Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cajun Crawfish and Shrimp File' Gumbo

This is the authentic Cajun Gumbo that is so famous.  The flavors are sensational! 
     I worked with Cajun cooks for a while and learned some great methods of cooking.  I learned from Chef Justin Wilson too.  Cajun food is like no other food anywhere else in the world. 
     The word gumbo is African slang for Okra.  File' powder is fine ground sassafras leaf.  Native Americans used sassafras medicinally and to thicken stews.  The roux is what gives the color to this gumbo.  The Cajun rule of thumb for roux is;  For dark meat-make a light color roux.  For Light meat-make a dark colored roux.  Be careful making roux because it can spatter and cause severe burns.  To be safe, wear a long sleeve shirt and gloves if you are inexperienced at making roux. 
     Cajun cuisine is like 500 year old French cooking.  The Cajuns are descendants of France.  The ingredients and methods involved in the making of a fine gumbo are French, African, Native American, Caribe Native and Spanish. 
     I love making gumbos.  I made a Bayou Gumbo (Alligator Tail, Frog Leg, Crawfish and Catfish) at a Luxury resort in Florida one time.  The Swiss Chef that I worked for, could not stop eating the Bayou Gumbo that I made!  He said it was the best food he ever tasted and he was a Swiss born French chef for 50 years!  Now, that was a great compliment for Cajun Cuisine and my cooking skills! 
     Recipe:  Fine dice some celery, onions, red bell pepper and green bell pepper and set aside.  (The Trinity is 1 part bell pepper, 1 part celery and 2 parts onion.) 
     Use equal parts of unsalted butter and flour to make a roux over medium high heat in a sauce pot.  Constantly stir the roux while gently shaking the sauce pot till the roux cooks to a dark brown color.  (If you stop stirring, the roux will burn and it must be discarded.) 
     When the roux turns dark brown, add the diced celery, onions, peppers.  (This will stop the roux from cooking any further.) 
     Add a little bit of chopped garlic. 
     Add some shrimp stock. 
     Stir till the gumbo starts to boil again. 
     Add a handful of sliced okra.
     Add 2 chopped green onions and a diced ripe fresh tomato. 
     Add a pinch each of:  thyme leaf, tarragon leaf, bay leaf, sea salt, black pepper, chopped parsley, chopped basil leaf, a pinch of oregano and marjoram. 
     Add a few pinches of cayenne pepper and paprika. 
     Add a few shelled shrimp that are sliced in half and some shelled crawfish tails. 
     Boil for a minute while stirring. 
     Turn the heat to low and gently simmer. 
     Add one whole crawfish with the legs and claws removed for a garnish. 
     Stir occasionally. 
     Cook some plain white rice in a separate pot. 
     Use a stainless steel ring mold to set some rice in the middle of a shallow soup bowl. 
     Add some file' powder to the gumbo while stirring to thicken and finish the gumbo. 
     Ladle the gumbo around the rice. 
     Set the whole crawfish garnish on top of the rice. 
     After one taste of this gumbo, you will be in Cajun seventh heaven!  The flavor of the complicated mix of spices are fantastic!  The deep shrimp and crawfish flavor is very satisfying.  I love making gumbo.  This is down home cookin'!  ...  Shawna

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