I find myself thinking today that a good blog is actually quite a bit like a good New Orleans seafood gumbo. It requires a number of different skills (ingredients) as well as considerable knowledge in combining these ingredients into a coherent whole. Gumbo is definitely not a recipe for beginners. It also most certainly is not something quick and easy that one can just whip together. There is a lot of prep work– cleaning and de-veining the shrimp, chopping up the okra and all of the other vegetables. (Choosing host, platform and theme, designing a layout for visual appeal and usability.) Once you’re ready to begin cooking, the work only gets harder– your arm will literally feel as though it’s about to fall off after stirring the okra for half an hour. And then finally after all that effort comes the rewards– an utterly delicious meal you will be proud to serve to company or a compelling web site that draws visitors and conversations.
If you’re a reasonably experienced cook, my recipe for seafood gumbo below can guide you to making this classic New Orleans dish. I first published this recipe in 2009 in my review of Kit Wohl’s New Orleans Classic Gumbos And Soups. And finally today, a bit of photographic lagniappe— the picture above of seafood gumbo is from the tourist board in St. Martinville, Louisiana. The vegan gumbo in the background image is for my friend Elza who requested some vegan food porn in place of my usual pie pictures. Bon appetit!
2 lbs shrimp
crab (here in the Northwest I use one Dungeness crab. on the east coast I would use two or three blue crabs. in New Orleans I would try to get a couple of pounds of small gumbo crabs. if you can’t get fresh you can add a pound of lump crab meat at the very, very end instead)
1 cup cooking oil
1 cup white flour
2 lbs fresh okra + oil for frying
2 large onions
2 large bell peppers
2 bunches green onions
1 can tomatoes
6–10 cloves garlic
First, make the roux. Measure out your oil and your flour and heat a big soup pot on the stove on high heat. In about 5 mins when the pot is Really hot add the oil and flour all at once. WHISK! It will smoke but keep whisking and leave the heat alone. In a minute or two it will feel like your arm wants to fall off and the smoke will begin to clear. Keep your eyes on the Roux. When it looks like a hershey bar color, turn the heat to low.
Add the two pounds of peeled raw shrimp to your roux and cook over low heat for about three minutes, until shrimp pink. Remove from heat. Meanwhile, in a separate large skillet cook the okra, chopped, in a few tablespoons of oil. (I never measure this). You have to cook the okra for a long time. It will be done when it STOPS making long gummy strings, after about 45 minutes. When the okra is done, add it to the soup pot with the shrimp cooked in roux, which is set aside and not on the heat at this point.
Now, add some more oil to the skillet and fry off all the other vegetables for 5–10 minutes until lightly browned. Add the fried off vegetables to the soup pot. Add the tomatoes and garlic, both chopped. (Note i said to chop the canned tomatoes — just run your knife through them right in the can and to Chop, NOT mince, the garlic.) If you are using crab in the shell, add it to the pot along with about two quarts of water and two or three bay leaves. Simmer over low heat for about an hour, then serve over hot white rice.
Alan Jobe is the author of Walking Down The Avenue. He consults with #indie authors and entrepreneurs about social networking and self-publishing.