Taste of the Louisiana
Tips for Gulf of Mexico Gumbo:
Gumbo usually starts off with a roux -- a mixture of oil and flour that's cooked until brown. We brown the flour in the oven to make the process easier and to eliminate a lot of fat.
Try this time-saver for seeding bell peppers: Stand the pepper up on your cutting board, stem pointing upward. Slice off the four "sides" of the pepper, which will fall away to leave the stem and membrane/seeds standing. Discard stem, membrane, and seeds, and chop the pepper.
Purchase celery that has green and crisp leaves. Celery will keep for up to 10 days in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. To revive wilted celery, soak cut stalks in ice water for about an hour.
Bottled minced garlic is a great shortcut. Just use 1/2 teaspoon for each clove of minced garlic called for in the recipe. Look for this product in the produce section, near the garlic.
When purchasing fresh okra, look for firm, brightly colored pods under 4 inches long, as larger pods may be tough and fibrous. Refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to three days. When cooked, okra gives off a viscous substance that thickens the gumbo.
You can use commercial Cajun seasoning instead of making your own, if you prefer.
You can find clam juice near the canned tuna and canned clams in your supermarket.
Substitute catfish for the snapper, if you prefer.
When choosing shrimp, pick those with firm shells; they should smell of saltwater (no strong fishy odor) and should be plump. To store uncooked shrimp, rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Cover and keep in refrigerator for up to two days.
To peel and devein shrimp, you can use a deveining tool (a plastic or metal device available at most grocery stores) -- the tip of the tool is a dull, narrow point that gradually increases in size to a handle that fits in the palm of your hand. Insert the point into the large end of the shrimp (near the intestinal vein), and gently push the instrument toward the tail end until the shell separates from the shrimp. If you don't have this handy device, you can peel the shrimp by pulling off the legs and then removing the shell pieces beginning at the large end. To devein, cut a slit down the outside curve of the shrimp; remove the dark vein and rinse the shrimp under cold water.