Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Birthday gumbo and my CSN winner

October 26th is always a very special day for me because today would have been my wonderful father’s birthday. I say “would have been” because he sadly slipped away from us in 2001 after a courageous battle with lung cancer. Cancer won in the end but not without one hell of a fight. He fought the disease with dignity and humor and taught his loving family one final, valuable life lesson…how to say goodbye gracefully. Knowing how fragile we all were, he kept us propped up with his bravery, strength and gentle resignation, making us believe that he had everything under control as usual.

There was so much more to this wonderful man than how he died. Physically, my dad was tall and thin and always impeccably dressed. He bore a slight resemblance to Clint Eastwood which accentuated his bad ass side. After he retired and moved to his dream farm in the country, he would frequently wear a pistol on his hip just in case there was a snake that needed killing.  Being a lover of wildlife, snakes were about the only thing that he felt free to kill just because of their perceived threat. In this part of the country snakes are frequently poisonous so if they were, and happened to be in his yard, it was curtains for them.

His actions were vindicated on one fateful day when he and my mom had gone to Houston for a treatment and I was housesitting for them. My daughter and I awoke to find one of his beloved dogs on the front lawn graveyard dead with two puncture wounds in his skull from what must have been a huge rattlesnake. We tracked down the other two dogs that had been with him on his big romp the night before and they had also been bitten. Thank goodness that they eventually pulled through because digging a grave for one huge dead dog in full rigor mortis was indeed enough. 

I didn’t feel close to this man because he was “just” my dad either. In my adult years he became one of my dearest friends. For the four years that we lived in the UK, I spoke with him virtually every day. We would spend the better part of an hour just laughing and solving the world’s problems. He had a delightfully wicked sense of humor that never failed to make me belly laugh. No one, no matter how young or old, was immune from his warm and playful teasing. I’m sure deep down inside my son still wonders if his grandpa put him on “report” which most certainly marred his “permanent record.” I can't put into words how much I miss that.

One of my dad’s absolute favorite dishes in this world was seafood gumbo. When he was in the final stages of his disease, we all helped him search the great state of Texas high and low for the perfect bowl and never seemed to find just the right recipe. Well Dad, in your memory I’ve been working on my gumbo and finally came up with something I think you’d really like. I only wish you were here to share some with me. Of course something tells me that gumbo in heaven is probably pretty hard to beat. Happy birthday Daddy!

Crab and Shrimp Gumbo

1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 medium size onion, finely chopped
1 medium size green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 large celery stalks, finely chopped
2 medium size garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups water
3 – 10.5 ounce cans beef consommé
4 tablespoons tomato sauce
1 large bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
3/4 - 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 ounces crab meat (use lump meat if you want, but I use claw meat that is not only cheaper, but adds to the rustic, down home flavor of this recipe), picked through for shells
3 green onions, light and dark green parts, chopped and divided
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Cooked rice (approximately 2 cups) and chopped green onion or parsley for serving

Pour oil into a large stockpot that has been set over medium high heat; heat oil to hot before whisking in flour. Cook roux, stirring frequently, for 10 – 15 minutes or until it turns a dark walnut brown being careful not to let it burn.

Add onion, bell pepper and celery and cook, stirring frequently, for approximately 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook and stir for approximately 1 minute longer. While whisking constantly, pour in water, consommé and tomato sauce. Bring to a slow bowl before adding the bay leaf, thyme, parsley and Worchestershire sauce. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for approximately 20 minutes.

Add shrimp,crab meat and half of the green onion; replace the cover and cook until shrimp just starts to turn opaque, approximately 5 minutes or so. Add /asalt and pepper to taste.

Serve piping hot over cooked rice with a sprinkling of the remaining chopped green onion or parsley and lots of Tabasco sauce on the side.

Easily serves 8.

In celebration of my dad's birthday, let's give someone a present. As promised, today is the day for my CSN giveaway. I checked in with Random.org this afternoon, put in my numbers and it chose, drumroll please...Jen Harriman. Jen, CSN's representative will contact you shortly with your code. Thanks to all of my followers, new and existing, for participating in my giveaway. Check back soon for the next one!


Velva said...

There is no better way to honor your dad than with a bowl of good seafood gumbo ( it doesn't have to be perfect, just good). Everytime you make a pot of good gumbo, and everytime you enjoy a good bowl of gumbo with friends or family-your dad's spirit will be with you.

Yenta Mary said...

What a sweet, heartfelt post! And isn't that what food is all about, keeping us connected both to the living and to those who've left us ...? Happy birthday to your dad ....

Susan said...

Your dad sounds like a wonderful man! Your love for your dad spills through with every word.

Conor @ Hold the Beef said...

Karen, your Dad sounds like a real salt-of-the-earth man you were all blessed to have in your lives and I have no doubt he'd be loving this gumbo. I wish he could still be around to enjoy it in person with you, big hugs coming to you from Australia :)

You also make me realise I haven't spoken to my Dad for a while, and haven't cooked for him for a long long time, and I really feel like doing both now. Thank you.

Midwest to Midlands said...

Well written and heartfelt post - as I have come to expect from you. Food and family memories seem to go together. So many times I'm in the kitchen I think of my Mom or something my Dad liked or didn't like to eat. Was your dad in the UK too or did you talk to him on the phone?
Have a great November!