When Jimmy Comes To Town

Last week, Jimmy Buffett came to town. It’s like a holiday in my book.

And, everyone knows the best thing about a Buffett show (better than the show itself, really) is the tailgating. The group I go with has it down pat. The group is about 20 people, and we pot luck the food. There’s always quite a spread.

I wanted to bring a couple things that were Buffett-themed. I decided on gumbo, since it would be easy to feed a lot of people, and because of Jimmy Buffett’s song “I Will Play for Gumbo.”

I love cerole and cajun cookin. Who doesn’t? It’s genius. It’s making something delicious from of what is available, and feeding a lot of people on the cheap. This was not typical gumbo, though. I needed to make it thick, like a casserole, so it could be eaten easily on styrofoam plates at the tailgate. So, if you’re looking for authentic and classic gumbo, this is not your recipe.

“I Will Play For Gumbo” Casserole Serves 10

  • A whole box of rice (about 6 cups cooked)
  • 1 lb of U. S. wild-caught shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 cups of shredded chicken (I used leftover smoked chicken)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Tb extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups of chicken or shrimp stock*
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes, with their juice
  • 3 Tb butter
  • 4 Tb flour
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp creole seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (or more depending on your taste)
  • 1 tsp salt (more to taste if you use homemade stock)
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • hot sauce

First get your roux started. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to get the lumps out so it is smooth and even. Turn the heat up to medium high. Meanwhile, in a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onion, celery and pepper.

IMG_3436

The “trinity” in creole cookin – onion, celery, bell pepper.

  Saute the trinity until the vegetables begin to soften up a bit. Add the minced garlic and saute a few more minutes. Turn the heat down to low to keep the pot hot but make sure not to burn the onions or garlic. Remember to stir your roux every few minutes so that it doesn’t burn. Many purists believe roux should be constantly stirred–and that probably does yield a better result, but I didn’t have an extra 45 minutes to do that. Once your roux gets to be a nice even brown (about the color of peanut butter), it’s ready.

IMG_3438

Not the best picture, but it should be the color of peanut butter.

 Add the roux to the pot with the vegetables. Stir well to get it evenly distributed. Add the chicken pieces, tomatoes and juice and stock, and stir well to keep the roux from being in globs. Bring the heat back up to medium and bring to a boil. Add the spices and simmer gently until the mixture thickens and liquid evaporates, about 25 or 30 minutes. Add the shrimp for the last 5 minutes or so of cooking time, and cook until the shrimp begin to turn pink. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp, as they will cook a few more minutes in the pot once you remove it from the heat. Add the rice and stir well. Adjust seasoning.

IMG_3439

I poured my gumbo into a 9X13 casserole dish. I mentioned that I wanted it to be thicker than a traditional gumbo, which is more soupy. This was much easier to eat at the tailgate than soup would have been. Serve with hot sauce and file powder (if desired).

You could add sliced smoked sausage to this gumbo when you add the chicken. I just didn’t have any and didn’t want to make a trip to the store.

Making your own shrimp stock is a no brainer. It’s about the easiest thing ever, and it’s like a secret ingredient–imparting subtle seafood flavor to all kinds of dishes without being too fishy.

Shrimp Stock Makes 2-3 cups

  • shells and tails from 1 lb shrimp
  • bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Combine all in a saucepan and cover. Bring to a boil and cook for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool a bit. Strain the shells and tails out through a fine mesh sieve or jelly bag.

I’ll spare the innocent by NOT posting any photos of the tailgate itself. It’s usually better to keep Buffett tailgating and concert photos from going public!

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