When I’m in a new place I like to sample the local delicacies. For me trying new foods is half the fun of travel. What do they eat in this part of the world? How does the food reflect the culture?
One fabulous thing about sailing is that you have your galley with you so you can learn how to make the local foods you like, or at least your rendition of them. Freshly locally-grown produce and spices are always better than something shipped in from halfway around the world anyway. So take advantage of the opportunity. What better than adding new spices to your cupboard, bringing different flavors into your life, and expanding your culinary horizons?
Umineko was in Charleston, South Carolina. Sailing in I knew nothing about the Southern City, other than that there was a dance named after it. I quickly discovered Charleston was known for being a foodie’s town – the unsung culinary capital of the South. Not to mention being a being a beautiful place resplendent in southern charms. Street vendors sold boiled (pronounced balled) or deep-fried peanuts in front of elaborately-decorated southern mansions. The clip-clop of horse hooves from the numerous horse-drawn carriages gave the “low country” South Carolina city a special feel.
After eating at Husk, a restaurant lauded by the NY Times, I understood what everyone was talking about. I needed to pick up some Cajun seasoning and try my hand at making gumbo. After all, we had just bought some fresh shrimp from fisherman in Georgetown. What better way to use them?
At Marion Place farmer’s market, Charleston’s Saturday market, a delightful woman was running the Charleston Spice Company booth gave me some gumbo-making tips. For gumbo I clearly needed Cajun seasoning. She recommended her smoky Cajun seasoning and I was all for it.
She didn’t have a recipe because she didn’t make it, but her husband made the best gumbo she had ever tasted. Several years earlier she had put a few teaspoons of sassafras filé in the gumbo at the end. That was the missing ingredient. The gumbo was perfection. The filé helped thicken the gumbo and added a hint of flavor to the delicious mélange… that extra something she told me.
That afternoon I went back to Umineko to prepare the gumbo. I may not have made it before, but I had tasted a few gumbos in my life. Playing it by ear, and mixing in what we had on board a delectable seafood gumbo came into existence.
Now technically gumbo, like most stews, is better the following day. I did let it sit for several hours (and it was better the next day), but we sated ourselves on gumbo and rice that evening.
Sailing Seafood Gumbo
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- 1 can green beans, drained
- 2 Tablespoon Veg. oil
- 2 Tablespoon Flour
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 6 oz can Tomato paste
- 2 teaspoon Salt
- 1 t black pepper
- 1 T lemon juice
- 1 Bay leaf
- 1 T Smoky Cajun seasoning
- 1 t 7 chili seasoning
- 1 T Vegeta, vegetable soup stock powder (or bouillon cube)
- 1 lb shrimp
- 1 c small scallops
- 3 Cup Water
- 1 c cooked rice
- 2 t ground sassafras filé (to thicken it up and give it that special extra flavor)
- Sautee onions, garlic, and green pepper in oil
- Add tomatoes
- Stir in flour and mix well.
- Add spices, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce cover, and simmer for 30-45 minutes on med-low heat
- Remove bay leaf
- Add green beans, cooked rice, and seafood, cover, and cook 10 minutes
- Stir in sassafras filé
- Serve in soup bowls with cornbread on the side or over rice