Gumbo Two Ways, May Daring Cooks
Aww yeah, we gonna get our gumbo on this month.
Our May hostess, Denise, of There’s a Newf in My Soup!, challenged The Daring Cooks to make Gumbo! She provided us with all the recipes we’d need, from creole spices, homemade stock, and Louisiana white rice, to Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh.
I have loved gumbo ever since being introduced to it almost 20 years ago. You might not associate gumbo with Alaska but it fits right in up here. Wild game and and an abundance of amazing seafood are two key reasons Alaskans are so connected to those down on the Gulf.
When the challenge first posted I wanted to do something unique but still true to the spirit of such a great dish. It just so happens that my ‘Uncle Carl’, who we lovingly refer to as El Poacho, had sent up several batches of teal ducks that he had come across. So the plan developed from there. I was going to make a wild smoked duck and andouillie gumbo.
I soaked two ducks in orange juice for about 3 days. This helped get rid of some of the strong wild taste and blood. These ducks have a strong mineral flavor that needs some mellowing and the marinading was the perfect solution. I then rinsed, dried, and rubbed with a dry rub of spices consisting of traditional creole seasonings; thyme, hot paprika, cayenne, salt, brown sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, and black pepper.
Everything was set up on my new rotisserie attachement for the Weber propane grill with a smoking hot pan of apple wood chips.
I let these go for about 90 minutes at between 275F-300F. Even though wild ducks are much leaner than domestic, no basting was neccessary.
These were taken inside and allowed to cool before all the meat was picked from the carcass.
While those were cooking, I got to work drinking. Oh wait, I mean I got to work on the roux. I dug in to my secret stash of duck fat for this one.
If you have never used duck fat for cooking, you are missing out. So with a beer in one hand and a whisk in the other, I got to stirring in the flour to color the roux.
This was taken off the heat and allowed to slowly cool down. Don’t stop stirring while it is cooling though. As the cast iron retains heat for quite some time, you have to continue stirring until the pot is cool. This also keeps your roux from separating.
It was now getting late and so the last thing I did was get my stock together. The smoked carcasses, a smoked chicken carcass, and a bunch of chicken wing tips I had been saving went into the stock pot. Along with the bird parts went carrots, onion, celery, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, and lots of peppercorns. This was set on the stove over very low heat and allowed to go overnight.
I sleep like a baby any time I have stock on the stove overnight. So now on day two, I cool, filter, and defat the smoked duck stock. Then I pull together the mis en place.
This consisted of onion, celery, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, jalapeno, garlic, andouillie sausage, ham, picked smoked duck, duck fat roux, fresh herbs, spices, and frozen okre.
My order of operations here differs from most recipes. I start by browning up the sausage and ham in some olive oil. This gets pulled out and in goes the onion. Then I put in the peppers and celery with the onion and allow everything to get some color. Then finally the garlic and the roux are tossed in. I do this because I don’t like the roux sticking to the pot and burning. I then pour in a bunch of stock, probably about 2 quarts and then all the meat, bay leaves, picked thyme, hot paprika, tabasco, worcesteshire, cayenne, salt, and pepper. I like some heat and spice to my gumbo especially with so many strong flavors, BUT, don’t overdo it. You want the heat to compliment your dish, not overpower it.
I let this simmer on the stove for about an hour and then tossed in the okre. Then another 20-25 minutes at a low simmer to let thicken.
I serve simply with some plain old white rice. Put on some green onion for color and some hot sauce if you like. Smoked teal gumbo, DONE!
Delicious fo sho.
I finished the above about halfway through the month. Then went on an epic camping trip to Seldovia. This is a small fishing community only reachable by boat or airplane. We camped just off the beach and I even took a dip in the freezing ass ocean. Great times for sure.
Upon re-entry, I realized it just wouldn’t be right if I didn’t do an Alaskan seafood gumbo for the challenge. I mean really.
So I started thinking about what I was going to use. Crab would be too obvious and I was looking for something even more special. So I hit the best fish market in town and ended up grabbing some rockfish and spot prawns. Both were harvested probably less than 200 miles from my house.
So again I got started on some stock. This time it was the shrimp shells and fish carcasses along with carrot, celery, onion, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, garlic, lemon slices, and peppercorns. I first added a dry white wine and allowed it to reduce by about half. Then everything was covered by about an inch of cold water. This was brought to a low simmer and allowed to cook for about 45 minutes.
Isn’t that a pretty pot? It gave off an amazing stock too.
So another roux, more mis en place, and everything but the fish and shrimp went into the pot. This time I only added one link of andouillie, and only one jalapeno so as not to overpower the more mild seafood flavors.
I did have one little trick left up my sleeve to put this over the top. Buried in the bottom of my freezer was a very special vaccuum sealed package. Nothing but halibut cheeks. Almost 2 lbs. of the things. Some of them as big as my palm (those were from some very large halibut). I seasoned these simply with some salt, pepper, and the same seasoning mix used on the ducks from above. They were then hard seared for just about a minute on either side in a cast iron skillet with some butter and olive oil.
It all came together pretty quick. The shrimp and rockfish pieces were tossed in at the very end. This time I did use some of the fish stock to make the rice. It helped carry that beautiful fresh seafood flavor through the whole dish.
Served with the seared cheeks on top.
I will be eating more of this while reading everyone elses posts. Thanks again Denise. What a great challenge.
Be sure to check out the other Daring Cook’s take on this challenge. Blogroll