Sunday, March 10, 2013

Soup #10/ Spicy Seafood and Sausage Gumbo

*This was our second birthday edition soup (happy birthday to my father-in-law). He's a big fan of gumbo, so naturally that's what he requested. It definitely spiced up the 52 soup challenge, as neither E nor I have ever made gumbo or anything close to it. I've never even cooked with shrimp before! We found this recipe in my Williams-Sonoma "Soup" cookbook and what you read as far as the ingredients and how-to is pretty much straight from it, as I wasn't too sure how to improvise, since it was unfamiliar territory. *

You will need: 
1 yellow onion
1 red bell pepper and 1 green bell pepper
1/2 lb of okra (the cookbook recommended fresh, but I used frozen and it worked just fine!)
1/2 cup of vegetable/canola/grape seed oil
6 tbsp flour
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can of diced tomatoes and the juice
5 cups of chicken stock (the recipe called for fish stock or bottled clam juice, but I couldn't find it, and didn't want to make it...chicken or vegetable stock works just fine)
2 bay leaves
2 1/2  tablespoons of Creole seasoning blend 
Salt and pepper for seasoning
1/2 lb andouille sausage, sliced into 1 inch pieces (we grilled ours on the BBQ a bit first and then cut it up!)
1 lb of large shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 cup of crab meat, check for and remove any shell fragments.
1 tsp of file powder 
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley (per the recipe...OOPS! we forgot this ingredient!)

How to make it:

Dice up your onions and bell peppers and set them aside. If you used fresh okra, trim the stems and cut them cross wise into 1/2 inch slices.  If you're using frozen okra like we did, measure out the 1/2 lb. In a large pot on medium heat, warm 2 tbsp of oil and add your okra while stirring to saute until brown (ours didn't quite turn brown but we stirred for about 15 minutes and you will see when they start to look sauted. This may have been because we used frozen okra). Transfer the okra to a bow and set aside. 

Still on medium heat, warm the rest of your oil in the same pot. Whisk in the flour until its well mixed. Cook this "roux" stirring it constantly with a wooden spoon until it is a warm brown color (takes about 5 minutes - don't let it get too dark or burn). Add in the onions and bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally until the peppers and onion are soft, add in the garlic and cook for about a minute longer. 

Now add your okra, diced tomatoes and their juice, your stock (whichever type you choose), the bay leaves (throw them in there whole and dry), the creole seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Being totally honest here I didn't add any salt, just a bit of pepper, and I was making a doubled recipe, but I know I didn't add the full amount of creole seasoning either... if you're not into spicy foods, start off with 1 tbsp for flavor and then add more to taste. Bring this all to a boil still on medium high heat, and then reduce it to medium-low and allow it to simmer 30 minutes so all the flavors cook together. 

Now stir in the sausage, shirmp and crabmeat and cook until the sausage is heated through and the shrimp is pink. If you're worried about meat being cooked well, you can throw the sausages on the BBQ or the grill a bit first. This will also add a tasty smokey flavor. Then sprinkle in the file powder and stir for about 30 seconds. Remove the soup from the heat and fish for the bay leaves, remove them. 

We served this on a bed of white rice, which pairs very nicely with it, helping to give the soup more body and cut the flavor into savory bits. 


The Verdict: This soup was a birthday success. We actually made it the day before we went on a camping trip for the birthday festivities. We let the flavors sit over night (which has always proved to make for a tastier soup) and took it along with us to enjoy under the stars on the first night. Unless they were all lying, everyone said they really enjoyed it. Some did say it was a bit on the spicy side, but the rice helped to cut the spice and make it enjoyable. We also learned that E doesn't really like gumbo. He thought he would, and he thought it was a good soup, but the flavors just weren't his thing. Pretty awesome though that he could make it, like it, and still not really like it all at the same time. I think that's the sign of a good chef in the making. 

What we would do differently: Despite it's success, this was definitely the most challenging soup of all so far. I know we're only at #10, but it was a very involved soup. There were lots of ingredients we weren't used to (creole seasoning, file shrimp in a soup!), but we did it. This was also the first soup that was fully a dual effort. A lot of times I start the soup before E is home and then he will help me with a part of it. This time we were on a time crunch, trying to get it all done before I had to head off to work, and we really needed to work together. I chopped all the veggies while he barbecued the sausage and cleaned, shelled, and deveined the shrimp (talk about dirty work...what a trooper!). We did taste tests together and debated the next steps together, and honestly, I wouldn't do any of that differently. When you're trying something so new, it helps to have your partner in crime next to you. I eventually did have to hand off the job completely to him and go to work, and he finished it up perfectly. 

I can't really think of much else that I would do differently, since I don't have a lot of gumbo experiences in my lifetime to compare it to. But I think I'd like to try using fresh okra, and then maybe to add that parsley to garnish the soup in the end, like the recipe called for. E seems to think that would have improved the flavor, but I can't say it would really make a difference for me. I would definitely add the creole seasoning to taste as it is pretty spicy, but other than that, this was a pretty solid, tasty, and exotic soup!