Yes, Easy Beef and Seafood Gumbo with Cheese Grits Cakes..
Well..easy after you chop, slice, dice and mince all of the below.
Umm..easy after you sear 1 1/2 pounds of beef cubes on each side, then stand at the stove for 15 minutes browning the roux, then another 10-15 minutes caramelizing the onions in the roux, then another 10 minutes (at least in my recipe) sauteing the peppers, garlic and herbs with the onions in roux.
Now it really does get easy, because with my method you dump the beef, stocks, well..basically everything but the scallops, shrimp and cheese grits cakes, into the pot, then into the oven, and let it cook for about an hour. THEN, you throw in the okra, and cook for another hour. Now you need to add the shrimp, and let it go for another 10 minutes. OH, and while that’s happening, you need to sear the creole or cajun seasoned scallops, cut and sear the creole or cajun seasoned cheese grits cakes, and then..OK, I’ll stop here.
Alright, not easy, but you don’t have to keep running to the stove to stir it so it doesn’t stick to the bottom! Yay! (sarcasm alert)
Sick of the word ‘easy’ yet? Have I misused it in my desperate attempt for satire? You bet! The only ‘really’ easy part is cooking the gumbo in the oven, and the only reason I used the oven is because I hurt my knee again last week and didn’t want to take any chances running back and forth to the stove to stir. Again, Yay! (sarcasm still rampant).
Our May hostess, Denise, of There’s a Newf in My Soup!, challenged The Daring Cooks to make Gumbo! She provided us with all the recipes we’d need, from creole spices, homemade stock, and Louisiana white rice, to Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh.
For bowl photos, I cut the beef, scallops and shrimp into small chunks. Of course you don’t have to, and in fact, I recommend that you don’t!
I sort of made up my own gumbo. Denise provided us with three awesome recipes, but I just felt the need for beef in lieu of chicken and sausage, beef in lieu of duck and sausage (been there way too recently), beef in lieu of duck or chicken with sausage and seafood. I was ditching the bird and pig. I need red meat; my body is calling for it so it can send it on down to my knee. I added seafood with the beef; shrimp and scallops, to be exact, which equates to surf and turfy gumboliciousness.
However, I was going to nix the okra. Only once in my life have I had okra that wasn’t sliming up my gumbo, and that was in some little, out of the way restaurant/shack in Florida. I didn’t trust that I could make it not slimy. Then it hit me; okra is gumbo. I used to do the NY Times crossword puzzle every Sunday, (this is not bragging because I used a pencil and reference books when I was desperate to finish the dang puzzle to see the theme), and whenever the clue was ‘okra’ the answer was ‘gumbo’. Whenever the clue was ‘gumbo’, the answer was ‘okra’.
I had to add it now, and there was no turning back since I paid for the pound of green, tubular, slug-like aliens, mocking me with their inner-slime. If there was no okra, I was essentially making a spicy, roux thickened beef and seafood soup/stew, not gumbo. Nope, no good. Verdict: The okra pretty much disintegrated, probably because I sliced it super thin, but no slime. I’m clueless as to what I did right. Maybe it was genetically slime-free okra?
That said, although I sort of followed Denise’s gumbo syllabus, I tinkered with different ingredient amounts, mixed up the herbs, and well..I don’t see a beef, shrimp and scallop gumbo out there anywhere, so it’s mine, right? Well, mine until some grumpy chef or food blogger appears out of nowhere and claims they’ve been making this exact beef and seafood gumbo since they went shrimpin’ as a kid, or it was passed down from generation to generation, starting with their Uncle Bubba in the 19th century who “..actually knew, and made this gumbo for Billy the Kid in 1880 and…”
OK, a few notes. Scallops. I never understood why some people boil scallops. Gently poach, maybe, but boil? No. I’ve had seafood stews where the scallops were just thrown in for the last few minutes, turning them into erasers with little flavor. Scallops are delectable and sweet, so they still taste sweet no matter how they’re cooked, if cooked perfectly. However, why should scallops float in a stew or gumbo, pale and not be everything they could be, like chunks of bean curd or the aforementioned erasers? There is so much more flavor to be had by seasoning and searing them off, and then throwing them into the finished stew or gumbo. Shrimp boil = GOOD, Scallop boil = NOT so good. Happ-i-ness with each bite of seared, caramelized, spicy scallop is more than worth the extra few minutes involved.
I thought this might work, completely forgetting that gumbo is a ‘soupy’ stew or a thick soup, whichever suits your foodie senses. Oh, well, not for lack of trying.
I seasoned my scallops with my trusty jar of Bayou Blast, which I made from a recipe online. Denise gave us a recipe for creole seasoning, but since I’ve been making it since like..well, my Uncle Bubba..never mind, for a few years, I decided to use it instead of making the creole seasoning. The ingredients are pretty close anyway.
I also seasoned and seared the beef with the cajun seasoning, and the cheese grits cakes. Yes cheese grits cakes. I’d never tried grits before, so when I came upon a recipe for these via a Food & Wine email, I thought it would pair well with my gumbo in lieu of rice, and it did. Oh, by the way, grits have no discernible flavor whatsoever, unless I’m missing something here. You need to really, really season them up good!
In conclusion, loved this challenge, and love my ‘new’ gumbo. Please check out Denise’s gumbo challenge recipes, HERE.
Beef and Seafood Gumbo with Cheese Grits Cakes
- 1½ lbs beef cubes
- ½ cup canola oil or duck fat (gasp!) OR bacon fat (GASP!)
- ½ cup flour
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 3 cups beef stock
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 16 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ lb fresh or frozen okra, sliced
- 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 lb sea scallops
- creole or cajun seasoning
- Tabasco sauce
- 3½ cups milk
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup quick grits
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more to add to pan during searing, if needed
- creole or cajun seasoning
- Preheat oven to 300 F. Season beef cubes with creole or cajun seasoning, then sear in 2 tablespoons hot oil. Don't crowd the pot, just sear in batches until golden brown on each side, adding another few beef cubes when one batch is done, lather, rinse, repeat, until you've seared all the beef cubes. If you sear all the beef cubes at once, the beef will steam and you'll lose a ton of flavor! With each batch, remove to bowl or plate when done searing. Set beef cubes aside until ready to proceed with them.
- Do not wipe out pan. While pan is still hot, add ½ cup canola oil to beef drippings. When it sizzles, whisk in flour. Keep whisking (this is your roux) over medium heat until medium brown, about 15 minutes.
- Add the chopped onions to the brown roux. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir the onions into the roux. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue stirring until the roux becomes a glossy dark brown (as shown in photo collage above), about 10 minutes. Be careful that it doesn't burn. If it smells burnt, trash it and start over.
- Add the chopped bell peppers, minced garlic, thyme, marjoram and celery to the onions and roux. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring.
- Add the seared beef back to the pot with the roux and vegetables, and cook about 3 minutes. Slowly pour in both stocks and tomatoes, scraping the bottom of the pan to lift up the brown bits stuck to the pan from the beef searing (aka fond aka flavor!), then add the bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then place in preheated 300 F oven and cook for about 1 hour, covered.
- Remove pot from oven and add the sliced okra, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper. Cook for one more hour. In the mean time, season scallops with creole or cajun seasonings, then sear in a separate pan in 1 tablespoon of hot oil, 1 minutes per side. They will finish cooking in the hot gumbo when it's removed from the oven.
- Remove pot from oven..uncover and add peeled and deveined shrimp. Place back in oven for about 10 - 15 minutes.
- Remove pot from oven. Add the seared scallops to the gumbo and let them soak up the flavors and finish cooking for a few minutes before serving. Season the gumbo with salt and pepper and/or more cajun and creole seasoning to taste. Serve with cheese grits cakes (recipe follows) and pass the Tabasco.
- Lightly oil a 9-inch-square glass baking dish. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer with half of the garlic. Slowly whisk in the grits over moderate heat until very thick, 3 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheddar and scallions. Season with salt, pepper and Tabasco. Pour into the dish and press plastic wrap directly onto the surface. Let stand until firm, 30 minutes.
- Heat a saute pan with oil. Cut the grits into 6-12 squares (depending on how big you want them) and dust both sides of each cake with creole or cajun seasoning. Place in hot oil and cook over moderate heat until crisp, about 2 minutes per side. Keep the cheese grits cakes warm in a low oven.