There must be a gazillion gumbo recipes out there, but this one actually becomes the ultimate in comfort food after a day of rattin’ the streets at Mardi Gras. The nice thing about it, though, is you can make it a day or two in advance before the nightly parades begin and stash it away in the refrigerator until you’re ready to reheat it for a hearty, hot, post-parade meal. By the way, I call it “Gumbo Rex” because it truly is a dish good enough to serve to the king of Mardi Gras
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup all purpose flour
1-1/2 pounds country sausage, precooked
2 cups onions, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 medium bell pepper, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
½ pound mushrooms, chopped
2 quarts heavy chicken stock
2 quarts heavy shrimp stock
2 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
14 small blue crabs, cleaned and halved
2 pounds medium shrimp, cut in chunks
2 pounds crawfish tails with fat
3 teaspoons seafood seasoning
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
Salt and black pepper to taste
6-8 cups steamed rice
½ cup parsley for garnish
First. . .you make a roux! Take a heavy-bottom stockpot, combine the quarter-cup each of oil and flour, and whisk them together over medium-high heat until the flour turns a rich dark brown—but don’t let it scorch! This is one of those culinary processes that requires your constant attention. Do not leave the pot! Do not talk on the phone! Do not go to the bathroom! Just keep whisking "figure eights" into the hot roux until you get the color you’re looking for!!
Then, when the roux is "right," drop in the sausage, the onions, the celery, the bell pepper, the garlic, and the mushrooms and uniformly stir everything together. Then remove the pot from the fire. The residual heat will soften the vegetables and stop the roux from browning. This should take about 10 minutes. It is important that you not stir in the vegetables until you have the roux color you want.
Next, it’s time to start building "gumbo."
With the pot back on the stovetop, one at a time pour in both the chicken stock and the shrimp stock. Then turn the fire back on (set to about medium-high) and work the broths into the roux and vegetable base. If you did everything right up to this point, the gumbo base should not be watery, but it should not be thick and pasty either. Now pour in the Kitchen Bouquet and add in the bay leaves, the red pepper flakes, and the cracked crab pieces.
Once again, stir everything together. Then reduce the fire to medium-low and simmer the crabs for about 20-25 minutes or so. This is also the time when you should adjust the liquid in the gumbo. If the roux has thickened the base too much, simply add extra chicken stock to lighten it up; if the roux hasn’t thickened the base enough, just leave the cover off the pot and allow some of the stock to evaporate.
At this point, add the remaining ingredients to the pot—the shrimp, the crawfish tails, the seafood seasoning, and the green onions. Then after stirring everything one more time, put the lid on the pot and simmer the gumbo on a low fire for about 15-20 minutes more. About five minutes before you’re ready to serve, re-season the mixture with salt and black pepper to taste.
When you’re ready to eat, generously ladle the gumbo into deep bowls filled with hot, steamed rice. All that’s left is to garnish each serving with minced parsley and a sprinkling of ground file. Of course, to my way of thinking, you should also have a stack of buttered crackers waiting on the side.
1. It's best to use "fresh" sausage (as opposed to pre-smoked sausage) when making this gumbo. To precook the sausage, place the links into a baking pan, pour about a cup of water over them, and bake them uncovered at 375 degrees—turning once— for about 30-40 minutes or until the sausage is a golden brown. You can make this gumbo with pork sausage, Italian sausage, or even hot sausage.
2. To make heavy shrimp stock, take the heads and shells from the shrimp you peeled for the gumbo, place them into a 3-quart saucepan, cover the shells with water, and boil them “gently” (adding water from time to time) for about 30 minutes until the resultant stock becomes rich in flavor. To ready the stock for the gumbo, simply strain out the heads and shells through a layer of cheesecloth or a find-mesh sieve. Remember that the greater the reduction the greater the intensity of the stock.
3. To clean the crabs, remove the top shell, cut out the eyes and mouth, scrape away the gills, brush away the innards, and cut off the bottom flap. Then wash the crabs thoroughly under cold running water (I even scrub the outer shell with a toothbrush I keep in the kitchen drawer). At this point the crabs are ready to be dropped into the gumbo. Note: You can either leave the legs on or snip them off—the choice is up to you. Oh, by the way, you want to be careful not to make the gumbo too watery at the outset, because you got to remember that once you add the shrimp and the crawfish the moisture rendered from the seafood will thin out the base.