Shrimp Gumbo Recipe on a Southwest Blog? A Daring Cooks Challenge

John Besh's Shrimp Gumbo by Sandy Hoopes

No, you’re not dreaming that really is Shrimp Gumbo and a good one by John Besh, too.  Why?  ‘Cause I’m a Daring Cook, baby!  (Sorry, I got carried away).

This month’s challenge was Cajun Gumbo and since it’s one of my husband’s favorite dishes, I jumped at the chance to learn how to make it.   In fact, he may have developed a little crush on Denise from There’s a Newf in My Soup, the hostess of this month’s Daring Cooks Challenge.

I thought long and hard about making this month’s Daring Cooks Challenge into a Southwest Gumbo.  Like John Besh says, gumbo should be a reflection of yourself.  But, when it came right down to it… I chickened out.  Besides, it’s finals week with projects due and evaluation time for my “other” job so I really didn’t have time for mistakes.  When I do give a recipe a Southwest twist, I like to take the time to really get it right before I recommend it to you.  So, I chose the recipe that I knew  would have great results, Seafood Gumbo from John Besh’s B-E-A-U-tiful new book, My New Orleans: The Cookbook.

I did not include my usual “step by step” photos because it would be impossible to do a better job than Denise.  So, please visit There’s a Newf in My Soup for a gorgeous tutorial on gumbo.

Our May hostess, Denise of There’s a Newf in My Soup!, challenged The Daring

Cooks to make Gumbo! She provided us with all the recipes we’d need from creole spices,

homemade stock and Louisiana white rice, to Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and

Seafood Gumbo from My New Orleans:  The Cookbook, by John Besh.

Sandy’s Tips for Making Gumbo

I do have a few tips to share:

1. Remember, the darker the roux, the more roux you will need.  So, make extra.  No one tells you this, but trust me.  I learned the hard way while making brown sauce to serve while cooking on the line at the Culinary Cafe.

2.  If you are taking a short cut and using purchased stock, start with vegetable stock and add the shrimp and seafood shells along with some water.  The veggie stock will give you a “cleaner” taste than chicken stock (learned that from one of my mentors, Chef Mark Tarbell).  The water is so that you can simmer the stock to get flavor from the shells without over reducing the stock.  And, of course, use low sodium stock.

3.  Filé powder has a very unique flavor and is considered an acquired taste.  Not all gumbos use it.  So, if you haven’t tasted it before, don’t put it directly into the gumbo.  Serve it on the side for everyone to decide for themselves how much to use.

4.  Please  don’t cook the vegetables to death.  Remember that the vegetables will continue to cook as long as the gumbo is hot.  Try dicing and sauteing extra and reserving some to add at the end.

Here is the recipe Denise provided for the challenge.  Please visit There’s a Newf in My Soup for John Besh’s recipes for Chicken and Shrimp stocks if you plan to make your own stock.

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Quick and Easy Seafood Ceviche Recipe is Perfect for Summer

Large Ceviche with Tortilla Chips
Large Ceviche with Tortilla Chips

Ceviche!  That mysterious, complexly simple, most delicious of Latin seafood dishes almost sent Mary Sue Milliken to pack her knives early on Top Chef Masters this week.  Yes, Mary Sue Milliken!  One half of the Too Hot Tamales.  Co-Queen of Southwest flavors… if anyone should know ceviche, it’s Mary Sue Milliken!

There is something about cooking seafood in citrus juice that defies everything we ever learned about cooking.  And yet, somehow, it works.  I thought that I would share my favorite ceviche recipe with you just in case you were curious and wanted to give ceviche a try. Don’t let it scare you, I practically live on ceviche during the summers.  There is no oven to heat up, no charcoal smoke to perfume your hair… just cool, refreshing seafood on a salty chip that makes my Diet Pepsi with lime taste that much better.

My favorite ceviche is a combination of the freshest shrimp, bay scallops and calamari you can get your hands on.  Toss it with diced southwest ingredients in a citrus marinade and spoon it into martini glasses for a little glitz or serve it in a large bowl surrounded by chips.  Stretch your budget as far as you need to by adding more vegetables or  tropical fruit.

If you are new to ceviche and aren’t quite sure you want to go completely “raw,” I’ve included directions on how to briefly poach the seafood before marinating it in citrus juice.

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