After my assignment was due, I decided to explore uncharted boundaries within the culinary world. I was looking for a new recipe to cook, to ignite my passion in cooking, to learn a new skill, to give CY a treat… and before I realized it, within a few days, I bumped into this.
I was watching Throwdown by Bobby Flay in the Foodnetwork Channel, challenging a New Orleans native with this seafood gumbo. Inspired, I bought all the required ingredients (except one) to start my gumbo journey.
Gumbo is actually an unfamiliar word for me, I have never eaten anything named after gumbo and I don’t have any friends who know about it. Coincidentally, just a few weeks back, I remembered watching Jamie Oliver in action (American Road Trip in Asia Food Channel) with one of the legendary cook in New Orlean. In that episode, he tried his version using blue crab, king prawns and what he called the ‘holy trinity’, i.e. onions, pepper and celery to make his version of gumbo. I am sure his gumbo would be a good one, judging from the ingredients that he put in. Fast forward to a few weeks later, we watched Bobby Flay in action, I decided that I should just try making it once myself.
So what is gumbo? I guess from the 2 shows above, I roughly know there are many versions of gumbo, all originating from New Orleans, Lousiana. It consists of mainly a strong stock, meat/shellfish, a thickener and the vegetable ‘holy trinity’. One of the key ingredients has to be okra, the African plant okingumbo, from which the dish originally took its name. Traditionally, it is served with rice.
I followed Bobby Flay’s recipe as closely as possible, just that I could not find any oyster in the wet market nearby or supermarkets! How pathetic. After cooking this to my family (CY) and gave some to my staffs for tasting, I believe that I can make this soup, again and again and again… It has a thick body because of the roux (butter with flour), browny and comforting taste, yum yum!
Recipe courtesy from Bobby Flay at FoodNetwork.com Ingredients Seafood: Crispy Okra:
Recipe courtesy from Bobby Flay at FoodNetwork.com
Firstly, prepare the Shrimp Stock:
- 3 cups raw shrimp shells and tails
- 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 small carrot, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 medium celery stalk
- 6 cups water
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 medium fresh tomato, or 1/2 cup canned plum tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
In a large saucepan over high heat, heat the oil until amost smoking and saute the shrimp shells and tails, onion, carrot and celery for 5 minutes, stirring. Add the water, wine, tomato and bay leaf. Reduce to medium, partly cover, and simmer 40 minutes.
Strain though cheesecloth or a fine strainer.
Directions for the gumbo base:
Heat a medium skillet over high heat. Add the andouille and cook until golden brown on both sides. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels. Do not drain. In the same pan, cook the celery, carrots, onion, bell pepper and garlic until soft.
Melt the butter over medium heat in a large Dutch oven. Gradually add the flour, stirring occasionally. Cook the mixture (roux) until it's a light-caramel color, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the onion mixture and cook for about 3 minutes, without stirring.
Bring the stock to a boil in a large saucepan. Whisk in about 6 cups of the stock into the roux mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, add the andouille sausage and continue simmering for about 20 minutes, add more stock if the mixture is too thick. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
For the seafood:
Heat 2 tablespoon of the oil in a large saute pan, over high heat until almost smoking. Season the scallops with salt and pepper and sear the scallops, on one side, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove and set aside on a plate.
Wipe out the skillet and add the remaining olive oil. Heat over medium-high until almost smoking. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and cook until just pink, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and set aside with the scallops.
Add the scallops, shrimp, oysters and crab to the sauce and continue cooking until oysters are plump and cooked.
For the Crispy Okra:
Heat 2-inches of canola oil in a high sided saute pan over medium heat until it begins to shimmer. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
Place the cornmeal in a shallow baking dish and season with salt and pepper.
Season the okra with salt and pepper and toss in the cornmeal. Fry the okra, in batches, until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon to the baking sheet and season with salt.
Divide the seafood among 4 shallow bowls, ladle in some of the sauce and sausage and add the honey and garnish with the fried okra and chopped parsley and cilantro.