The Gumbo Bowl in Tuscaloosa last weekend had the top two college football teams in the country, a Guinness World Record pot of seafood gumbo and Sandy Herman.
The Pratville, Ala., native had her gumbo recipe selected out of the thousands of Crimson Tide and Tigers fans who applied to be a part of the Tailgate Cook-off competition outside Bryant–Denny Stadium on Saturday.
Herman was one of four contestants chosen to represent the Alabama
side and face off against four LSU cooks. Her recipe stood out way above the rest though. The judges, which included famed Chef John Folse and former Crimson Tide defensive lineman turned restaurateur Bob Baumhower, were floored.
"They told me it was the best gumbo they've ever tasted," Herman said.
And what did the winner think of the 3,710-pound pot of gumbo Folse and Baumhower made to set the world record and raise $26,000 for charity?
"I thought mine was better," she says, but adding that it was probably the best her recipe has ever turned out and that it had much longer to simmer and bring the flavors together than the enormous kettle tended by the pros.
Herman says that everyone raves about her gumbo. She first began making the Cajun classic eight years ago to feed the parents and girls involved with her daughter's traveling softball team.
The winning recipe, which has been a crowd-pleaser ever since, came out of a cookbook owned by her husband's grandmother. With her family cheering her on, Herman nailed it last Saturday in her first ever cook-off.
"I was really nervous at first," she says, "but once I got out there and started cooking, it was like cooking at my house, except outside."
Things went Herman's way before the game, but her team lost to No. 1 LSU by a field goal.
So would she give back the gumbo grand prize to have Alabama get the victory?
"Oh yeah," she says. "I'd rather have them win the game."
Now that's a real Crimson Tide fan.
1 1/2 pounds jumbo shrimp, with heads and tails
1 onion, halved
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp thyme
1/4 tsp cayenne
2 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
2 lemons halved and squeezed
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup of flour
2 yellow onions, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4 garlic gloves, finely chopped
1 bag of frozen okra
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
3 bay leaves
1 tbsp of thyme
1 tbsp of gumbo file
2 quarts of shrimp stock
1 1/2 pounds of peeled shrimp
1 pint of raw oysters
2 packages (16 ounces each) of frozen crawfish tails
1 pint of crab meat
3 cups of cooked long grain white rice
Chopped green onions and flat leaf parsley for garnish
Crusty French bread
To make shrimp stock:
Peel the shrimp and toss the heads and tails into a large stock pot. Refrigerate the peeled shrimp until ready to put in the gumbo. Add the onion, bay leaves, thyme, cayenne pepper, Old Bay and lemons to the pot. Cover with 2 1/2 quarts of cold water, allow the liquid to slowly come to a
boil then lower the heat. Gentle simmer for 45 minutes uncovered, skimming any foam off that rises to the top. Strain the stock into another pot to remove the chunky solids. At this point you should have about 2 quarts of broth to use in the gumbo. Cool until needed.
To make the gumbo:
You must start with a roux base, so melt the butter over medium low heat in a Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot, and just as the foam subsides, add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or whisk, to prevent lumps. Cook the roux until it is the color of walnuts, and smells equally nutty. This should take about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the onions, celery, bell pepper, garlic and okra, and season with salt, cayenne and Old Bay. Mix in the tomatoes, bay leaves, and thyme, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring until the vegetables are soft. Pour in the cooled shrimp stock and stir until combined. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce heat to simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the gumbo is dark and thick. Toss in the shrimp, oysters, crab meat and crawfish tail meat. Cook another 15 minutes and taste. If seasoning needs to be adjusted, do so now.
Ladle the gumbo into a shallow bowl and pile rice in the center. Sprinkle with gumbo file, green onions and parsley. Enjoy with the French bread and hot sauce at table.
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