Inspired by the Saints' Super Bowl victory (Who Dat?) and this accompanying recipe from Mark Bittman, I decided to embark on a gumbo… or something kinda gumbo-like, anyway. It doesn't have any okra or file powder, so I'm not sure if one can really call it a "gumbo" without being mocked and possibly stoned by true aficionados of Cajun cooking. The name OmNomNombo, though was still available. And thus I have staked my claim upon it.
Serves eight, theoretically, but Fisher ate five (!) bowls of it all himself
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup flour
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium or 3 small ribs celery, chopped
1 large red bell pepper (the original recipe called for green peppers, but I think they taste wan and unfinished)
About 6 good-sized cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
1 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
Several good pinches of salt
Ground cayenne, to taste–I used about 1/2 tsp and no one thought it was too spicy, but I'd start with less and increase as you feel the need if anyone you'll be feeding is shy about hot food
2 bay leaves
2 cups stock
1 large can of either diced tomatoes or whole peeled tomatoes which you have cut into chunks with scissors while they are still in the can, undrained
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound bay scallops (or sea scallops, cut into quarters, if you're feeling flush)
Chopped fresh parsley (and the leaves from the celery, if you like) for garnish
In a soup pot, melt together the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour. Keep whisking. Continue to whisk. You will be cooking, whisking constantly, and regulating the heat as needed to keep the flour from cooking too fast and scorching, for probably the better part of 10 minutes. Maybe 15. Bring some reading material (I suggest Bad Astronomy
by Phil Plait, as seen in the picture above; I loved his Death from the Skies!
and am equally entertained/informed by this one). Cook, whisking (did I mention the whisking?), until roux has darkened to a deep, glossy brown and smells pretty much freaking unbelievable.
Stir in onions, celery and peppers. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are beginning to soften, about 7 minutes. Whisk in garlic, herbs, salt and cayenne; cook, stirring nigh-on constantly, about 3 minutes more.
Add bay leaves, stock and tomatoes. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat so that soup is bubbling regularly but not frenetically, and simmer until flavors are blended and everything is nice and tender and the tomatoes have broken down a little bit. This will take about 25 minutes, which means that now is the ideal time to start some rice steaming.
When simmering is finished, you get to do a neat part that you won't believe really works. (I learned it from Bittman's video podcast featuring this recipe.) First, taste the soup and correct for salt and pepper. (It didn't need much extra salt last night; maybe just a pinch at the end.) Make sure the soup is bubbling along energetically, then dump in the scallops (together with their liquid, if any), immediately cover the pot and turn off the heat. The scallops will cook through perfectly in the time it takes you to season the rice and scoop some into each bowl.
Ladle the gumbo ('scuse me, OmNomNombo) over rice; sprinkle each serving with chopped parsley/celery leaves; serve immediately, while everything's still nice and hot. Ooo-wee!