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I HAVE several gumbo recipes, some so wonderfully authentic with Andouille sausage, filé and the like that I daren’t serve them without a couple Abita brews. Another is FCO (Freezer Clean-Out) Gumbo, and it’s almost as good.
The trick for any gumbo is its roux, a dark-brown oil-and-flour base that transforms the flavor from merely a jazzed-up tomato soup to a meal in N’Orleans. The roux is the only aspect that needs care; the rest is easy.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using a fresh “Cajun holy trinity” of onion, celery and sweet pepper. On the other hand, the freezer had half a bag of frozen “3 Pepper & Onion Blend,” so FCO it was. But wait. With a gumbo, it’s best to assemble all of the ingredients first, and then begin the roux.
Heat the oil in a stock pot, have something to sip while you’re stirring (the roux is going to take 20 minutes or so), and mix in the flour. Continue stirring over medium heat.
Paul Prudhomme, dean of Cajun and Creole cuisine, says you can heat the oil to a super-high 500 degrees Fahrenheit and do up a deep-chocolate roux in a few minutes. See Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen. I have this cookbook. I’ve seen him do it in person. I’m impressed. But scorchingly hot oil scares me. Besides, I have that sipping beverage to consider.
There’s nothing wrong with turning the roux a darker hue, almost black, but I ran out of sipping beverage. Then the Cajun holy trinity goes in. At first, it’ll be quite the sticky mess.
After a few minutes of occasional stirring, the sweet peppers have softened and the onion is getting transparent. At this point, I add the bacon and garlic, stir and let them cook for a couple of minutes. Maybe the sipping beverage has been replenished.
Then in goes a 28-oz. can of tomatoes. I happened to have the crushed variety in the pantry; diced works as well. By way of rinsing out the tomato can, add an equal volume of water. Add salt, pepper(s) and bay leaf. Stir, bring just to a boil, reduce heat and simmer.
Even frozen, the seafood needs only a little cooking, just enough for the fish to flake and the shrimp to turn pink. Once in a while, I buy fresh seafood, but then feel committed to using it that day. Instead, having it frozen gives me flexibility of its use, and reason for an occasional FCO.
Frozen okra would go in at this point too. Alas, there was none in the freezer this time around. Okra adds a traditional flavor and, if simmered sufficiently, loses its reputation for questionable texture.
While the gumbo is simmering, I zap up a packet of frozen rice (we like the brown variety), mince some parsley and set out the Tabasco Sauce.
Total freezer space gained? I’d say enough for three bags of frozen okra.
The parsley is for appearance. The Tabasco? Wife Dottie doesn’t like really hot gumbos. I do. Laissez les bons temps rouler. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2015.