Thursday, July 5, 2012

Shrimp, Duck, Turkey and Quail Egg Gumbo

I feel like I might as well list all the ingredients in that title but I wanted to make sure everything was included.

I received in the mail a sample of some fresh caught Louisiana shrimp from the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board (specifically Anna Marie Seafood Company) and wanted to make something special with it. I thought it would be best to use a recipe that showed off not only the local seafood we have, but also the local meats I'm growing on HighTail Farms. Shrimp, eggs, turkey, and duck, all caught or raised close to home.

Most of you know I'm not from the south. I feel like I came into my culinary adulthood (translates as "figured out which end of the pot to cook in") while here, but I'm always hesitant when it comes to sharing my "southern" recipes. However, since there are as many different recipes for gumbo out there as there are stoves in Louisiana I'm less afraid to share my own version with you. Gumbo is something that makes sense to me: it's a great way to extend your leftovers and feed yourself and perhaps a small army. It scales easy and it reheats well to make for good leftovers. 


For the roux:
  • 118g equal weight duck fat and flour - roughly 1 cup each

For the gumbo:
  • 4-6 quarts turkey stock
  • 1 whole duck, quartered
  • 12 oz. andouille, sliced into 1/4" pieces
  • 12 boiled and peeled quail eggs (or 5-6 boiled chicken or duck eggs)
  • 5-6 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 green bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 medium/large onions, chopped
  • 1 lb. large Louisiana jumbo shrimp (or smaller, but the big ones look great!)
  • 1 lb. cut okra (ain't nothing wrong with frozen!)
  • spices (see step below)

For serving:
  • Cooked rice

There are a few steps here and it may get confusing. Simplified, this is the plan of action:
     0) Admire the shrimp
     1) Get fat from duck meat
     1.5) If you have no stock, make some
     2) Make roux with duck fat
     3) Add stock and other ingredients
     4) Cook all day
     5) Add the shrimp
     6) Enjoy!

0) Admire the shrimp

When you get some high quality shrimp, you need to do this before doing anything else. I'm originally from New Jersey (I'm sure I've said this before) and we don't often eat a lot shrimp. Crabs and mussels are more common up there. Trying to buy shrimp with the heads on in Yankee Land is awful. (Once I tried when I was making gumbo for a Christmas party and the grocery store employee said, "Why on earth would you want the heads? Ew.")

These are, hands down, the biggest shrimp I've ever seen. 

Just look at those shrimp!

1) Render down the duck fat

Every Louisiana recipe seems to start with "first you make a roux". Well that's wrong. First you need some good fat to make the roux. You can use butter (clarified butter, if you want to be properly French cuisine about it) but since just tossing the meat into the pot will still render out the fat, it's best to remove as much of it from the meat beforehand, otherwise you risk a greasy pool on top of your gumbo.

Take your duck and quarter it. In a wide pan, put your duck pieces skin side down and set on low. Do this while making your stock, because you'll need about as much time. We're not trying to cook the duck or even crisp the skin here: we just want to render out the fat. After about 20 minutes I covered the pan and let it go a bit longer, then removed the duck and poured off the liquid. 

I got about 2 cups of duck fat from one medium sized duck. You can see above the layer of non-fat at the bottom. Easiest way to deal with this is to refrigerate it and pop out the fat and remove the juices (probably a gelatin at that point). I might sound preachy since I raise my own on our farm, but this is seriously best if you use a pastured duck like we raise.

In that same pan I tossed in the andouille and cooked until slightly brown, then removed from heat.

1.5) Make a stock

I mentioned the turkey I cooked for my family in my previous ice cream post. Never one to let something go to waste I had picked most of the carcass and bones clean and set it aside to make some stock.

Carcass and bones go into a pot with enough water to cover, a whole onion, some salt, and the aromatics I had shoved inside the carcass when I roasted it. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to something just above a simmer for about two hours, uncovered.

When done, strain the liquid and set aside. Let the bones cool, then go through and pick off all the meat you can.

Set that meat aside. Also, I like to save any large pieces of vegetables that might still be in there, so in this case the onions and garlic also were set aside. Stock should really have it's own recipe, but it's pretty simple. This made almost three gallons of stock. If you can, freeze leftovers in an ice cube tray.  (Each cube is about 1 oz or 1/4 cup, roughly.)

2) Make a roux

Measure out 1 cup of fat and weigh it. Put it in your pot and then add an equal weight of all purpose flour. You can easily just do 1 cup of each, but I can guarantee that you will make a better roux if you use equal weights, not equal measurements.

Set your burner on medium, grab a wooden spoon, and settle in for about thirty minutes of non-stop stirring action. 

You can make your roux ahead of time -- if that's the case, remove it when it reaches a "natural peanut butter" color and continue to stir until it cools a bit, then pour it into a bowl. When ready to use just bring up the temperature gradually and continue!

Ready to store for later!

3) Add stock and other ingredients

Now the fun begins! The combination of onions, bell peppers, and celery are often seen in a lot of Creole dishes. These ingredients make up a Creole mirepoix (pronounced "meer-pwa"), which would normally consist of onions, celery, and carrots in typical French cuisine. I used more onion than normal, but I can't help it. It's in my name.

When you reach that color that's just slightly beyond "natural peanut butter", add in the celery, bell pepper, and onions and cook for a bit until they feel soft. 

It will look like a clumpy mess. 

Add in your stock at this point and stir. The roux is acting as a thickening agent, so make sure the flour-encapsulated fat molecules end up well dispersed. 

Add in your reserved duck pieces. Add in the eggs.  Add in the leftover turkey and vegetables from making the stock. Add in the okra. DO NOT ADD THE SHRIMP.

Note: If you actually do use boiled quail eggs, don't waste your time trying to peel them like you normally peel boiled eggs. Put them in a bowl with enough distilled white vinegar to cover and let them sit for 12 hours. The shells will soften and peels off much, much easier.

Alternatively, you can enlist your father to peel them. (Thanks, buddy!)

Now for the spices. Below is what I used, but this is a great time to be creative. K doesn't like black pepper, so I substituted with white pepper. I bought huge amounts of coriander (one of my favorite and most under utilized spices) and mustard seed, so I ground them up with the mortar and pestle and threw them in. Bay leaves are a standard. But don't be limited to what's below, and certainly don't go buying a whole shaker of ground coriander just for this one recipe. A pre-mixed Cajun seasoning would probably do just as good a job (although I'd call you a cheater).

  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 Tbs. mustard seeds, loosely ground
  • 1 Tbs. coriander, loosely ground
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 2 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1 Tbs. white pepper
  • salt to taste

Mix everything together, reduce to a simmer, and cover.

4) Cook all day

I honestly have no idea how long I let this cook, but it was for at least three hours. The best thing to do is to check the duck: if the meat is easily pulled from the bones, you're done. If your gumbo looks too thin, let it cook with the lid off for awhile to remove some moisture.

5) Add the shrimp

When your gumbo is close to done, turn off the heat. Remove the heads and legs from the shrimp (you did get them head on, right?), and peel off the rest of the shell. Set aside for later use to make shrimp stock. 

Since I only had a pound to work with I cut them into chunks. (I did set one aside for the top photo, though.) Toss the shrimp in the gumbo, mix well, and put the lid on the pot. I kept it closed for about 10 minutes, stirring once in awhile. As hot as your gumbo is the shrimp should not require anything beyond a 10 minute rest in there.

You don't have to remove the shells. You can stop at just removing the heads and legs, or even just the heads. I wanted to make sure that everyone got some shrimp, so I thought peeling and cutting into chunks was the best option -- do what you please!

6) Enjoy

Put some rice in a bowl and spoon over some gumbo. Make sure that everyone gets a little bit of everything, even if they have to do it in two trips! The okra will have fallen apart and act as a thickener for the gumbo. If you've let it gone long enough it should be completely obliterated.

I love knowing where my food comes from, so I was glad to know that this shrimp was locally caught by Anna Marie Seafood Company.  As stated earlier, this shrimp was sent to me by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.

The LSPMB was created in 1984 by the state of Louisiana to support their vast historical commercial fisheries industry. The Board is composed of 15 members and each member represents a sector of the industry: harvesters, processors, wholesalers, restaurateurs/retailers, fisheries resource managers, public health officers and marketing specialists.
To find locally caught seafood, use the LSPMB's Seafood Finder!

Also, stay tuned. I got more shrimp in the mail and decided to do a small shrimp boil. It's an easy one, but it was too incredibly tasty to not blog about!

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