I made a super Easy Crawfish Gumbo yesterday for Sunday supper. My youngest gal was home from college and requested a southern style meal.
This totally made me smile because although I was raised in the south, I left after college. I did the wanderlust thing and moved all over the United States, married Ranger Craig and one day about 16 years ago, we settled in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
My youngest has been completely enamored with the south since she was a wee one. Hearing me tell stories of my childhood and adolescence and realizing how unique the food and culture is in the south. She never had an opportunity to visit a southern state until a few years ago when I took her to Savannah, Georgia. Yep, I asked her where she wanted to go for her senior trip before college and she announced she’d love to see Savannah, Georgia.
I felt Savannah would be a good start to exploring the south. The history is thought-provoking, often heart-wrenching and one I never want to see repeated. I’ve often wrestled with the idea of my southern roots. And although I was actually born in California, I spent most of my formative years in the south. As a child, I saw injustice and intolerance that tore at my young heart and made me wonder how some people can be inhumane and ignorant. Those memories firmly planted in my mind forever made me even more determined to bring love and light into this world; to show kindness and tolerance to everyone who crossed my path.
I also encountered many who walked a life of love and compassion. During my family’s hard times, neighbors would bring over fresh eggs and cow’s milk. Some would bring by home-baked pastries like chocolate fried pies, which were my favorite (because who could ever resist a chocolate fried pie!). They’d bring chicken soup when we were sick or extra produce from their gardens. I learned what it was to be truly thoughtful – to think of our neighbors or community members, especially when they were in need.
As I think back to all of my life’s turbulence, when I merely existed in reality rather than lived in it, I see where my love of food and life around the table began. Our humble community showed us love and compassion through food when our family needed it most. They showed me by example what it was to be human and to love and support everyone in a community.
I know this has nothing to do with my Easy Crawfish Gumbo but all that gumbo sort of dug up memories of growing up in the south.
Back to the story… on a sunny September morning, my gal and I hopped on a plane headed to Savannah. I knew she was in huge anticipation of experiencing her mom’s southern roots. Savannah was not disappointing in the least. A beautiful and architecturally stunning city that is filled with stories and legends and a bit of history that seems to come alive when walking down the cobblestone streets. I remember my daughter telling me how gracious and kind she found people to be in Savannah. She adored the southern hospitality that was given by everyone she encountered, regardless of race or gender. And she completely relished every bite of southern food. We dined on some of the best fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, shrimp po’ boys, beignets, etouffe and gumbo. And we weren’t even in Louisiana!
Not only was our visit to Savannah completely delicious but it was an absolute dream for me to spend time with my youngest child before she launched into the “almost” adult world. Since that time she’s become obsessed with southern cuisine. Often when she comes home, I make her a dish or two – to celebrate the beautiful memory. Which is why I made my Easy Crawfish Gumbo this past weekend.
Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday and honestly, I thought I’d missed it! Ha! So I suppose this Easy Crawfish Gumbo is posted just in time. I wish you all delicious food memories and a most delicious life around the table.
Loads of Love,
For the roux
1 cup oil (I used a medium-high heat safe unflavored coconut oil for a healthyish gumbo)
1 cup all-purpose flour
For the veggies
1 large white or yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
One 12-ounce pouch crawfish tails with fat (I find this frozen at my local market or seafood market)
1 lb shrimp meat or bay shrimp
1 10-ounce can clams, with liquid
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 bunch green onions, sliced
Serve with white or brown rice or al la carte
To make the roux
Begin with a heavy bottom pot, large cast iron pot or Dutch oven and place it over medium low heat. Add the oil and then whisk in the flour a little at a time. Be very careful making the roux, it's hot oil and flour and it'll burn if it splashes. I know this to be true firsthand.
The roux should come to a nice simmer and begin to turn from white to beige. The roux can take up to 45 minutes to make so be patient and have a cocktail ready to sip. Continue stirring as the roux continues to darken from beige to tan to a dark peanut butter color. If the color turns too quickly turn the heat down a bit lower. The ultimate color looks like dark chocolate. Be careful not to go beyond that or you'll burn the roux and have to start over.
To make the gumbo
Once the roux is a nice dark chocolate color, take the pot off the heat and add the veggies. Be careful when you pour in the diced veggies that you don't splatter yourself with the hot roux. Yep, I've done this before as well. Then put the pot back over low heat. The cool veggies should allow the roux to cool and to stop cooking. Continue stirring the vegetables for about five minutes and then add the liquid and spices.
Carefully stir in the stock, diced tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, squeeze of half a lemon and a dash or two of tabasco. Then stir in your Cajun seasoning. Less is more at this point and you can always add additional seasoning at the end of cooking.
Keep the pot over low heat and let the gumbo simmer stovetop un covered for about an hour. This helps all those lovely flavors deepen and make the gumbo beautifully rich.
Next add the seafood to the gumbo and bring it back to a simmer. Simmer slowly for another 15 minutes and then season with salt and pepper to taste. This is also the time to tweak the seasoning. Adding a little more Cajun seasoning or tabasco or even another squeeze of lemon will lend well to the overall flavor of the gumbo. A pinch of Cayenne will increase the heat if you like it spicy.
Add about half the sliced onions to the gumbo and stir. Serve the gumbo warm over white or brown rice and garnish with additional green onions.
This is my version of a crawfish gumbo. Most gumbo has a bit of andouille sausage or bacon in the mix but I like a simple gumbo without the meat. But feel free to add about 1/2 lb. of andouille sausage when adding the seafood. Do not add the cajun spices until after you've added the sausage as the andouille sausage can be salty, highly flavored and spicy.
If you like your gumbo thicker, mix together 1 tablespoon corn starch with about 2 tablespoons cold water. Then stir it into the gumbo and bring it back to a lively simmer. This will help thicken the gumbo.
If you like your Gumbo on the thinner side, add about 1/2 cup of water or as needed to the gumbo.