Since Fat Tuesday was coming up, the “Bite. Sip. Repeat…” team decided to get together last weekend and cook a New Orleans classic. Dr. Steve and I shopped and met up at Dr. Curtis’ house for the cooking and sipping. I’d been thinking of what to cook and came across one of Emeril Lagasse’s first books, “Louisiana Real & Rustic“. It’s copyrighted 1996, after he started doing “The Essence of Emeril”, but before he got really big. I like this book a lot. Emeril provides a variety of recipes, including Louisiana standards as well as basics, like mayonnaise and other sauces.
The recipe that caught my eye was Shrimp and Okra Gumbo (full recipe at end of post). So Dr. Steve and I headed to Harvest Ranch Market for supplies.
Actually, they didn’t have okra or andouille sausage, so we just got the produce and shrimp there. We also found some Gumbo Filé, ground sassafras leaves used to flavor gumbo. Another quick stop at Vons for okra (no fresh, just frozen) and andouille sausage and then off to Dr. Curtis’ house.
First we peeled and deveined the shrimp. Lot’s of people don’t want to deal with prepping their own shrimp, so buying peeled and deveined shrimp is OK. Using frozen shrimp would be fine, too.
I like Trader Joes’s frozen, uncooked, peeled, deveined shrimp with the tails on. They’re only $8.99/lb. Just make sure you thaw them before putting them in the gumbo. Overnight in the fridge or a few minutes under cold, running water will thaw them fine. Whatever you do, don’t use cooked shrimp in this recipe, they’ll get real tough after cooking.
If you’re using shell-on shrimp, rinse the shrimp and grab the end of the tail with the legs pointing down, then grab the legs and pull them over the top of the shrimp, sort of unwrapping the insides.
I shelled all the shrimp and then deveined them all. To devein, lay a shrimp down flat on the cutting board.
Put the fingertips tips of your non-knife hand on top of the shrimp, then hold your knife flat and start cutting about 1/2 way into the shrimp.
Then just slide the knuckles of your knife hand towards you and rotate it, cutting as you go.
Then you can just pull the shrimp open and see the vein.
Dr. Steve completed the process by rinsing the shrimp under running water and pulling out the veins. 2 lbs. took us about 15 minutes. We put the shrimp shells in 2 cups of water with some salt and pepper and put them on to simmer. The shrimp stock was used instead of 2 cups of the water in the recipe. If you don’t have shrimp shells, just use all water.
Then we cut up the produce and sausage.
And started browning it to render out some of the fat.
After it was browned, we set it aside, drained off all but 3 Tbs. of the rendered fat and added the okra, cooking it until most of the slime had cooked away.
Then we added the remaining vegetables and cooked them until they were softened.
Then we added the seasonings, water and shrimp stock, brought it to a boil and simmered for 15 minutes. At this point, the recipe calls for adding the shrimp and simmering for an additional 30 minutes. The Doctors and I all thought this was too long for shrimp to cook, but we trusted Emeril and stuck to the recipe. We cooked some white rice and after 30 minutes, the gumbo looked and smelled pretty good.
Dr. Curtis opened a fabulous Cabernet and we were ready to dish it up and bite, sip, repeat.
We all thought this recipe was delicious. The sausage was a good addition, really intensifying the flavor. We forgot to use the Gumbo Filé (Doh!), but now we have it for the next gumbo. This gumbo recipe is flavorful, but since the thickening is accomplished with okra and not a roux, it had the consistency of a medium thick soup. I think I prefer a thicker, stew-like gumbo. We’ll try one of those some other time. I had a great afternoon cooking, thanks to the Doctors for participating. We also did a Pinot Noir tasting, look for that post, soon.
Shrimp and Okra Gumbo from Emeril’s Lagasse’s Louisiana Real & Rustic
- 2 lbs. small okra
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups chopped, peeled, and seeded fresh tomatoes, or 2 cups chopped canned tomatoes
- 1 cup chopped onions
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 5 bay leaves
- 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
- 2 quarts water
- 2 lbs. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1. Wash the okra in cool water. Remove the caps and tips and cut into 1/4-inch rounds. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Fry the okra, stirring constantly, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until most of the slime disappears. Add the tomatoes, onions, and celery and cook, stirring often, for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the okra and other vegetables are soft and the slime has completely disappeared. Add the salt, cayenne, bay leaves, thyme, and water. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
2. Remove the bay leaves and serve in deep bowls.