More often than you might gather from this blog, Tom does a lot of the cooking in our house. He’s more an instinctive cook than a recipe follower, but he does occasionally rely on cookbooks, when he needs reminding of specific proportions and procedures. One such is gumbo – a dish for which he gets a periodic yen. He made a brilliant one for our dinner the other day.
He started by inviting me to state my preference for the main ingredients: sausages, chicken, shrimp, oysters, and/or crabs – all but the last of which we had in the freezer. I chose oysters and sausage.
(Those alligator and pork andouille sausages had been an impulse purchase of Tom’s from a few weeks back, and I knew he was champing at the bit to try them.)
After reviewing 10 or 12 gumbo recipes in various cookbooks, he decided to more or less follow one from Richard and Rima Collin’s New Orleans Cookbook. For his gumbo base he exercised his renowned knife skills, chopping onion, scallion greens, garlic, parsley, and green peppers – more peppers than the recipe called for, because he likes them a lot – then cubing baked ham and some of the andouille; slicing the rest into coins.
He added those to his brown roux at appropriate intervals, along with the standard seasonings (thyme, bay leaves, cayenne, black pepper, salt), and then the oyster liquor and water – less water than the recipe called for because he likes his gumbo with okra (necessarily frozen, at this time of year) instead of the filé powder the Collins always call for, and okra contributes some liquid of its own. It went in, still frozen, when the mixture had reached a gentle boil.
About 20 minutes before the gumbo was scheduled to be done, he added the sliced sausages to the pot and, just about 3 or 4 minutes from the end, the oysters. When everything was just heated through, it sat for a short while off the heat to compose itself. My entire contribution to the dish was to cook the rice to serve alongside.
I thought this was one of Tom’s very best gumbos. We couldn’t actually detect an alligator flavor in the sausages, but our bowls were filled with a wonderfully fragrant, spicy mélange. We two ate almost all of the quantity that should have served four.
We were also extremely pleased with how well the wine Tom had chosen for our dinner went with the gumbo. It was a 2010 Marisa Cuomo Ravello bianco from the Amalfi Coast. Here’s Tom’s description of it:
This is a great white wine, reminiscent in its feel in the mouth of a fine white Burgundy. But it bears no other resemblance to that or any Chardonnay-based wine. Made with indigenous southern Italian varieties, it has a distinctive flavor, a balanced blend of apple, pear, chalk, and limestone. Its bright acidity enables it to stand up to almost any dish: It certainly loved our gumbo, and if it can work well with that I wouldn’t hesitate to try it with anything else.
By the way, the wine looked very dark yellow in the glass, initially giving the impression it might already be too old, but that was far from the truth – it was fresh and vital, with years of life (and evolution?) yet before it. In short, a lucky match that I would happily repeat.
He has more to say about the wine in his own blog.