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Rooster's Cajun Clam Chowder (a.k.a Gumbo)

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Down in Louisiana and the bayou country of East Texas, they make a fragrant and toothsome stew called gumbo. Its foundation flavor is the roux (think dark - really dark - gravy), which, aside from the rice at the end, is about the only sacrosanct ingredient. To this is added layer upon layer of flavor from other ingredients. Adam Ried in Cook's Illustrated Winter 2010 Soups & Stews, captures the spirit of the vegetable flavors when he writes about the "Cajun holy trinity of onion, bell pepper, and celery" for the gumbo. The meat portion of the gumbo can be almost anything, but tends toward seafood and sausage. Spices include garlic, bay, thyme, rosemary, gumbo filé, and, of course, hot peppers. These add nuance and create the complexity of fragrant and flavorful sensations. Gumbo is more than something to be consumed; it is to be experienced!

The following is drawn from several sources, not the least of which is The Rooster's father, who learned to make the gumbo in Port Arthur, Texas during the late 1940's. Papa Rooster would always describe making the roux as walking a fine line between triumph and disaster. You want the roux dark - really dark - but if you go too far, it is burnt and spoiled. Just flour and oil, right? Not! It is pride that is the invisible ingredient of the roux and the basis for a great gumbo. Fast forward to the 21st century. We make gumbo gluten free with non-wheat flours. These flours brown every bit as well as wheat flour, and the flavor is deep and dark. At Nobska Farms, we add clams to the seafood complement in addition to the usual shrimp and oysters. So here goes.

Roux 1/2 cp all-purpose GF flour (Bob's Red Mill is good) 1/2 cp vegetable oil

In a deep cast iron Dutch oven, sauté the flour until it is as dark as you want - darker is better - but remember burnt means ruint; stir the roux constantly to avoid hot spots; adjust heat to control how fast the process is going ... if it feels like you are loosing control that's Okay, remove the pot for a moment, turn down the heat a bit, and keep charging; making the roux is a slow process, expect to be working on it for at least 30 minutes ... get a cold drink, have some music going, get friends in the kitchen ... make it an event while everyone pontificates about the gumbo to come

Vegetables and spices 2 med. onions - chopped 1 bell pepper - chopped 1 stick of celery - chopped 6 cloves garlic - minced 2 cayenne peppers - chopped 1 tsp dried or fresh thyme 1/2 tsp dried or fresh rosemary

Have these vegetables ready for the critical moment when the roux is deemed to be "done" ... dump the vegetables and spices into the hot roux, which pulls the heat out immediately and arrests the browning process ... at this point you have committed to the gumbo ... it is what it is; stir the vegetables until soft, maybe 10 minutes

Broth 2 qts chicken or shrimp broth at room temperature (yes, it really is better to have the broth at room temperature ... keeps the oils from separating out of the roux)

When the vegetables are done, add about 1 quart of the broth rapidly and stir vigorously ... this is like the step when you are adding liquid to make a gravy ... after the first quart is thoroughly mixed, add the second quart of broth and stir together ... now things settle down to a reasonable pace ... add a couple of bay leaves and bring the broth to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes ... skim off foam and discard ... at this point, if you are making large batches, the gumbo can be refrigerated or frozen for later use

Meat and finishing touches 1 lb andouille (or other) sausage 1-2 lb cooked chicken 1-2 lb clams raw oysters (as many as you like) 1-2 lbs shrimp 1/2 lb frozen or fresh okra - sliced 1 tsp Gumbo Filé (order from the Cajun Grocer) a few green onions - sliced a handful of fresh parsley - minced

Add sausage, chicken, okra, gumbo filé , salt and pepper to taste; let simmer another 15 minutes ... add clams, oysters, and shrimp; let simmer about 15 minutes more ... remove from heat and add green onions and parsley ... the gumbo is done ... the experience begins ... serve over white rice ... dash with Rooster's Rocket Fuel for added zest ... grab a cool drink and escape to the ethereal world of Cajun Clam Chowder ... a blend of New England and the Old South.

(photo credit: americastestkitchen.com)


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