Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gumbo: Part of a Balanced Work Out

The work out freeze has ended!

Finally after nearly an entire year stuck in a contract with our old gym in Madison, the contract has finally expired and Dave and I can finally justify joining a gym!

Its been months for me, and probably over a year for the hubby, but we're determined to return these flabby abs and weak little chicken arm to their former glory. The biggest change I've noticed, however, after working out consistently for about two weeks is unfortunately not a pair of rock hard abs, but instead something rather counter productive: I'm hungry ALL THE TIME.

I suppose making (and eating) a batch of oatmeal cookies doesn't help the situation.

In an effort to get the most out of his work outs, Dave is seeing a personal trainer for a few sessions.  Along with a butt-kicking work out schedule, the trainer has suggested a few foods as part of his new work out diet.  He was practically giddy when he showed me one item on the list.


I don't like shrimp. I'll eat them ever now and then, but mostly, I think they just taste like fishy meat grapes.

Dave loves shrimp. When I tell him that they taste like fishy meat grapes, he replies "mmmm, yes exactly. Delicious."

I'd prefer to just not bother with the funky little crustaceans (is that what they are?), but it's doctor's orders. Plus, I'm not one to back down from the personal challenge of trying to make something that I don't like actually palatable for ME.

So of course, whenever I'm out to make a recipe that is guaranteed to be good (and likely packed with plenty of lengthy extra steps), I turn to my good old Cook's Illustrated. This time, its Creole Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo.

Not being from the South, I mostly just know OF gumbo; I've had it maybe once of twice before, but its definitely not part of the standard meal line up.  As it turns out, there's probably a good reason for that.

Gumbo is not for the faint of heart, or the short on time. Like many southern dishes, its designed around the assumption that you have the time and the love in your heart to Do. It. Right.

First, there is the roux, which is where any good gumbo starts. It's made from vegetable oil and flour, which is heated for about 20 minutes while stirring literally constantly until it turn a deep chocolate brown. The roux is the base of the soup and if you don't take care of it, there's no point in doing the rest.

To the roux, you add diced celery, red bell pepper, onion, garlic, assorted spices, and a fish stock made from shrimp shells and clam juice. This cooks for another 30 minutes.

Then my favorite part, the andouille sausage goes in. Another 30 minutes. Finally, the final element that precipitated the entire affair comes to the stage--shrimp,added only in the last 5 minutes of cooking. Finish with chopped scallions, parsley, and a spoonful of rice and volia! You've got a gumbo.

All in all, the entire process took about 2 hours, which is a pretty long time for what is essentially a very meaty stew. But it's like I said; lots of care, lots of time.

Dave thought the gumbo turned out great. In his words, "Ah, Southern food. Tastes great, but always manages to look like poop."

I agreed that it tasted pretty good, but really...I could have done with less shrimp. They were palatable, but really, after all that effort, I mostly just wanted to eat the broth and the sausage. So I guess in the end, it's a part win. If I had to eat shrimp to survive, this would definitely make it easier. But given the choice between shrimp and not shrimp---verdict still goes to not shrimp.

The recipe for Oatmeal Cookies used in this blog can be found in Baking Illustrated: The Practical Kitchen Companion for the Home Baker. The recipe for Creole-Style Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo can be found in The Best of America's Test Kitchen (2008)

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