Today marks exactly two years since we Daring Cooks intrepidly revealed our first cooking challenge to the world, and every month since has been an eventful, educational (and sometimes stressful) trip across various techniques and cuisines. I am sad to say this shrimp & sausage gumbo will be my 20th and last Daring Cooks challenge that I present to you – the past 24 months have been wonderful, but I have to move on – Daring Cooks was an amazing experience, and did wonders to help me grow with my skills in the kitchen, new techniques, and above all creativity (especially when it came to making some of the challenges gluten free!).
This month for my last challenge of Daring Cooks, I made gumbo. I made mine with shrimp and sausage, and about twice as many veggies as were called for. Our May hostess, Denise, of There’s a Newf in My Soup!, challenged The Daring Cooks to make Gumbo! She provided us with all the recipes we’d need, from creole spices, homemade stock, and Louisiana white rice, to Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh.
Out of 25 total challenges so far, today marks my 20th. Twenty new experiences, trials, recipes, fails, photos and successes. Rather than reminisce about each one, I thought it might be more fun to show the dishes in picture form (each photo links to its post) – it’s funny to think about how scary making those gnocchi were that first time, and how far along I’ve come, even to host a challenge and help others. Thanks Daring Kitchen, for some great memories and helping me to become an overall better cook. So here they are, starting from the beginning:
And every single one of them gluten free!
This was a great challenge for my last month in Daring Cooks because as usual I didn’t have half of the ingredients available forcing me to get creative, and I also got to geek out a bit about being gluten free :) I couldn’t find okra, Andouille sausage, filé powder or any cajun spices, or even half of the spices required to make my own. And actually my first run was a disaster, because I totally flubbed the spice blend. The 2nd time worked well though! I used a local smoked sausage, shrimp, and loads of veggies including celery, red & yellow bell peppers, onions, and even green beans (the green beans might disqualify my stew from being a gumbo anymore, I dunno). The original recipes for this month’s challenge are linked in this pdf or on this month’s host’s blog. To make gluten free, I omitted any Worcestershire sauce and used gluten free flour.
The great broad culinary technique involved in making gumbo is making a roux, which is usually a fat and flour cooking together to be used as a thickener. Roux are perfect for adapting to gluten free. In a roux, it’s not the gluten that does the magic but the starch – so it’s really an ideal food to adapt to GF because roux doesn’t care at all about gluten. Regular all purpose wheat flour has a starch content around 75% I think (don’t hold me to that!), so I would try to emulate that percentage in order to get a 1:1 substitution for a gluten free roux. I just used a commercial all purpose gluten free mix and cooked it in duck fat, and it worked fine. I’ve also had great luck using solely millet flour.
One might be tempted to substitute in a pure starch, but know that many available starches are, naturally, going to have a much higher starch content than the all purpose wheat flour you’re replacing, so you won’t need to use as much. I know many people like to use nut flours as their GF substitution for flours, but in this case a nut flour would not be ideal, because they tend to have a very low starch content and so say adding almond flour to a roux would not give the thickening power that is required. I also usually do not like to use rice flour in a roux. I find rice flour doesn’t cook really well and turns gray and gummy.
So if you want to make a gluten free roux, stick to a blend, or try millet or sorghum, or cut down on the amount a little and sub in a starch like tapioca or arrowroot – those are my suggestions – and of course, make your substitutions by weight, not volume.
As I said, I am sorry to have to say goodbye to Daring Cooks, but I really really want and need more time to devote to the Gluten Free Ratio Rally – it took off hitting the ground running a couple months ago, and has just expanded in so many wonderful ways in its few short months. The monthly challenges are super involved – unlike any other blogging event, we challenge ourselves to come up with the ratios of ingredients – to develop the ratios that can be tools for future recipes. It takes a lot more work than it looks, because one doesn’t just make a recipe once – it’s about tweaking and testing, requiring several iterations to find that ideal ingredient combination. I love this because the gluten free community needs a set of usable adaptable tools so much. The gluten free world needs to know that there isn’t magic voodoo going into a recipe – that there are rules to consistent success, we just have to find out what they are. As much as being in Daring Cooks was a ton of fun and I looked forward to the challenges each month (and learned a lot!), I really want to – no I need to – for my husband, our family, my friends, and for myself – I’ve been saying for a long while that there have to be logical rules to help guide successful tasty gluten free dishes, and this is the big chance to find out what those rules are. Maybe it’s my scientist background, but I’m so excited about “discovering” secrets to gluten free baking. I’m so passionate about this effort, and really I encourage every gluten free blogger to join in so we can all work together – I see such great progress and help for so many through everyone’s efforts, and I can’t wait to cook and test and adapt and experiment in my kitchen even more now
So Daring Cooks, thanks so much for everything, for making me a better cook, for allowing me to be creative and a bit liberal with each event, for giving great challenging subjects to photograph, and for helping me learn how to improvise gluten free conversions on the fly. Really you have taught me so much, and it’s been a great two years cooking alongside every one of you. I can’t wait to read about all of the new exciting challenges you all will be doing in the future.