4 Tbsp. vegetable oil + 8 strips thick-sliced bacon, chopped
1 lb. white button mushrooms (or mini-Portabellas)
6 Tbsp. all purpose flour
1 cup coarsely diced yellow onions
3/4 cup coarsely diced celery
1/2 cup coarsely diced bell pepper
2 Tbsps. finely minced fresh garlic
2 cans Rotel Diced Tomatoes with Chilies (12-ounce size)
6-8 cups homemade shrimp stock (or canned chicken broth)
3/4 cup dry white wine (cocktail sherry recommended)
2 cups water as needed
3 bay leaves
2 tsp. sweet basil (fresh is best)
1/2 tsp. powdered thyme
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tsp. Kosher or sea salt
2 tsp. Frank Davis Seafood Seasoning
5 lbs. peeled and deveined shrimp (36-40 count)
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 lb. long grain rice (cooked al dente)
Start off by placing the gumbo pot on the stovetop, turning the fire up to medium-high, heating the vegetable oil until it begins to sizzle, and frying down the bacon pieces until they render out all their drippings.
Then with a slotted spoon remove the bacon, but in the same pot drop in the mushrooms and roll them around and around until they become lightly toasted.
When they have, you can take them out of the gumbo pot and set them aside with the bacon pieces.
And now it’s time to make your roux. A little at a time, briskly whisk in the flour until it has all been added and it begins to brown.
Keep moving the flour around in the pot until it reaches a deep tan color (but be careful not to let it burn or scorch).
At that point, drop in the seasoning vegetables (onions, celery, bell pepper, and garlic), reduce the fire to low, and incorporate all the veggies into the darkening roux. In other words, mix, mix, and mix again! This action will stop the flour from browning any further by reducing the heat in the roux.
At this time, the other ingredients, except for the shrimp, green onions, parsley, and rice, are gradually added to the pot—the bacon, the mushrooms, the tomatoes, the stock or broth, the wine, the water, the bay leaves, the basil, the thyme, the red pepper flakes, the sea salt, and the seafood seasoning.
And yes, be sure to use the liquid the tomatoes came packed in, too.
Keep in mind that it is important to stir thoroughly—but gently!—at this stage:
(1) you want to completely dissolve and smooth out the roux to keep lumps out of the gumbo, and (2) you want to fully disperse the ingredients into the liquids to cause them to blend and balance the overall flavor.
Then when this is done to your satisfaction, reduce the flame to low, cover the pot tightly, and simmer your gumbo base for about 40 minutes to get all the ingredients to marry.
When all the flavors have melded and peaked, toss in the raw shrimp and stir the entire pot once again for continuity.
Remember that the shrimp will be ready to eat in just a matter of minutes, so be careful that you don't overcook them (about 5 to 6 minutes should be all it takes!)
Finally, just before you plan to serve the gumbo, once more check the thickness and texture (and the seasonings). Add extra water, wine, or chicken broth if the gumbo has become too thick; or work in a little extra roux if it has turned out too thin. All that's left to do, then, is to sprinkle on the green onions and the parsley and fold everything together one last time.
This gumbo is best when ladled over steaming hot rice or orzo in deep soup bowls, surrounded by either sesame-studded bread sticks, multi-grain saltine crackers, or hot buttered French bread right from the oven.
1. Once again, don't overcook the shrimp. The moment they turn a rich pink, they're done! Overcooking makes them tough and rubbery.
2. The worst thing you can do to this gumbo is to thicken the liquid to resemble a heavy sauce. The broth should barely have body, and only enough of it to coat the shrimp and rice. Let's put it this way—if you're satisfied that what you have is a "semi-thick soup," you're right on! Not all gumbos have to boast heavy gravies.
3. If you' like the gumbo to be a tad darker than the roux caused it to be, feel free to stir in a little Kitchen Bouquet to color the stock. It adds flavor without altering the integrity of the dish.
4. Here’s a real culinary trick—want to get a richer, shrimpier flavor in the gumbo? Fry down a handful of sun-dried shrimp in the bacon drippings when you toast the mushrooms. The hot oil (in this case, bacon fat) releases the essence of the shrimp and intensifies the locked in flavor. Later, as the stock simmers and cooks, the dried shrimp virtually disappear into the liquid.
5. To make homemade shrimp stock, wash shrimp shells and heads thoroughly under cold running water to remove dirt and grit. Then place them into a stockpot with just enough water to cover the shells and simmer them over a low flame for about an hour. The final flavor will be intense. Try not to let the shrimp water boil or the stock will turn murky and cloudy. And for an even richer taste, toast the shells and heads in a 450 degree oven before making your homemade stock.
6. Orzo is a true pasta that is shaped into what appears to be large rice grains. It’s an excellent alternative to long grain rice and can be substituted for such in most recipes.
7. Oh…just for the sake of clarification, among the many patois of the Crescent City, shrimp and mushrooms are lovingly pronounced (or mispronounced) as “swimps and mushwooms.” And as native New Orleanians, we wouldn’t change that for the world!