Last year I attended a food conference in New York City and had the pleasure of hearing some of my favorite chefs and food writers speak. I've always been a huge fan of Amanda Hesser and her exquisite writing for the New York Times. Later I became enamored of her Food52 website, a vibrant online food community. But listening to Amanda in person along with her Food52 partner, Merrill Stubbs, talk about how they built their community and made it so interactive was truly inspiring. One of those ways was creating a weekly contest on Food52 where they suggested a recipe idea and home cooks could compete for the top prize by submitting and sharing their favorite recipes.
Amanda and Merrill have published two Food 52 cookbooks, the most recent one coming out this past fall. After getting my hands on both books I started cooking recipes from them and understood first hand why they are so popular with the circles of avid cooks they've united on the web. I had been wanting to make gumbo for quite a while, but never really got around to it. That was until the moment I set my eyes on their recipe and delectable image in the latest book.
Plump shrimp and bite size pieces of tomato and vegetables come together in this thick, hearty, yet healthy dish which is perfect on top of brown rice. While many gumbos can be flour-y or too buttery, but this one retains all the classic rich gumbo flavor while still being rather light. My whole family went crazy for it. The only bummer was when everyone wanted seconds and the pot was empty. C'est la vie… and c'est good food!
Healthier Shrimp Gumbo from Food 52 (serves 4)
- 2 tablespoons grape seed, canola or vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons All Purpose Flour
- 2 large onions, chopped fine
- 2 stalks celery, chopped fine
- 1 clove garlic, chopped fine
- 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined; shells rinsed and reserved
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes (fresh is best but in winter, use canned chopped tomatoes)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
1. First make a roux. In a large cast iron dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Sprinkle flour over the oil and stir till it is completely blended. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, over medium low heat, until the flour-oil mixture browns and is dark caramel-colored. (Be careful not to let it burn.)
2. Stir in the onions, celery, and garlic. Sprinkle in 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a few turns of freshly-ground pepper. Stir well. Cover dutch oven and let vegetables cook in roux until softened.
3. While vegetables are cooking, put shrimp shells into a saucepan and cover with 2 cups of water and good pinch of salt. (Shrimp shells should be barely covered; add more water if they are not.) Bring water to a boil and then reduce heat so that it simmers. Continue to simmer until shells are bright pink.
5. To the vegetables in the dutch oven, add the tomatoes, thyme, oregano, paprika, lemon, and Worcestershire sauce. Strain the shrimp stock into the soup, stir, and let simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes.
6. Stir in the shrimp and let simmer in the soup till just firm and cooked through, about 3-5 minutes, depending on size. Taste and adjust seasoning to taste. Stir in chopped parsley, and serve in bowls with a large scoop of rice.
white or brown rice for serving