Our Fall this year was a week of mid-80s and nights in the high 60s. Come Halloween we plunged right into Winter and it seems to be here to stay. That means seasonal house cleaning and comfort food. While our search for the “unicorn” live-in housekeeper continues, my attention turned to flipping my closet to Fall sweaters and shifting our menu from lighter fare to heavy stews and good casseroles to warm our spirits.
If I was, actually, a house wife then I’d have time to make homemade roux like I did before I caved to conventional wisdom and started buying jars of Savoie’s roux. It’s good and dark already and doesn’t require that maternal attention that a homemade roux needs. Today the menu includes shrimp stew for Sunday dinner with my mother-in-law. We have been working on her memoirs and organizing her family photos, so today needs to be a good hot meal that won’t require too much babysitting. By that I mean it’s like babysitting teenagers who you have to look in on and maybe threaten once an hour to be sure they aren’t burning down the house. My stew cooked down for six hours but that’s because I was heavy handed with the roux and wanted a super thick consistency. You can hurry this up and be eating in a couple of hours if you cook it on higher heat and keep a closer eye on the pot.
Shrimp Stew (the easier way)
Jar of Savoie’s Roux
2 lbs of shrimp
Several uncooked eggs
Holy trinity: garlic, bell pepper and onion OR a frozen seasoning blend with onions, peppers, etc. Don’t tell anyone if you go this route. It’s a little too short-cuttish.
Old Bay Seasoning
Tony Chachere’s Seasoning
Crab boil liquid or powder
Friends or family
I am using about a third of a jar spooned into a hot pot. Let the roux start to warm and when you see it melting at the edges, start stirring it. If it’s cold and a little dry like mine is today, you can add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil.
Once the roux gets to be a smooth consistency, you can go ahead and add your cold water.
I filled my pot about 3/8 full since this will be a thicker “gravy” than gumbo. Turn up the heat to a low rolling boil and go clean around the kitchen while the roux disperses. Keep any eye on that pot, though. Boiled over pots are awful to clean off of a stove.
Once your pot starts to foam and boil, you’ll want to reduce the heat a little so you don’t have one of those epic boil overs that seem to plague my scattered brained self.
Some like to add their onions and bell peppers with the roux, but I don’t like looking at the curdled mess. I am waiting until this point to add my seasoning vegetables. Apparently we are out, so I rummaged through the freezer and found this shameful little short cut. Never tell anyone if you do this. Some brands call this “Mirepoix” and my husband and I cannot figure out if it’s supposed to be some adulterated version of Native American and Cajun French. Regardless, I grabbed a bag and tossed it in our basket last month and I’m glad to have it today. Some brands also call this a seasoning blend, as pictured on another fateful day of short cuts.
Your seasoning vegetables will reduce and add liquid to the pot, so you may wish to add another couple of spoons full of roux. I like my stew pretty thick, so I am keeping an eye on consistency as it cools down, and I’m also watching to see if it turned into a more blonde roux. My Cajun Mimi would not approve of a blonde roux, so to spare her eternal shame, I sneak in some browning liquid. This is the cheat of all cheats. It’s not a test or marriage, so I’m saying it’s ok. Just don’t publicize this if you claim to be legit Cajun.
I’m starting to judge the darkness of my roux at this point, so I decided to shake in some of the instant roux to thicken and a tablespoon of browning liquid. I gauge my roux color like I do my coffee. There’s just a certain shade of brown that my heart says is just right. Now is also a good time to give it a good stir and add some seasoning. I threw in five bay leaves and a dozen shakes of Old Bay Seasoning. This gives it a real gumbo flavor and enhances the seafood taste so well. Add your garlic or Tony’s to suit now and you can always add more right before you add your shrimp.
Now is the time to get a project or two done while your pot simmers for a couple of hours and you interfere just twice. I am reducing the heat to low and covering the pot. You still want to keep an eye on it once I’m awhile to be sure you aren’t getting too much of a boil going. This depends totally on your stove. I finally got used to cooking with gas and I tend to burn everything when I use the electric stove upstairs.
After a half-hour, I uncovered my pot and gave it a good stirring. I also added the crab boil at this juncture. See how the jar says it has 1700 servings? That means don’t add a lot! One teaspoon is all. If you heap this on indiscriminately, you’ll be hurting the next day. Don’t taste your roux right now. It’ll be awful. Let us cook down for another hour and a half. Trust me. There’s nothing like a too-strong roux flavor on your tongue to ruin your pallet for awhile.
With the time change, it’s now 5:15 PM and we have been cooking since 11:30. A thick roux stew is more of a Sunday affair, so it’s not a work night dinner, FYI. Along the way, I added three cups of chicken stock when I decided my roux base got way too thick and tasted much too strong. At 4, after about 4-5 hours of cooking down the base, I added 2 lbs of shrimp. Now that that has simmered, covered for about an hour I am adding eggs. Really real Cajuns crack eggs and toss them into certain stews. You can definitely skip this if it weirds you out, or you can crack a few and rest assured it won’t mess up your dish either way. the eggs sort of poach themselves and soak up all the flavor of your dish.
Cover the pot and increase the heat so your eggs will cook nicely and soak up that flavor. Given ten minutes and a fresh out of rice, you are ready to mange! That means eat if you aren’t from around here.
This dish paired well in a pinch with some butter crescent rolls and Italian green beans. I panicked at the last second and realized we had no side!! TGI garlic green beans. Microwave or drop them into a little pot, add a bit of lemon and pepper and no one will know you plumb forgot a vegetable. Sorry, we really aren’t here for the veggies.
While it was a lengthy cook time, this turned out to be the very best stew or gumbo I have ever made! It got rave reviews and I was smart enough to cook enough so I didn’t have to cook the next night. Enjoy and drop any questions in comments below.