Creole Shrimp, Oyster, & Green Tomato Gumbo with Stovetop Cornbread
This Thursday, June 30 at 12:30 p.m. I will demonstrate how to make shrimp & green tomato gumbo and stovetop cornbread at the Dominick’s Cooking Corner at Taste of Chicago. Please join me for a fun and informative demonstration on a couple of Southern classics.
O.K., I’m taking a little liberty here. Creole gumbo is often defined, in addition to the lighter (or even sometimes absent) roux than the Cajun version, by the addition of tomatoes. By tomatoes, we mean red, ripe, luscious, succulent Creole Tomatoes. In Cajun country, you don’t really see tomatoes in gumbo all that much, though you should never say never. Tomato season is sadly short this far north, and the local tomatoes aren’t so ripe just yet. Hence, We’re taking the liberty to make a Creole gumbo with green tomatoes rather than ripe ones.
Creole Gumbos are also often defined by an abundance of seafood, and with seafood most often goes okra. I’m including okra in this recipe, but feel free to leave it out as the local season is not yet underway. Alternatively, you can add pickled okra which adds a fantastic bright acidity that sets off rich seafood and fruity green tomatoes beautifully. So, here we go:
Creole Shrimp, Oyster, & Green Tomato Gumbo
Makes about six quarts, so use a two-gallon heavy-bottomed stock pot
- 1 pound shell-on head-on shrimp, peeled and deveined, with shells reserved
- 2 quarts water
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup bacon, ham, or duck fat
- 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 pound smoked ham, cut in 1/2″ chunks
- 1-1/2 pounds yellow onion, diced 1/2″
- 1/2 pound green bell pepper, diced 1/2″
- 1/2 pound celery, diced 1/2″
- 2 ounces fresh garlic, mashed
- 1 pint shucked oysters, with liquor
- 1/2 pound okra, thinly sliced
- 1 pound green tomatoes, diced 1/2″
- 1/4 cup Creole seafood seasoning (recipe follows)
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup Louisiana-style hot sauce
- 3 Tablespoons kosher salt, or more to taste
Once you have peeled and deveined your shrimp, refrigerate the meat and place the shells in a medium saucepan with two quarts water, plus some aromatics – onion, garlic, bay leaves, celery leaves, and bring to a boil uncovered. Simmer for an hour or so to infuse the broth. Drain and discard the shells and aromatics, reserving the two quarts of shrimp broth.
In a heavy-bottomed stock pot, heat the vegetable oil and bacon fat over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the ham and fry gently to brown well. Remove ham and reserve. Immediately add flour to the hot fat and stir with a wooden spoon. Once flour starts to brown, gradually turn heat down to medium-low but continue browning the flour until it is very brown but not really dark – you’re looking for somewhere between peanut butter and milk chocolate for a Creole gumbo. Darker if you like smoky, less so if not. Stir constantly to avoid burning. If you burn the roux you’ll know by the awful smell and you’ll have to start over. Once you have the color you want, add the vegetables directly to the hot roux – be careful of the hot splatter! Stir in the onions, peppers, and celery, and cook until vegetables are well-sweated and roux is smooth, about 6-8 minutes or longer depending on how much heat you’re using. Add the stock, garlic, reserved ham, oyster liquor (save the oyster meats for the end,) tomatoes, okra, bay leaves, and Creole seasoning. Set heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to a simmer and simmer until tomatoes and okra are sweated and tender, about 20-30 minutes. Add Worcestershire, hot sauce, and salt and check seasoning. Return to a boil, add shrimp meats, and cook until done but still tender. Add oyster meats, return to a boil, and serve at once with Creole boiled rice.
Creole Seafood Seasoning
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup celery salt
- 1/2 cup Spanish paprika
- 2 Tablespoons cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup granulated garlic
- 1/4 cup granulated onion
- 2 Tablespoons thyme
- 2 Tablespoons basil
- 2 Tablespoons oregano
Combine thoroughly and store in an airtight container.
Creole Boiled Rice
- One gallon water
- 3 Tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 pound Southern rice
- 1 stick unsalted butter
Bring the water to a boil in a 6 quart pot, add the salt, cayenne, and then the rice. Maintain at a low boil, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender, 15-30 minutes depending on the rice. Strain through a colander like pasta, turn into a bowl, and top with butter. Serve at once.
For a 7-8″ skillet
- 3 cups finely ground white corn meal
- 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- 3 cups buttermilk
- 1/2 cup clarified butter, fresh lard, or bacon fat
Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly. Beat eggs, then stir in buttermilk and cornmeal mixture.
Place butter in a cast iron skillet and heat on medium until oil is hot and just beginning to smoke. Pour about half the hot butter into the batter and stir. Leave the other half of batter in skillet. Pour batter into skillet. Cover and turn flame to low. Lower heat is better. Cook for about 30 minutes, until a pick inserted comes out clean. The edges of the bottom should be very crispy, the center should be very creamy, almost custard-like. Remove from heat and cool, uncovered, about 10-15 minutes before cutting into wedges and serving hot from the pan.