Friday, December 5, 2008

FOOD FRIDAY!


QUICK "GUMBO"

OK, I grant you a proper New Orleanian would blanch at this concoction, saying it doesn't deserve to be called anything like gumbo. I bow to them and put the name in quotes. It's something I've been tossing together for many years, since before I knew what a roux was. I admit I was aiming for something with the same rich and complex flavor as the real thing, but since it's the roux and it's nutty browned flour that gives authentic Gumbo its distinctive flavor, and since I was ignorant of the technique at the time, what I ended up with was a very tasty shrimp, sausage and okra stew that stands alone. It takes no time to prepare and makes a good weekday meal.

I know there's a whole community of people who can't stand okra because of its "slimy" texture. If your okra gets that way, you've overcooked it. When it simmers gently from the frozen state for only about 20 minutes, as it does here, you get all of its warm flavor and none of that stringy mess. I had always liked okra the few times my mother served it, but I got to know it very well in Ghana, where it is a staple vegetable and forms the basis of some indescribably delicious seafood stews. (The most memorable meal of my life was a seafood-okra-palm oil stew with fermented corn cakes I gorged on one day at the beach in Accra. The seafood, which included the usual shrimp and fish but also included whole crabs, scallops, mussels, snails and squid, had been swimming in the ocean not 30 minutes before I consumed it. This was at no fancy restaurant, either, but with the family of a Ghanaian who simply befriended me on the beach. We ate it right there on the sand. I can never hope to replicate that meal; this dish is a vaporous but honorable copy. At that moment I did learn, though, where gumbo comes from.)

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. pre-cooked andouille sausage (can use plain smoked sausage if andouille isn't available)
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped into bite-size pieces
3 cloves garlic (or to taste) minced
1 15-oz. can whole tomatoes with juice, crushed into large pieces
1 12-oz bag frozen cut okra
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 lb. (30-count) shrimp, peeled and de-veined

Slice sausage on the diagonal into 1/4-inch coins, and combine with chopped onion, pepper and garlic in a large saucepan. Cook until sausage is slightly browned and vegetables have softened. Add tomatoes, okra, bay leaves and oregano, bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10-15 mintues, just until okra is thawed and slightly softened. With stew continuing on a slow simmer, add shrimp and cook about 5 mintues more, or until shrimp is just opaque. Adjust salt and pepper, cover and let sit about 15 mintues.

Serve over white rice.

2 comments:

Linda - SE PA said...

Now this is a recipe I would love. I thought closer to Jumbalaya more than Gumbo... and I love Jumbalaya. A deli on Long Island used to make the greatest Jumbalaya (am I spelling this wrong?)

I like that you adapt recipes to your own style - it is what makes the good cook and I sense with you, it is all about the flavor.

So true on the Okra - true, on other veggies for those who overcook them.

Ralph said...

I had to laugh, Linda. So true on flavor. You may tell from my photos that presentation isn't my strong suit, though I do my best at the table. If it tastes good, that's what I'm about!

Jamabalaya/gumbo: looks like the only real difference is the roux, of course, and the fact that in jambalaya the rice is cooked in the sauce, paella-style, and gumbo is served over the rice. Thanks for sending me to wikipedia to learn something new!