crab and the deveined shrimp and cook 30 more minutes, being careful that the mixture does not boil.

Taste and adjust seasoning - adding Worcestershire, salt, or hot sauce - as you desire.

Serve over fluffy white rice and garnish with chopped scallions and parsley.

This will keep in the refrigerator for 4 days. It freezes beautifully.

Shrimp Stock (makes 2 quarts)

Ingredients
1 teaspoon peanut oil
Heads and shells from 3 pounds of shrimp (devein the shrimp and reserve them for the gumbo)
¼ cup chopped carrot
½ cup diced onion
¼ cup diced celery
2 teaspoons tomato paste
½ cup Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth
3 quarts water
2 parsley stems
5 black peppercorns
1 clove
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 whole garlic clove with skin still on it
1 bay leaf

Directions
In a 4-quart stockpot, heat oil over high heat until you begin to see a bit of vapor rise from the oil. Immediately add the shrimp heads and shells to the pot. Cook until they gain color, about 3 minutes. Stir often with a wooden spoon.

Add the carrot and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring often. Repeat with the celery and then the onion. Cook, stirring periodically, until the onion is translucent.

Add tomato paste and stir to coat the mixture in the pot. Stir for about a minute (the tomato paste will smell sweeter when it is done).

Keeping the pot over high heat, pour in Noilly Prat. With your wooden spoon, scrape any bits that have become stuck to the bottom of the pot. Allow the Noilly Prat to reduce until it is nearly dry, about 5 minutes.

Add the water and bring to a simmer.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add everything else (parsley, peppercorns, clove, thyme, garlic, and bay leaf).

Allow the stock to simmer, uncovered, for an hour and a half.

Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve. You should have two quarts of stock.


Stephanie Jane Carter


 

This recipe comes to us courtesy of Stephanie Jane Carter, Editor of Southern Food & Beverage's OKRA Magazine:

"Traditional Creole gumbos typically differ from the Cajun gumbos in the presence of okra, tomatoes, and seafood. Africans brought okra to New Orleans and, most likely, the word “gumbo” evolved from the word for okra in the Central Bantu dialect of West Africa. According to New Orleans Cuisine: Fourteen Signature Dishes and their Histories, Creoles were the first Louisianians to embrace tomatoes, and the ingredient made it into the Creole version of gumbo. Cajuns embraced wild game in their gumbos and stayed away from much seafood until the advent of refrigeration. The gumbo recipes in Lafcadio Hearns 1885 book, La Cuisine Creole, demonstrate a preference for ham, rather than andouille, in nineteenth-century New Orleans gumbos."

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