It’s Christmas Eve and I have only a few hours to plan tomorrow’s feast.
That might seem like an easy task, but it’s not.
Our Christmas Day tradition for the last several years involves me making a traditional Seafood Gumbo.
You have to understand that Christmas Day is usually the only day of the year when I would make a Seafood Gumbo. Seafood is not cheap, and when I make a gumbo, I go all out. And I always make a really big pot of it. I guess you can say that it’s a splurge to make a Seafood Gumbo.
I do make make gumbo throughout the year: Chicken and Andouille Gumbo, Turkey and Andouille Gumbo, and Shrimp and Okra Gumbo. But Seafood Gumbo is typically reserved for Christmas. Like I said, it’s a splurge… but it is also a sign – for us as a family – of the celebration of Christmas.
But something feels different this year.
As my wife and I discussed the Christmas menu yesterday, the enthusiasm for gumbo just wasn’t there. It felt weird. My wife was actually suggesting that we do something different.
But aren’t we supposed to make Seafood Gumbo on Christmas Day?, I asked. That’s how I felt. Like it’s something we are supposed to do. Like we have to maintain the tradition.
But my wife said that she would really prefer Crawfish Etouffee this year.
It had nothing to do with the budget. Business has been better than ever. She just felt like having something different.
Etouffee would be much easier (and quicker!) to prepare. And we are already planning to char-grill about 5 dozen oysters (on my new Oyster Bed!), so there will be plenty of seafood on the table.
We just won’t do what we always do… this year.
It feels weird, but I think she’s right. For whatever reason, I think that we would all prefer to have Crawfish Etouffee this year.
But since I was already planning on sharing my recipe for Seafood Gumbo with you today, I’m going to go ahead and do so. But I guess this means I’ll have to share the Crawfish Etouffee recipe with you tomorrow. 😉
- 4 to 5 lbs shrimp (with heads on), peeled, retain the heads & shells
- 8 yellow onions, 4 chopped, 2 quartered
- 4 ribs celery, 2 chopped, 2 quartered
- 5 green bell peppers, chopped
- 8 to 9 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 lbs tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 1 lb of okra, sliced (1/2-inch slices)
- 1 stick of butter
- 1 cup of olive oil (not extra virgin), or canola oil
- 1½ cup all-purpose flour
- Cayenne pepper, to taste
- 3 bay leaves
- Sea salt, to taste
- Black pepper, freshly cracked, to taste
- ½ teaspoon thyme
- 1 bunch of green onions, chopped
- 2 lbs lump crabmeat (or claw meat)
- 2 dozen raw oysters (with their liquor)
- 1 bunch of parsley (flat-leaf), chopped
- Crystal Hot Sauce, Tabasco, or Louisiana Hot Sauce, to taste
- Peel and devein the shrimp, removing the heads. Refrigerate shrimp until ready to use.
- Place heads and shells in a stock pot. Quarter 4 onions lengthwise. Half a head of garlic. Cut 2 ribs of celery into 3 to 4 inch pieces. Chop 2 bell peppers.
- Add 2 gallons of water to the stock pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours.
- Strain through fine-meshed sieve. Discard shells and veggies. Return stock to pot and set aside.
- Chop the yellow onions and the celery. Seed, trim, and chop the bell pepper. Set aside. Peel and seed the tomatoes, chop and set aside. (Alternatively, you can use the equivalent in canned tomatoes). Trim and slice the okra into ½-inch slices. Set aside.
- Make your roux. Roux is made with equal parts flour and oil. In this recipe, we use a combination of butter and regular olive oil to make the roux. Heat a deep skillet (stainless steel or cast-iron) on medium-high heat (#7.5). Add olive oil to the skillet. Cut up the butter and add to the skillet. When the butter melts and the butter and oil begins to bubble, start adding the flour slowly, stirring constantly with a whisk. Remember to stir constantly to prevent burning or scorching. The roux will quickly change colors. For the gumbo, you want a dark brown roux, the color of chocolate. This should take about 15 minutes.
- Once the roux has reached the right color, quickly add the onions, celery, and bell pepper, continuing to stir (with a wooden spoon) until all is mixed well. Sauté the veggies until they soften, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the minced garlic and continue to sauté, stirring another minute or two.
- Bring reserved stock to a boil. Add the veggie-roux mixture to the stock using a large spoon. Stir in the spoonful of mixture until fully integrated before adding another spoonful. Add the tomatoes, okra, bay leaves and thyme. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. Return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about an hour or so (even as much as two hours… You’re looking for the roux and the stock to “become one”). Occasionally skim and discard any excess oil that pools on the surface.
- Add the reserved shrimp. Allow to simmer for another 2 minutes. Add the crab meat and the oysters. Simmer for another 2 or 3 minutes, until the edges of the oysters start to curl. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add some of the green onions and the parsley (save some so that each guest can add to their bowl according to taste).
- Remove bay leaves and discard. Serve in bowls over rice. Sprinkle bowls with green onions and parsley. Have Crystal Hot Sauce or Tabasco on hand, and gumbo filé, in case anyone wants to thicken up their bowl with a dash or two.
- Serve with hot French bread.
What about You?
Have you ever let go of a Christmas tradition at the last minute? What was it? And what did it feel like?
Let me know in the comments below.
Oh, and I would also love to know what’s on your menu for Christmas Day this year. Let me a comment below.