While there is still a crisp snap in the air and oysters are in season, soulful gumbo beckons. Get reeled in by these steaming, fragrant bowls bobbing with fresh shrimp, crab, oysters, chicken, sausage and okra, Texas style.
Stiff competition is the name of the gumbo game in the Bayou City, and Liberty Kitchen is carrying the torch. Not every kitchen can combine seafood and meat successfully because of flavor clashes, but this gumbo manages to mingle, thanks to founding culinary director Lance Fegen’s expertise.
His Creole whole crab, shrimp and andouille gumbo starts with a slowly prepared full-bodied roux, one of the first things he learned as a chef. He takes his time so the roux darkens to a rich chocolate color. Then to the big cast iron pan, where he cooks up the Holy Trinity (celery, onions and peppers) and adds the sausage, homemade broth, filé, whole Gulf shrimp and blue crabs.
The signature gumbo is crowned with fried oysters and served with a side of rice or Creole potato salad.
New to The Boardwalk in Plano is Hookline, a seafood spot from the team behind Hook Line & Sinker in Dallas. Chef Aaron Nelson and his culinary squad fiddled around with the gumbo until they got it just right.
It’s a bit unconventional: Call it Creole style with a Texas twist of baby ice shrimp, lump crabmeat, smoked Gulf oysters, and local okra in a thick russet roux wafting with filé spice. Nelson’s two-hour roux was perfected from a class he took with the master—chef Paul Prudhomme.
Seafood lovers will appreciate the bite of shrimp in every spoonful. Before you tuck into the gumbo, get a round of oyster shooters—a single raw oyster floating in house-infused horseradish, lemon Dripping Springs Vodka, and Bloody Mary cocktail sauce. It’s the bomb.
Soothing as a bowl of grandma’s homemade chicken noodle soup yet thoroughly modern in approach, Mattie’s gumbo by chef Joshua Thomas stars turkey confit.
For the uninitiated, duck or turkey confit is traditionally prepared with the legs of the bird, salted and seasoned with herbs, and then slowly cooked in its rendered fat. The duck fat contributes a rich flavor, while the butter roux adds a luscious consistency to the gumbo.
Some spices are secret, but according to the chef, layering them while cooking adds depth of flavor. He stirs in piquant bites of andouille sausage, fragrant basmati rice and scallions. Fresh herbs and tangy pickled red onions are the finishing touches.
Oh, and do not pass up the buttermilk biscuits with local honey and seasonal butter.