Day 28: Feeling FAT
It's Fat Tuesday (Marti Gras!) and you know what that means: indulgence! Seemed like the perfect excuse to try making gumbo - that Creole (or Cajun) classic. I have never had gumbo and was excited to give it a whirl. After a few days of research I set forth to prepare a "light" gumbo. What basically makes a gumbo light or heavy is the amount of fat you use in your roux. Roux, apparently the essence of a good gumbo, basically consists of fat and flour, cooked slowly to a nutty brown. Apparently the more fat in your roux the easier it is to cook. The more roux in the gumbo, the thicker the stew. There are other ways to thicken your gumbo. Okra thickens a gumbo, so I decided to include okra and try to cut down on the roux a little. Additionally, a gumbo can be either Creole or Cajun style: a Creole style gumbo is made with a lighter roux and includes tomatoes, whereas Cajun gumbo (Cajun being of French Canadian descent rather than the European Creoles) uses a darker roux and no tomatoes. The last variation in gumbo is of course the meat. Traditionally gumbo includes a combination of shellfish and sausage or chicken. Seemed to me that, like minestrone or tortilla soup, it pretty much can be whatever you have on hand. So, (sigh) given all the options I opted for a gumbo with okra, Creole style, with shrimp and chicken. I generally followed this lowfat gumbo recipe from the New York Times' Mark Bittman with a little help from Paula Deen (of course). I opted for a simple 1 to 1 ratio for my roux, but tried to keep the oil content as low as possible. Because I am a meat cooking novice I went ahead and cooked the meat before hand. The chicken I bought whole and roasted (plan to use the carcass for chicken broth for French Onion soup later this week), and the shrimp I bought fresh and sauteed in a non stick skillet and cut into thirds (they were jumbo prawns). You can use the chicken fat to cook the roux, and cook the shrimp in the gumbo itself, but I opted for a more straightforward cooking method that assured thoroughly cooked meat.
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cooked
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup flour
1 onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 bell peppers (I used 1 green and 1 orange), diced
4 scallions, whiles and greens, diced and separated
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
4 cups vegetable broth (chicken would work well too)
1/4 bunch parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
In a cast iron skillet heat canola oil and butter over medium low heat until butter melts. Add flour and stir thoroughly. Cook over medium low heat, stirring often with a rubber spatula, 10 minutes or more, until the roux is darker and fragrant (smells like nuts). Set aside to cool, stirring occasionally. Heat 1/4 cup broth over medium heat and add onions, celery, scallion whites, and peppers. Cook for 5 minutes until vegetables are softened. Add garlic, thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt and cook 2 minutes more. Add roux and mix thoroughly. Cook for 5 more minutes, stirring often until all the vegetables are soft. Add tomatoes, bay leaves, and remaining broth and bring to a slow simmer. Cook for 20 minutes until all the flavors are melded. Add chicken and shrimp and cook for a few minutes more. Add parsley and scallion greens and salt and pepper to taste. Serve over rice.
5.0 yums (out of 5)! Gouter bon!