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September 18, 2005
There ain't no shrimp in this grilled gumbo!
Filed in: Current Affairs, Good eats, Photography

But, there's almost everything else!

My assignment for 'interpreted dish' at the current Pragmatic Chef contest is Scott's own "Gumbo with chicken, sausage, and shrimp". Wait! I'm supposed to interpret the master? Shudder the thought!

Oh well, might as well give it a try. Scott's such a great guy that he probably won't make too much fun of me. Let's get started shall we?

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I made one significant substitution to the recipe at The Pragmatic Chef (TPC). I can't eat shrimp so instead I'll use one pound of cooked crawfish (Did you know that we have fresh wild crawfish as a staple fisheries crop in the Northwest? Well, now you do.), and a half-pound of fresh cooked Dungeness Crab (our indigenous crab species in the Northwest)...

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Oh yeah, don't forget the chicken and okra (You gotta have okra in gumbo! And Scott's right, once it cooks up in the gumbo, it's no longer 'slick'.)

The key addition that I made to the TPC recipe is cilantro. I'll explain as I go...

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In terms of cooking style, because I'm a grill nut - I chose to make the gumbo on the grill. I'll explain this as well. I started the roux in a large cook pot on the side burner. I used corn oil. Feels traditional.

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Scott mentioned in his recipe that the roux will get very hot so that you have to be very careful in adding the initial ingredients. I thought I'd help the process along a little bit and mitigate the roux entry by heating up the initial ingredients on the grill a little. I cut the andouille sausage into 1/4 rounds - then placed those in my cooking basket - which grips the contents between two grates. So while stirring the roux, I'm browning the sausage - once I got the sausage nicely browned I just put the basket up on the upper grill level to stay warm.

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I also wrapped all of the diced vegetables in aluminum foil and just dusted them with corn oil - no spices or anything. I wrapped them tightly and put them on the grill - turning as necessary (I used minced garlic from a jar, so you garlic watchers won't see it here - there's a good amount in the final product).

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I went to 'just past overdone popcorn smell' for the roux - I thought it well golden - and the pot was so hot I couldn't touch the handles without potholders - this stuff is HOT!

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The eye under the pot gets turned off. The sausages go in right out of the basket - that way I get to stand at arms length as they sizzle in.

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Then the veggies - they aren't cooked, just a bit steamed in the foil - because we've preheated them, there's no water inside, so they go into the roux without a fuss. They smell great!

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Eye back on and up to medium again. We stir all that up a bit and get the roux thouroughly engaged with these ingredients.

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After getting the celery to about half crunchy, I added the chicken stock and the beer. Added the okra at this point as well.

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Oh, and for the beer, I used a local micro brew - Bullfrog Ale from Issaquah brewery. This is a nice dry ale, and unhomogenized because it is local. I also used a 24 ounce bottle. I guess that might be substituting some beer for water :) After a long simmer and a few taste tests, I added one cup of water.

I added the suggested seasonings and the chicken after everything was pretty tender. I also added a little cilantro at this point as well. The roux, beer, okra, and thyme make a great and complimentary case for the base flavor of this dish. Used sparingly, the cilantro adds a little bit of sweet counterpoint to the base flavor. Don't overdo it. A little cilantro will do just fine with the strong base flavors.

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Within five minutes or so of being done, I added the crab and the crawfish (since they were already cooked), having cleaned the crawfish tails (and claws where I could) and keeping them with the crab chilled to this point.

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I turned up the heat just slightly and stirred in the seafood for about five minutes.

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That's about ready to serve.

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I made a cake of long grain (with wild) rice by firmly pressing it into a one cup measuring cup and placed it in the middle of a deep plate, ladled on the gumbo and garnished with green onion and a bit more cilantro.

I enjoyed making and eating this gumbo very much. Though I have read lots of recipes that combine chicken and seafood, this was the first one I've tried - and the combination is quite good. I used a few Northwest ingredients and they worked out very well - the crab adds a nice richness, the crawfish some traditional 'boil' flavoring, and the local ale a nice compliment to the roux. I'm amazed at how very pungent the roux is, given that its ingredients are only oil and flour.

A note on the photos: These were all shot with an on-camera flash with an attached diffuser set at about a thirty degree angle - and utilizing a remote flash (though an umbrella) about 8 feet to the left (or behind) the subject as well.

Scott's original recipe:

The Pragmatic Chef's Chicken, Sausage and Shrimp Gumbo
(with a humble bow to Matt and Jerry)

1/2 to 3/4 C flour (depending on how dark of a roux you're planning to make, see above)
1/2 to 3/4 C oil (light olive, canola, corn, anything but extra virgin OO because of its low smoking point.)

1 whole chicken, roasted, meat pulled off the bone (you should make the stock with the carcass)
1 # Hot Smoked Sausage (I used Hillshire Farms this time) Smoked and cooked is important, spicy is good
1 # shrimp (raw 31 -40 count preferred, but use what you have)

1 Quart of good chicken stock* (homemade is of course, best)
2 bottles of beer, (one for you and one for the pot)
Water, as needed
Long grain rice, make seperately.

These veggies are for the finished gumbo only, if you're making stock, get more:

1 bell pepper, small dice, green is traditional, I like red myself.
1 large onion, medium dice
1 bunch of green onions, bias cut (keep about 1/3 of them for garnish)
3 or 4 ribs of celery, small dice
6 -8 cloves garlic, small dice
1 package of frozen okra, thawed (optional)

2 bay leaves
Dry thyme
Worcestershire sauce
Hot sauce
Ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper, TT (optional)
Filé powder (optional)

---------------------------------------

Prep is important in making gumbo. Once you start your roux, you MUST have your veggies and sausage chopped, because you'll add these to the roux to stop the cooking process and keep it from burning.

Chop your veggies and slice the sausage into rounds about 1/4" thick.

In a heavy-bottom pot, cast iron is great but it's a bit hard to see how dark your roux is, get your oil heating up. Once it's hot, add your flour. Cook over medium to low heat, and take your time with the first one. Caution- this stuff will burn you badly, don't get crazy with it! You need to pay attention to your roux, stir it constantly with a wooden spoon, high temperature spatula, or a whisk. It will smell like butter cookies, then popcorn. When it starts to smell like overdone popcorn and turns golden brown, it's a matter of taste from there. Dark rouxs are fantastic, but an acquired taste for most.

Once your roux is cooked, turn the heat off. CAREFULLY add the sausage and veggies. The water from the veggies will tend to spatter when it hits the oil, so back off a bit. Stir it all in until you've got it under control, then turn the heat back on and sweat the veggies and render a bit of the fat out of the sausage.

Once your veggies are getting tender, add the chicken stock and a bottle of beer. Bring it up to the simmer, make sure the roux is well incorporated, then add the okra if you're using it. As the okra cooks, it will thicken the gumbo and lose the gummy quality a lot of people don't like about it.

Simmer this for 45 minutes or so, then add your cooked chicken. This is also a good time to get your rice going. Season your gumbo with the Worcestershire sauce, plenty o' hot sauce, some dry thyme and plenty of black pepper. Simmer another 20 minutes or half an hour, then add your shrimp and give it another 15 minutes.

If you're using filé powder, now's the time to add a few teaspoons of it, noting my caution above. Serve over rice with extra hot sauce and crusty bread on the side, garnishing with the reserved chopped green onions.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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*I'll just briefly touch on how I make the chicken stock for this. After roasting a chicken, I take the meat off the bone and stick the bones on a sheet pan in the oven to brown them WELL. Don't skip this step. After your bones are well-browned. cover them with cold water in a stock pot and add a carrot, onion, some celery, garlic, dry thyme, black pepper, parsley, and a few bay leaves. Simmer gently for 4 or 5 hours, don't boil the heck out of it! Strain well once it's done. Good to do the night before, if you can.

I do not recommend just boiling a chicken to make stock, because the chicken meat generally will have no flavor at the end of the process.



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» MC's Grilled Gumbo from the pragmatic chef™
(Photo: MC's Grilled Gumbo) Another entry in for the Interpreted part of Food Fight 4. MC drew the Gumbo I submitted and really made it his own. While 'tipping' the hat to the gumbos taught to me by my... [Read More]

TrackPulled on Sep 20, 2005 9:40:20 AM

People Pulling

Any leftovers? That smells really good!

EMCEE: Thanks m'lady. Wonder how it would hold up shipped to Southern Canada? I know this will taste even better today - but 9 days old....

Posted by: Diana at Sep 19, 2005 4:36:35 AM

Wow, Mac. That looks wonderful. I really dig the way you gave it a 'Northwest' twist.

EMCEE: Ladies and gentlemen, meet the master chef - The Pragmatic Chef himself. Thanks for the good words Scott - this was really a lot of fun. See what you've started? People cooking dishes they've never tried before. You could change the world!

Posted by: Scott P at Sep 19, 2005 7:10:49 AM

Sounds not too bad. Well, except for the crawfish. Oh and the crab. I've had to analyze (and smell) too much rotten seafood to ever let it pass my lips. Grilled salmon is tolerable, but that's about it. Gustatory-wise, I really don't fit in here in the northwest!

EMCEE: Sorry this isn't too palatable Jan. So if you don't like the local fare - what are your favorites?

Posted by: JLB at Sep 19, 2005 5:58:44 PM

That looks really really tasty. Now I'm going to have to go and make my sandwich this week.

EMCEE: Ana, make one for me too! Sounds like you are going to do lots of experiments! I know they will turn out great!

Posted by: Ana at Sep 19, 2005 7:08:26 PM

Hey, MC, I double-pinged you. Delete the second one if ya like.

EMCEE: No problem Scott. Fixed it.

Posted by: the pragmatic chef™ at Sep 20, 2005 9:49:38 AM

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