*** Continuing Journeys of Hawk Hat - 3/1/2014 - Poke In The Eye ***
You know what they say about best laid plans and all, right? I had wanted my 20-year-old to take Hawk Hat to the Krewe of Gemini Mardi Gras parade today and bring back some very interesting shots. Unfortunately, Hawk Hat was with me 40 miles away in the country south of the single intersection metropolis of Keatchie, Louisiana when he left for the parade with his friends. I was very disappointed.
But, this brought to mind a saying that was introduced to me by a great grandfather over a half century ago …“It’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.”
I pretty much live daily by that philosophy and make the best of a situation because things don’t always go as planned and could always be worse. Therefore, Hawk Hat and I decided to make lemonade out of lemons. Well, actually, we decided to make seafood gumbo out of some leftover beginning of a stock from a lobster dinner the night before.
There are two main categories of cooking styles native to Louisiana, Cajun and Creole. You can think of Cajun as “country” food and Creole as “city” food. Today we ventured into the world of “les Acadians” or Cajun with the seafood gumbo. One of the hallmarks of Cajun cooking includes what we call the “Holy Trinity” which is comprised of onions, bell pepper and celery. Garlic could be considered a kissing cousin, as well. There are two varieties of seafood gumbo. One uses file (sassafras leaves) as a thickening agent, while the other uses okra. Today we used what I prefer, okra.
In addition to a couple of pounds of shrimp and a pint of freshly shucked oysters, Hawk Hat and I always use gumbo crabs. Gumbo crabs are perfectly sized crabs that have been pre-boiled and are ready to be added to your recipe.
Seafood Gumbo is made from a slow cooked stock made from the leftover carcasses of crustaceans and/or liquor of oysters.
The other major component of any gumbo is the roux. Roux is made from an equal mixture of some form of fat and flour slowly cooked to the right degree of darkness depending upon what the dish requires. Cajun roux is usually made with oil while a Creole roux is primarily made using butter.
It takes about 30 minutes of almost constant stirring to bring the roux to this rich caramel coloring. If we were working on an etouffee we would have taken it to a copper penny red color. Other dishes would require a much lighter tan.
Once the roux is ready we add the Trinity and garlic and simmer until soft.
Next added are stewed tomatoes (another Cajun versus Creole difference) and sautéed okra and soon thereafter the stock, seasonings and quartered crabs. This is simmered for about two hours. I then add the rest of my seafood (shrimp, crawfish, lump crabmeat and/or raw oysters) about 15 minutes before serving.
All gumbos are served over rice and there is no better rice in the world than Zatarain's for this purpose.
And here is what it looks like once it is served.
Yes, I am sure an adventure to a Mardi Gras parade would have been more exciting, but you know what they say, poke in the eye ...
Hawk Hat and Guido!