Today’s paper brought with it an article by Barbara J. Avery of Cox News Service on how to host a Mardi Gras bash, even if you can’t make it to the Big Easy for the festival. The piece includes, among other things, this advice:
A successful Mardi Gras party has six elements: the right mix of guests, Cajun or Creole food, appropriate music, libations, entertainment and decorations.
I would leave all but the food to your own imagination, but in the culinary department, her suggestions of spiced nuts, Cajun sausage and marinated salad would work great for the low-carb crowd in the mood for a little pre-lenten revelry. (Unfortunately, the pralines, red beans and rice, pecan pie, and beignets are another matter entirely.)
But what about some other types of Cajun or Creole delicacies? In a city famous for its food, there’s bound to be something we, who watch our carbs, can sink our teeth into.
Our local paper ran the Avery piece next to an article by Tommy C. Simmons of the AP about making that quintessential dish of New Orleans (or Nawlins, as we say in the South) cuisine: Gumbo. Redolent of shrimp and andouille, smoke and spice, good gumbo is heavenly. Properly made, however, as attested to by the recipe that accompanied the piece, a gumbo to serve 10-12 people includes not only 5 or 6 cups of cooked rice, but a full cup of all-purpose flour in the roux of the gumbo itself. Ouch! Eat that much carb and it really will be Fat Tuesday…and Wednesday…and Thursday…
It was a hoot, for me, to turn to the continued-from-page-D1 extension of the article to find this headline:
Oil-free roux easier, more healthful
Saints preserve us! When will they ever learn? It’s not the oil in the roux that made the citizens of the city of New Orleans traditionally among the heaviest in the nation. It was the flour they mixed with the oil! (And of course the sugar and the beans and the rice, but that’s another blog.)
Now, the culinary geniuses in their infinite low-fat wisdom have gone and removed an ingredient that if it were a good fat might in fact be good for us and left in their “healthier” gumbo a cup of flour and 6 cups of rice–foods that will certainly wreck our metabolic balance. Undaunted, and with our bests interests surely in mind, Ms. Avery goes on to instruct us (via information she garnered from Louisiana chef and food photographer David Gallent) on how to make the oil-free roux by baking the flour for a prolonged period in the oven.
But the flavors that make gumbo so delicious come only partly from the caramelized floury roux and virtually not at all from the fluffy, but flavorless rice. And that got me to thinking about how we could make a delicious low-carb knock-off that would, to paraphrase a major yogurt chain, give us most of the pleasure and less of the guilt.
Here is the result. Enjoy it in health and prosperity and, this year, as we approach Mardi Gras, with rememberance of those good people along the Gulf, still in need of our thoughts, prayers, and help.
Les Bon Temps Gumbo
Protein per serving: 33.7 grams
Effective carbohydrate per serving: 14.4 grams
2 pounds unpeeled , large shrimp
1 pound andouille (or smoked) sausage
1 quart chicken broth
1 quart beef broth
2 tablespoons organic lard or coconut oil
1-2 tablespoons ThickenThin notStarch
2 small onions, diced
2 green bell peppers, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves, dried
2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
½ teaspoon thyme, dried and crushed
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Tobasco sauce
4 green onions, chopped, white and green parts
4 cups cooked spaghetti squash
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon Creole seasoning
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1. Peel and devein shrimp; set aside, but reserve shells.
2. Place shells into a large soup pot or Dutch oven; pour in chicken and beef broth, bring to a boil, and simmer for 10 minutes, uncovered.
3. Strain broth through a wire-mesh strainer into a large bowl and set aside to keep warm; discard shells.
4. In a skillet, melt the lard or coconut oil over medium heat; add the diced onion, pepper, celery and cook, stirring often, until they begin to become limp. Add the garlic and continue cooking, stirring often, until the vegetables have begun to caramelize. Take your time; do not let them burn.
5. Cook sausage in the pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until browned evenly; remove and set aside.
6. To the accumulated oil in the pot, sprinkle in the ThickenThin notStarch, stirring with a whisk. Slowly drizzle in the warm broth, whisking constantly to achieve a smooth mixture.
7. Add the cooked vegetables to the broth; stir in all the seasonings and the bay leaves. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring now and again.
8. Meanwhile chop the cooked spaghetti squash to the approximate size of long-grained rice.
9. Melt butter in the microwave or a small pan on the stove, whisk in the salt, pepper, and Creole seasoning. Pour over chopped squash and toss to combine. Set aside and keep warm.
10. Into the gumbo pot, add the shrimp, sausage, and green onions; bring back to a low boil and cook until shrimp turn pink.
11. Ladle a cup of gumbo into warmed bowls, place ½ cup seasoned squash in the center, and laissez les bon temps rouler!