Gumbo is my first love, all my love in one pot. A culmination of New Orleans’ history, the Germanic settlers who brought their spicy andouille sausage, the fishermen from the Canary Islands who furnished crabs, the Trinity, the House Spice, the Shrimp Stock. It is the first dish I learned how to make, start-to-finish, working through the stations of mise-en-place. Of course, for me back then, I simply experienced that as time spent in the kitchen with my mom and sister, stirring the roux until it darkened. I’m from a family of cooks; each relative has his or her dish. Uncle Herm is Shrimp Etouffee. Papa Winston is Curried Goat. Grandma Cassie is Chitlins. Tatiana’s cheesecake. and my mom has this. She’s so damn good at it -- and the ingredients so expensive for us growing up -- that she made seafood gumbo as a literal gift for my sister and I on Christmas. Better than any Playstation game, we ate it Christmas morning and for the next few days as the gumbo got better and better with age.
For the Roux
1 pound unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
For the Gumbo
5 live blue crabs
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 ½ cups finely diced yellow onion (from about 1 large onion)
1 cup finely diced celery (from about 4 stalks)
¾ cup finely diced green bell pepper (from about 1 small pepper)
2 tablespoons minced garlic (from about 4 large cloves)
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 ½ tablespoon House Spice
2 quarts Shrimp Stock
1 quart chicken stock
2 andouille sausages, one left whole and one sliced on the bias into ¼-inch pieces
1 whole chicken (about 3 pounds), skinned and quartered
2 cups lump crabmeat, picked through
Make the roux: Heat oven to 350°F. In a medium pot over medium heat, melt butter. Gradually whisk in flour until smooth, then transfer mixture to a loaf pan. Bake uncovered, whisking every 30 minutes for 2 hours, until deeply browned and fragrant. You should have 3 cups roux. Reserve 1 ½ cups for the gumbo; the remainder can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or the freezer for up to 3 months.
Prep the crabs: Place the live crabs in the freezer for 30 minutes—this will knock them out so that they won’t move around (or feel much) when it’s time to kill them. Working one at a time, remove a cold crab from the freezer and place on its back on a cutting board. Break off the flap (aka the apron) at the back of the shell. This will leave a hole; place your thumb in the hole and lift up firmly, which should make the carapace break away. Use a spoon to scrape out the guts, then rinse thoroughly. Use a large sharp knife (or a cleaver if you have one) to cut right down the middle of the crab. Repeat with the remaining crabs. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Make the gumbo: Heat the oil in a very large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, bell pepper, and garlic with a pinch of salt and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons kosher salt, House Spice, Shrimp Stock, and chicken stock and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then slowly whisk in the roux to create a smooth, thick liquid. (If your roux is hard from the fridge, just add a few pieces at a time, whisking until incorporated before adding more.) Add the whole andouille and the chicken pieces and simmer gently for 20 minutes, then add the crab halves and simmer 20 minutes more, skimming away excess fat from the surface as needed. Season to taste with salt, then remove the whole sausage and discard. Fold in the sliced sausage and the crabmeat.
Serve with Perfectly Steamed Rice.
Gumbo will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-5 days. Roux will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or the freezer for up to 3 months.
Excerpted from Notes From a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi. Copyright © 2019 by Kwame Onwuachi. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
When you shop using our links, we earn a small commission. It’s a great way to support public media at no extra cost to you!
Each week, The Splendid Table brings you stories that expand your world view, inspire you to try something new and show how food brings us together. We rely on you to do this. And, when you donate, you'll become a member of The Splendid Table Co-op. It's a community of like-minded individuals who love good food, good conversation and kitchen companionship. Splendid Table Co-op members will get exclusive content each month and have special opportunities for connecting with The Splendid Table team.
Donate today for as little as $5.00 a month. Your gift only takes a few minutes and has a lasting impact on The Splendid Table and you'll be welcomed into The Splendid Table Co-op.