During the DC snowstorm of 2009, I attended a gumbo-white elephant party near U St. I have to be honest, I was skeptical of the “famous gumbo” that the party invite touted – kind of like when people say they have a “famous chili” recipe and really it tastes like most people’s chili because really what can you do to chili?
Anywho, the gumbo was amazing and haunted me for weeks. I craved it and even ordered the gumbo special at a restaurant hoping to relive the experience, but it just wasn’t the same. Okra has looked so sad in the market lately; I know it is not its season, but my partner brought some home the other day. I knew it was a sign, and I began to hatch my plan for a seafood gumbo. We had it last night for dinner, and I can tell you that it is haunting me again.
Seafood gumbo with Soy-rizo soysage
1/4 vegetable oil
1/4 cup flour
1 large onion, diced
5 ribs celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 lb okra, stems and tips trimmed, sliced into 1/4″ rounds
1 lb spicy soy-rizo sausage, or other spicy sausage (I know your supposed to use andouille, but you gotta take what you can get)
4 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup curly parsley, minced
1 teaspoon (or more) cayeanne pepper
1 teaspoon black or white pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon paprika
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
4 cups broth
2 lbs fish, diced (I used cod)
2 lbs shrimp, peeled and cut in half crosswise (for ease of eating)
Other seafood (optional), such as crab or calamari
The roux: I know everyone says that gumbo is all about the roux, but don’t worry, it’s not hard. I used vegetable oil and flour, since this gumbo didn’t have meat sausage. If you are using “real” meat, you can use the fat from that for the roux. Heat the oil in a very heavy bottomed pot over medium heat; whisk in the flour. Keep stiring to prevent the flour from burning until the roux begins to smell toasty and becomes a dark brown (some say “a shade darker than peanut butter”). I can tell you that the first time I did this, it just felt wrong. I have not made another recipe that calls for such a dark roux; some folks even cook their roux to the color of coffee. It did smell very tasty though.
Once the roux is a dark shade (or you get tired of stiring, about 15 minutes or so), add the diced veggies and stir to combine. The roux will stick to the veggies, and it will seem like it’s all going to be a big mess. Don’t worry, it will work out. Once the veggies have begun to brown, add the sliced soysage, garlic, and spices. (Side note: I have seen many recipes that just call for “cajun spice mix”, which I did not have. The only problem with using this (in my opinion) is that it almost always includes onion and garlic powder and sometimes salt. I think that dried onion and garlic powder have a distinct, unpleasant taste, so I avoid those, and spice mixes with salt added make seasoning difficult. Sometimes a dish needs more spice, but not more salt.) Stir to combine and let cook for several minutes. Add the tomatoes and broth, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Bring the gumbo to a simmer, add salt to taste. Let it simmer until the flavors have blended and the veggies are tender.
When you are about ready to eat, add the seafood. Return the gumbo to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. The seafood should not take long at all to cook through, and you don’t want to overcook it. Adjust the salt if needed and serve with a sprinkling of parsley. Gumbo is traditionally served with long grain white rice, but I will admit that we ate it with leftover naan 🙂