Seems everyone wants to be a Louisianan at some time or another... or at least, be able to cook like one. I’ve come to the conclusion that unless you are raised with the red mud of Louisiana squeezing through your toes (they *are* the ones with red mud, no? maybe I mean “Unless you’ve drifted about the bayou”, or whatever one does in bayous), you can’t quite capture the true essence... but you can come pretty darn close. After all, how hard can it be to follow a recipe? And with a dish like gumbo, it seems to me that what one does is start with the basics and then just add things you think would taste good. At least, that is how I do it... and it seems to turn out okay.

Don’t like smoked sausage? Try spicy Italian instead. Red or green bell peppers can be replaced with something a bit hotter, if you want to liven things up a bit. And, as far as I’m concerned, the okra can be dispensed with altogether, although I have left in the list of ingredients here. This recipe calls for vegetable oil but it’s perfectly okay to use a good olive or canola oil instead.

About the hardest thing about making gumbo is perfecting that mysterious ritual insiders call “Making Roux”. It can be done, with patience and attention to the coloring and making sure it doesn’t burn. After that, it’s clear sailing.

Anyway... try your hand at being a Louisianan for a day, with this recipe. Enjoy

Seafood Gumbo Pie - with Biscuit Topping

Yield: 6 Servings

Ingredients -

Roux

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Gumbo

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 pound smoked sausage, sliced
3/4 pound cooked bonelss ham steak, cut into 2 by 1/4 inch strips
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small celery rib, minced
3 tablespoons rice
2 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 pound shrimp, shelled
1/2 pound okra, sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Biscuit topping:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 1/2 tablespoons cold butter
3/4 cup buttermilk

First, make your roux: In a heavy medium skillet, combine 3 tablespoons of the oil with the flour and cook over moderatly low heat, stirring occasionally, until the roux is dark mahogany in color, about 1 hour. Do not let burn. Immediately remove from heat.

In a medium flameproof casserole dish melt 2 tablespoons of the butter with the remaining 1 teaspoon oil. Add the sliced sausage and cook over moderate heat until well browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon. Add the ham strips to the casserole and cook until lightly browned, about 7 minutes; add to the plate with the sausage slices.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and the onion to the casserole. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until softened and translucent, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderately low and add the garlic, green and red bell peppers, celery and rice. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes longer.

Reheat the brown roux if necessary. Scrape it into the casserole with the vegetables and rice. Stir in the chicken stock and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the sausages and ham, reduce the heat to moderately low and cook, covered, for 25 minutes.

Stir in the cayenne, shrimp and okra and season with salt and black pepper to taste. Cook, stirring once or twice, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Make the topping: Preheat the oven to 450F. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Cut in the 5 1/2 tablespoons of the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the buttermilk until a soft dough forms.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough 1/2 inch thick. Using a 2 1/2 inch round cutter, stamp out 12 biscuits.

Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Pour the hot gumbo into a shallow 9 inch round baking dish. Arrange the bicuits on top and brush with the melted butter. Bake until the biscuits are puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes.