Sunday I decided to make gumbo, since I had all day to be around the house. A good gumbo takes a long time. I use a modified recipe from Southern Sideboards that my wonderful boss gave me. Southern Sideboards is a go-to cookbook for anyone. It is one of the best cookbooks I own, along with The Joy of Cooking, which my also wonderful mother-in-law gave to me. I use it all the time! Since I’m on a budget, I use crawfish tails instead of crab. I also use andouille sausage instead of cubed ham. Stan’s Country Store carries fabulous andouille sausage that is sold at the Farmer’s Market on old Highway 7. I love that store.
So, I’ll take you through the whole thing – the first part is making the roux. It took me almost 2 hours to make the roux. Here are the ingredients for “Mississippi Seafood Gumbo:”
I use jarred, minced garlic, because I’m impatient, except when it comes to a roux. Here are the stages (you can click the photo to see it larger):
Top left: at the beginning, it is grainy and blonde; Top right: 30 minutes in – the roux starts glistening and looking smooth; Bottom left: a little over 60 minutes in – the color is darker, and it continues to glisten; Bottom left: the color is coppery and the smell is “nutty,” almost as if it is burning – over 90 minutes!
I enjoy stirring a roux. It’s like a sand garden or doing laundry at a laundromat. Very zen.
Starting to add all the goods looks like this:
Put in the onions and garlic first and let brown. It smells fantastic at this point. Then add the sausage, let brown, then the okra. Don’t be afraid of the slimy okra – people who haven’t cooked with okra get put off by the texture, but trust me, it’s great. (Try it fried too, with some ketchup.) Keep all this on the stove for another hour, and the roux will coat the vegetables and the sausage and get all glisten-y and smooth. In another pot, add all the liquid ingredients and bring to a boil. I use Tabasco anytime I need hot sauce. Don’t give me any of that Texas stuff. When boiling, add the browned mixture. Simmer for 2 hours (I only let it simmer for 90 minutes because, once again, I’m impatient).
After 2 hours (or 90 minutes), add the crawfish tails and shrimp. Let simmer for 4 hours. In the last hour, add 3 or 4 whole bay leaves.
It looks like this when it’s been on there for several hours:
Serve over 2 tablespoons of rice, and… scene.
I’m originally from Tennessee, and I didn’t get a taste of Cajun cooking until I moved to Mississippi for college. I thought crawfish (which I called “crawdads”) were just little lobsters that lived in creeks and were sometimes used as bait. Now, I can’t wait for crawfish season, and I can eat an entire tray of spicy mudbugs (head and all) by myself. I don’t know if this gumbo compares favorably to a real Cajun cook, but it sure is good. It tastes good (sometimes better) the next day. The recipe makes enough for 12 people, at least, and I can’t get enough of it for leftovers. All. Week. Long. It’s that good.