Friday, May 2, 2014

Florida Seafood Gumbo

Florida Seafood Gumbo

This cup of sea has all the heartiness of your traditional New Orleans Gumbo without the added thickeners.  Most Gumbos are made using a stock of either seafood or meat, a mix of vegetables like peppers, onions, okra or celery and a thickener called a roux.  
Roux is typically made by toasting flour in a pan with some butter.  As it browns it intensifies in flavor.  It is then added to a stock and used as a thickener.  I have used roux before but I don't really care for it.  It's like you have a perfectly tasty dish and then you throw a bunch of flour in it just to make it thicker in texture. I have the same feeling about corn starch. I guess that is why I don't really like Chinese food.  So, this gumbo recipe is made without a roux.  I can imagine my friends in Louisianan just gasping at the thought of this.  I am sure they may even contend that this "Gumbo" couldn't be anything but a mere seafood soup without the addition of a roux.  If you feel this way, feel free to add the roux.  It's up to you.  

Not to long ago we celebrated Easter with my in laws. If you remember they cooked and that was the day and I posted our breakfast of  Sourdough Waffles instead of dinner.  How could you forget those?  Well that afternoon we had seafood.  Gaga Pat and Papa Butch had prepared a most wonderful spread that included shrimp and snapper.  We were even lucky enough to come home with some leftovers.  And you know me, nothing goes to waste.  So, after eating the leftover fish and shrimp,I used the bones of the fish and the shrimp shells to make a fish stock that I then stored in the freezer.  Well, that was a good thing because now I had a use for it.  

To make a the stock, I put the seafood leftovers in a pot and filled it with water.  Then I put it on the stove on medium until the water was reduced to half.  I strained out the bones and shells and that was then end of that tail. ;)

Fresh, homemade fish stock
 I started the Gumbo, by cooking up some onions, peppers and carrots in a stock pot with sea salt and extra virgin olive oil.  You could add okra or celery which is more traditional but we don't have a consensuses at our house about either so I used carrot instead.  Once the veggies are soft, I added my garlic, spices and then the seafood.  
For the seafood I used a Florida trio. 
1. Fresh Florida Shrimp. This is a must!  Not only is it local but farm raised seafood is downright toxic.  Most shrimp at the seafood counter in the grocery store is farm raised from places like China.  If your are not sure ask. I peeled, de-veined and then added the shrimp whole. 
2. Smoked mullet.  Again another Florida favorite.  Mullet is a vegetarian fish that is found in coastal, tropical waters.  Here it is typically caught in a cast net.  My father-in-law caught and smoked ours awhile back.  We had enough to freeze for a later date, so that is what we did.   I peeled away the skin and diced up the meat to add to the gumbo. In Florida you can find smoked mullet in locally owned restaurants, at seafood markets, online and even in little market tents on the side of the road. 
3.  Bay Scallops:  When most people think of scallops they think of Sea scallops.  Bay scallops are much smaller in size.  The meat is about the size of a nickel and the thickness of a pencil eraser.  What they lack in size they make up for in flavor.  Their meat is sweet.  We harvested these babies last summer during scallop season, which typically runs from early July to late September.   If you don’t have your own freezer supply of bay scallops you can either use sea scallops or look for frozen bay scallops (when out of season) at a local fish market.  

For those of you who have never been scalloping.  Here are some photos of one of our scallop adventures.
An undisclosed location off the Gulf coast in Florida

The captain and his first mate.
Teaching the young-ins how it's done.

Dr. Brian with his load of scallops

Finding the scallops hiding in the sea grass.

This is what all the fun is about
 Okay, back to the Gumbo.  After adding the seafood, I added my fish stock and diced tomatoes.  I then splashed in some hot sauce and allowed the Gumbo to come to a light boil/bubble to cook the shrimp and scallops.  I then reduced the stove top temperature to a low/medium and simmered for about 2-4 hours with the lid off.  This allowed for some evaporation and lets the heat thicken it. 
Thanks captain Butch and Gaga Pat for the seafood to make this meal complete.  

Florida Seafood Gumbo
1 Large Sweet onion, diced
1 of each green and red bell pepper, diced
4-5 medium carrots, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 lbs of seafood like shrimp, scallops, white flaky fish or blue crab meat
4-5 cups of fish stock
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme or 2 bay leaves
sea salt and black pepper to taste
your favorite hot sauce
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 32 ounce can of diced tomatoes

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