Wednesday was gumbo-making day at the Arnall homestead. Stirring up a pot of this Southern staple has become a January tradition, much to the delight of our friends...and us too. Not only is the soup delicious but it's also a fun night with people we love.
It's a team effort getting there, though. Wayne peels the shrimp; I de-vein them. Wayne chops and sautes; I cook the stocks and mix the spices. Wayne makes a mess; I clean it up. I'm just kidding on that last one as we both make our share of messes as the day goes on. And it is an all-day process.
Wayne's specialty, however, is the roux, that magical mixture of flour and oil cooked to the color of milk chocolate. It takes about thirty minutes of constant stirring to get it there because you have to throw it out if it scorches. His never does. It gives the gumbo that deep color and rich taste...well, that and all the other good things we put in it.
You can see the bowls of sauteed vegetables, chicken and andouille sausage there ready and waiting but there's also shrimp and crab on on hold until it's their turn to join the party. And oysters cooked separately for those who want them. (That would not be me.) Not everyone uses both meat and seafood but since we only make gumbo once a year, we go all out. There's three kinds of stock (turkey, chicken and seafood made from the shrimp peelings), ham hocks for flavoring, okra, and tomatoes but no filé powder. And, of course, some Cajun spice too. Just enough to make you want to shout Whoooeee, dats good!
At the end of the day we had six big containers of gumbo goodness ready to go into the refrigerator where the flavors will marry and live happily every after. Soup is always better that way.
If my tastings throughout today's process are any indication, it's going to be a very good year for gumbo. Good thing...I'm ready.