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Gumbo, a taste of the South

When I think about what my South tastes like, it's gumbo, a staple in Cajun cuisine. And the key to a good gumbo is the roux.

Roux is a thickening agent used in many dishes like soup, stew and gravy. It is made of equal parts flour and fat; either oil or butter. Most gumbo cooks spend 30 minutes to an hour making the roux, cooking it until it turns into a dark caramel or chocolate color. This is a very hands-on process so make sure someone is always there to stir the roux during cooking so you don't burn it. If you see black specks in your roux, you've burned it; throw it out and start over.

I like to add the "trinity" (onion, celery, bell pepper) to the roux before it gets to the desired color, because that'll help slow the cooking process. Once you have the roux the rest is simple. The longer you let the gumbo simmer the better it will be.

LOUISIANA GUMBO

Makes 16 servings.

Ingredients

2 cups flour

1 ½ cup vegetable oil

2 cup yellow onion, diced

2 cup green bell pepper, diced

2 cup celery, diced

½ cup parsley, chopped

1 pound andouille sausage, sliced

1 tablespoon Creole seasoning

1 pound crab meat, lump or claw

2 pounds peeled shrimp

12 cups seafood stock

4 cup chicken broth

2 teaspoon Zatarain's Pure Ground Gumbo File (found in spice section at most grocery stores)

½ cup green onion, chopped for garnish

6 cups cooked rice

Directions: In a large, heavy bottomed pot or a Dutch oven, combine the oil and flour over medium heat. Stir slowly and constantly for at least 25 minutes until you make a dark brown roux, the color of chocolate. Add chopped onions, bell peppers, celery, parsley, green onions, andouille sausage, and Creole seasoning. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables start to soften, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the stock and broth, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 2 to 4 hours. Add the shrimp and crabmeat, cook for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes before skimming off the fat that has risen to the surface. Taste for seasonings and adjust. Serve the gumbo over rice and sprinkle with file powder and green onions.

Chef Arica Davis is owner/operator of Yummy Fixins, Personal Chef Services and Pasta Parties. Visit http://www.yummyfixins.com to book your next dinner party.