This Sunday night, the New Orleans Saints head to Seattle in search of their first win. Seattle is mainly known for rain, fish, and coffee, so let's hope the Saints remember to pack a few muffulettas from Central Grocery for the trip. (In all seriousness, attempt no departure from New Orleans without at least one of these in your carry-on. Twenty-four hours after your departure, when you are still stuck in Atlanta, begging the gate agent for a connecting flight to somewhere, anywhere, that does not reek of Cinnabon, you will be glad to have a half or a quarter of the miraculous sandwich that travels as well as the Harlem Globetrotters.)
You could, I suppose, hack a salmon into eighths, then braise it in a Tanzanian Peaberry, but why bother? To cheer on the Saints, you'll want a fortifying gumbo. This gumbo uses roux as its base, and if you have a TV in sight of your stove, making the roux will the perfect thing to keep your hands busy while you watch the more entertaining Patriots-Cowboys game on Sunday afternoon.
Gumbo is good for what ails you, but it is not a vaccine that must be made according to a set formula, so you could and should vary ingredients based on what is good where you are. Fish, shellfish, cured meats, sausage, other vegetablesthe roux is really the foundation for what pleases you. I did this one on the first anniversary of Katrina, and folks seemed to enjoy it.
Gurgling Cod Open Source Gumbo
- 1 stick butter
- 1 cup flour
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 quarts stock, preferably homemade
- Andouille sausage, Tasso, whole crabs, catfish fillets, smoked chicken breasts, or other meats or seafoods. Do what makes sense to you
- Cooked rice
First, make the roux. You can do this ahead of time, but you cannot slack. Melt butter over low heat and brown an equal amount of flour in it. A stick of butter and a cup of flour is a good starting point. Stir constantlyif black flecks appear, throw it out and start over. You want the roux to be about the color of a paper bag. Be carefulthey call it "Cajun Napalm" for a reasonspatters will give you nasty little burns. You can make the roux ahead, and refrigerate.
Sweat the celery, pepper, and onions in the roux.
Add three quarts of stock. Reduce to a simmer.
Add your meats and seafoodandouille and such sooner, shellfish and such just long enough to cook. It is traditional to add either okra or file as a thickener, but I find that I can get satisfying results without either.
Serve over rice, and pass the Tabasco.