Spicy Crab Gumbo / by Chelsea Zwieg

I labored a long time over what to call this soup. Because, you see, it started as my attempt to make gumbo, something I've never made or tasted before. But I saw a few recipes floating around and I'm all about the soup lately soup so I tried it out. But in typical Chelsea fashion I combined two recipes I liked into one, substituted a few ingredients I didn't have, left out a few I didn't like, added in few that sounded good and came away with a gumbo that doesn't have creole seasoning, andouille sausage or much else that my gumbo investigations have revealed as essential. But calling it soup seemed so unjust. Calling it stew led me down a rabbit hole of internet searches ('difference between soup and stew', 'what is stew', 'stew definition', 'help i don't know what I'm eating') with no clear answer. And while I could call it what it is (the food of the gods, holy water, soup straight from heaven), I'm sticking with gumbo. So gumbo it will be. 

The one gumbo-esque feature that I have stuck to through all my variations is the roux. A roux (pronounced 'roo' or 'rue' if you're a Hunger Games fan) is a thickening agent made of flour and fat. In gumbo the roux is cooked low and slow, toasting the flour until it is a dark brown. Not only does it thicken the soup but it provides the deepest, most complex flavor to ever be found in a bowl of soup (stew, gumbo etc). The only hitch is that a roux needs to be whisked constantly. So for a dark roux you need to settle in for a good 20-30 minutes parked in front of the stove. This might sound intimidating but it is 100% worth it. Plus I just pull up Netflix on my laptop and stir away. One episode of The Office later, I've got a roux. 

This has quickly become one of my favorite soups. It's spicy, rich and warming in a way that no other soup is. Plus, since it is a bit more time-consuming than most soups, it is the perfect little project for a cold, snowy night when all you want to do is spend the night all cozy in the house, eating soup and watching The Bachelor (that's not just me, right?) 

And Happy 2015! Looking forward to an amazing year! 

Spicy Crab Gumbo

Serves 4

| Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 orange pepper, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 7 oz (about a 1/2 can) fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1  1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne 
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. worcestershire sauce
  • 4 cups chicken broth 
  • 1 can (16.5 oz) jumbo lump crab
  • 7 oz (fully cooked) turkey sausage, sliced (you can also use andouille if you want to go full gumbo)

| Instructions | 

  • Lightly drizzle a medium skillet with olive oil, heat over medium-high. Add sausage and brown slices on both sides. Remove from skillet and set aside. 
  • In a large, heavy bottomed pot (preferably cast iron) heat oil and flour over medium high heat, whisking to combine. Continue to cook the roux 20-25 minutes or until it browns (I usually go for a color a little darker than peanut butter), whisking every 5 seconds or so. Keep in mind that you do not need to be whisking your arm off this entire time. You're looking to keep the roux from sticking and burning so just run whisk along edges of the pot every so often and lightly stir everything around to keep it moving. 
  • Once your roux is complete, add the pepper and celery. Be very careful. The roux seems all calm and sleepy after 20 minutes of hanging out but once the vegetables are added it will bubble up and splatter and it is so so hot. Stir the vegetables around, coating them in the roux. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for one minute. Stir in diced tomatoes. Add the spices, giving one more good stir to make sure they are evenly distributed. 
  • Add chicken broth and worcestershire sauce, whisking vigorously to dissolve the roux into the liquid. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil then immediately reduce heat to low. Allow gumbo to simmer and thicken for 5-10 minutes. Add crab and sausage. Continue to simmer until the meat is heated through, about 5 more minutes.