A seafood gumbo to serve on New Year’s Eve

DIANE ROSSEN WORTHINGTON Tribune Media Services Published December 29, 2011 at 3:13 a.m.
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— My friend Ciji Ware tells me that while doing research in New Orleans on her novel Midnight on Julia Street, she learned that many Southerners make gumbo on New Year’s Eve. As the story goes, while you stir the roux, you think of all the family members and friends that you love and send them good wishes for the new year.

Microwaving the roux turns it the proper dark brown in a quarter of the time it needs to cook on top of the stove. The roux continues to cook as the vegetables soften and will become very dark. So think of your friends and family each time you stir the roux in the microwave.

I like to make this simple version of gumbo for New Year’s Eve dinner because much of the work can be made ahead, leaving me more time to enjoy with my friends. This recipe is easy to make if you have everything cut up and ready to go. Or you can make preparation a group activity and visit friends and family as you stir the roux and your guests cut up the other ingredients.

The dish includes the classic andouille sausage along with shrimp and lump crab meat. You can use shrimp alone if crab meat is too expensive, and you can omit the sausage if you or your guests prefer fish only. The gumbo base should be made at least 1 day ahead, and preferably 2 days in advance, so the rich flavors can enhance each other. I like to serve the gumbo in bowls with a scoop of rice in the center. I also offer warm, crusty bread to soak up the sauce.

What to drink with this festive, spicy dish? Consider a fruit-driven wine to stand up to the zesty seasonings. A white with a kiss of sweetness, such as a Riesling or Gewurztraminer, will tame the heat. For a red, select a Gamay, pinot noir, or southern Rhone with light body and soft tannin that won’t clash with the spices.

HOLIDAY SEAFOOD GUMBO Serves 6 to 8 Ingredients: 1/2 cup canola oil or other high-heat cooking oil 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1 large onion, chopped 1 red pepper, seeded and diced 1 green pepper, seeded and diced 2 celery stalks, diced 4 garlic cloves, minced 1 (14 1/2) ounce can diced tomatoes with juice 2 tablespoons tomato paste 6 cups chicken broth or fish stock 2 bay leaves 2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons Cajun Creole seasoning blend, depending upon taste Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 1/2 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1-inch slices 2 pounds peeled and deveined (13-15 count per pound) shrimp (large) 1 pound lump crab meat 1 teaspoon filé powder 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley Hot pepper sauce, to taste Directions:

  1. In a 4-cup glass measuring cup, combine the oil and flour, and mix to combine, making sure there are no lumps. Microwave on high for 2 minutes and with pot holders stir the roux with a wooden spoon. Repeat 3 more times until the roux is dark brown, almost black (total of 8 minutes on high.) You may need to do it another minute.

  2. Transfer the roux, using potholders to protect your hands, into a large pot on medium heat. Add the onion, pepper and celery, and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes or until softened, stirring occasionally and scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and cook another minute.

  3. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken stock or fish broth, bay leaves and seasoning. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat to a low simmer for about 20 minutes, or until lightly thickened.

  4. Add the sausage, shrimp and crab, and cook another 3 minutes or until the sausage and shrimp are heated through. Add the filé powder and cook another minute. Remove the bay leaves and taste for seasoning.

To serve, ladle into bowls.

Garnish with parsley and pass the hot sauce. You can serve this on top of a bed of rice if you like.

Advance Preparation: May be prepared up to 3 days ahead through step 3, covered and refrigerated.

Reheat gently and when the gumbo is simmering add the seafood, sausage and filé powder.

Diane Rossen Worthington is the author of 18 cookbooks, including Seriously Simple Holidays. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.

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