Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Mumbo Jumbo and Filé Gumbo

First off, I hope everyone had a safe and Happy Halloween. I have to warn you that this is going to be a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG post, cause there is a lot of ground to cover and the witching Hour is upon me... but in keeping with the spooky "spirit" of the holiday, this post will be filled with torture, death and dismemberment, hey it even has a bubbling cauldron. I, myself, felt a little like one of the witches out of "that Scottish Play". You know... "Boil, Boil, Toil and Trouble, fire burn and Crayfish bubble..." Well, it was something to that effect anyway...

The point it, that I spent more of the evening making Gumbo, not just any gumbo, but Filé Gumbo (FEE-lay)... OK, so what is Filé Gumbo? Why, it's Gumbo made with Gumbo Filé, of course... ;) Seriously though, there are 2 ways to thicken a gumbo, at least only 2 ways that I know of. There is Okra, with it's mucilage thickening power, and there are ground up sassafras leaves, otherwise known as Gumbo Filé.

Factoid: the Cajuns learned about the thickening power of Sassafras leaves from the Choctaw Indians.

Anyway, I do not like okra, I have never liked okra, and I do not see myself liking okra in the near future either. Thus, I use Sassafras to thicken my Gumbo, ergo it becomes Filé Gumbo. (just like the song - Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie, Filé Gumbo.... )
So now all my fellow Okra dislikers that were screaming in horror at the idea of okra... You can relax, there is NO okra in this recipe.

Let's talk about 3 other key ingredients to good Cajun cuisine... Seasoning, Holy Trinity and Roux. Let's tackle seasoning first, cause it's the easy one...

Creole/Cajun seasoning.... Most, if not all, of the prepackaged stuff in the store has "salt" as the first ingredient, meaning, you are buying expensive salt. So I make my own, sans salt, so I can change the salinity of whatever I am making separately from the other spices. Here is the concoction I use, please feel free to increase the Cayenne to your liking.

1 TB Onion powder
1 TB Garlic powder
1 TB dried Oregano
1 TB dried Sweet Basil
2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 1/2 tsp Dried Thyme
1 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1 1/2 tsp White Pepper
1 1/2 tsp Celery Seed
1 1/2 tsp Sweet Paprika
1 1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika

Simply mix it all together in a small food processor into a powder.

The Holy Trinity... What is the Holy Trinity?
Well, the French have Miripoix... The Italians have Soffritto... and the Spanish have Sofrito. Basically, it is the building blocks of everything. In France it's Carrot, Celery and Onion in Butter or Olive oil. In Spain it's Garlic, Onion and Tomato in Olive oil. In Southern Italy it's Onion and Garlic in Olive oil. In Cajun/Creole cooking it's called "Holy Trinity" and consists of Bell Pepper, Onion and Celery.

Roux... May you never rue the day you attempted roux.
In it's simplest form, roux is Flour cooked in Fat... Ta Da!!! But Roux is much more complicated than that. At the risk of sounding like a sexist pig. Roux is like a woman, it needs to be treated gently and nurtured to allow it's beauty to shine forth. OK, maybe that was a little lame, but what seems so simple from the ingredient list, is much more complex. Roux should never be rushed, just like a good Risotto, it simply takes the time that it takes to make it. Emeril jokes that it takes 2 beers to make a good roux. I would tend to agree, when I make red roux it takes about 17-18 minutes. Red Roux?

You see, roux passes through several stages on it's way to being a burnt offering to the Cajun gods. There is White Roux, Blonde Roux, Brown Roux, Red Roux and Black Roux. (as well as multiple permutations in between like chocolate roux ) This is where I reiterate, that Roux CANNOT be rushed.

Let's take a stroll down Rue Roux, shall we?
OK, Place your oil and butter into a pan over LOW heat. (When I make darker roux, I use equal parts butter and olive oil cause butter burns REALLY easy in this process)

When the Fat is hot, add the flour and start whisking... and never stop or it will burn.

After 3 minutes, you have White roux (the flour will just start to become fragrant)

At 5-7 minutes, you have Blonde roux (the Nutty aroma of the flour increases)

At 10-13 minute, you have Brown roux (Also called Peanut Butter roux)

At 15-18 minutes you have Red roux (Also called brick)

At 20 minutes you have "Black Roux" (I didn't go this far tonight, cause it's way to close to the burning mark)

The problem with roux, is that the darker you make it, the less thickening power it has... Thus, when making Gumbo, the roux needs help from either Okra or Gumbo Filé.

OK, I have laid down the basics, so let's get to cookin up some trouble in the kitchen, cause I am STARVING now.....

First I had to murder some Mud bugs/Crayfish/Crawdads, whichever you prefer to call them. (See I told you there would be Torture, Death and Dismemberment in this post) I only had 20 live Cray fish, I really needed 100 but, oh well... I had Seafood Medley from Trader Joe's to make up the difference.

20 live Cray Fish
2 Quarts of Water
1/2 bottle of wine ---- Just kuz

Bring the Water and Wine to a boil, salt the water and plop the little mud bugs in the water for 6 -7 minutes. (No, in case you were curious, they didn't knock the lid off the pot or anything)

Remove from the water with tongs (If you are working in batches like I did) and allow them to cool enough to handle.

Strain the resulting "stock" through cheese cloth and set aside.

Pull off the tails and claws, then remove the shells and de-vein as necessary.
Yep, it takes alot of time for very little meat... Just look at the carnage.... Gruesome, huh?

Filé Gumbo

1/2 cup Pure Olive oil (Not Extra Virgin)
1/2 cup Butter
1 cup AP Flour
cups Onions, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups Celery, coarsely chopped
2 cups Green Bell Pepper, coarsely chopped
3 1/2 cups strained Crayfish "stock" (or seafood stock)
2 1/2 cups Chicken stock
2 TB Creole seasoning
1 1/2 tsp fresh garlic, minced
2 TB Gumbo Filé Powder
2 lb Seafood Medley

For Serving:
4 cups hot cooked rice
Meat from 20 Crawfish

Dice up your Holy Trinity....

Melt butter and oil over low heat, then add flour and begin whisking constantly until the roux turns a dark reddish brown. (See above)

Remove from heat; add onions, celery and green bell pepper, stirring constantly until vegetables are tender.

Add stock and Creole Seasoning to the roux and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to a simmer and add Garlic and Gumbo Filé.

Continue simmering, covered, for 75 minutes.

In the meantime, make about 4 cups of rice (after being cooked, it should be 4 cups)
Add thawed Seafood Medley to the Gumbo and bring back to a simmer for 10 minutes.

Salt to taste and serve by placing rice in the bowl, topping with crawdad meat.

Spoon File Gumbo over rice and garnish with a Crayfish.

Now if I only had some Blackened Catfish... LOL



Patti T. said...

Okay, I'll admit it, I am a wuss, I could not eat that. There would be something looking back at me. I tell you though that my hubby's family would "tear it up!"

DDpie said...

Ahhhhh-yeeee (sad attempt at a cajun accent) I totally love gumbo! Great job on the different stages of roux too. that bug starring back doesn't scare pass me Pattit's portion will ya?

Unknown said...

cracking up at the picture!!!

Spryte said...

I LOVE how the crayfish is trying to escape!!!