When you live on the Gulf Coast, you are usually just a hop, skip, and a jump away from New Orleans. Most Gulf Coast residents have a fondness for that place, and when Mardi Gras rolls around, cities and towns large and small hold their own festivities with parties and parades and balls.
Mardi Gras, for those who are unfamiliar, is historically the Catholic last hoorah just prior to Ash Wednesday, which signifies the start of the Lenten season of self-denial leading to Easter. These days, though, there are fewer Catholics and more parties. Although the word is that American Mardi Gras originated in Mobile, AL, most would concede that this six-week sequence of events, culminating in Fat Tuesday shenanigans, was perfected in New Orleans.
As much as I adore New Orleans and have visited many times, I wouldn’t be there at Mardi Gras to save my life. A friend of mine, who apparently likes crowds, described a shoulder-to-shoulder sea of people on Fat Tuesday in which a person could take their feet off the ground and yet still remain upright. No thank you. At my age, I have come to value my personal space. Not to mention, I know what New Orleans smells like during normal times. I’m not adventuresome enough to check it out during Mardi Gras.
What I will check out is their food. I’ll be cooking Cajun and Creole all month long. Which brings us to gumbo.
Here are your ingredients:
1 c flour
1 c strained bacon drippings
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
4 stalks of celery, diced
2 crushed garlic cloves
1/2 c chopped parsley
2 tsp thyme
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 bay leaves
3 c chicken stock
14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, undrained
1 lb andouille sausage, sliced
1 lb frozen sliced okra, thawed
2 lbs of medium deveined, unpeeled shrimp
1 lb sea scallops
4-5 fillets of flounder or grouper, cut into wide strips
Gumbo starts with the roux, which in my recipe consists of 1 cup strained bacon drippings and 1 cup of flour stirred in a non-stick pan with a wooden spoon. My roux sometimes takes up to 45 minutes. This is where my kids come in…
Free child labor. They learn quickly not to burn themselves. Nolan did this while I washed up some dishes. He’s a great helper.
It is important not to scorch the roux while browning it at least to the color of a dull copper penny…
To the hot roux you will add bell pepper, onion, celery, parsley, and garlic cloves. Cook over medium-low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mixture will be dry.
While that is cooking, peel the shrimp, adding the peel to a pan with enough water to cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain out the shell and reserve two cups of the shell stock. Refrigerate the shrimp.
To a large stock pot, add the roux and veggie mixture, shell stock, tomatoes, chicken stock, all seasonings, and sausage. Simmer 2 hours. Add okra. Simmer 30 minutes more, and add all seafood. Simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
Serve over a scoop of rice with Tobasco to taste and sliced baguettes.