Making The Old -- and The Good -- New Again

By James Parrish Coleman -- a/k/a Jimbo Coleman

A later edition. Early Editions had a white

spine, and ads for long extinct local business.

Gulf Coast Gourmet was compiled by my late mother, Jane S. Coleman, in the early 1960s. The book was a fund raiser for the Foley Woman's Club.

The illustrations are the original work of a very talented artist named Marion Dyer. The book has been in print for many, many years; but has the simple fault of assuming you know about Gulf seafood and really know how to cook. I'll cook through the book (and my childhood), explain how Jane Coleman cooked, and tell a lot of family stories in the process. I like to cook. I will share what I have, and hope you like it. That's the spirit of this blog. Bon Appetit.


Artist Marion Dyer's cute and appealing crab
on a section front from Gulf Coast Gourmet
A crab is a fearless little bastard who will try to pinch your hand off after you dump him from a shrimp trawl onto the deck of your boat....

The folks along the East Coast crow about how their crabs are best, etc., etc., but Gulf Coast crabs are just as good as any (I think). It riles me when they dog the Gulf Coast seafood industry -- which they often do. Buy and use seafood where it is best. Don't shed big tears because you can't get the rouget described in a French cookbook. Use what's best and make the technique suit the ingredient. Forget about the French red mullet, and cook to make them wish they had some good local stuff.

There is an interesting site,  that will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about crabs. Keep in mind that there is a big difference in crabs that are “fat” and those that are not. The “fat” crabs have a lot of meat, and their unlucky (hungry) brethren don’t.

The mean, not so cute and ready to
 pinch,  real life Gulf crab 

  Picking and eating crabs on the Gulf Coast is a restaurant experience everyone should try. The boiled crabs are dumped in front of you, and you pick and eat. The natives will smirk if you hesitate or seem queasy about disassembling your dinner. After a little practice, you’ll be just like a south-of-New Orleans St. Bernard Parish-regular -- “’Dem is some fat crabs, huh, Bernice?”

Here is a video that shows how to clean an uncooked crab.    I love the part with the kids in the background squealing “Don’t eat me, please don’t eat me…!”

The crabs in the video are caught and put in ice. They are still alive, but so cold they won’t run around and try to pinch you. Crabs are also great for a simple crab or shrimp boil, but that's another story.

Beware of dead crabs; they spoil very, very quickly. We always toss uncooked dead crabs.

Gumbo Crabs
A bag of frozen Gumbo Crabs from Rouses's
Supermarket in Slidell, La. These are great 
stores, run by people who really under-
stand what their customers want.
Small crabs used in gumbo are--- what we call “gumbo crabs.” These are just small Gulf Coast blue crabs. This is apparently a mystery in some places. A look on the Internet will show some folks assume that because you can’t put that many crabs in gumbo, that what’s really being called for are crawfish. Wrong. The body of a “gumbo crab” is about the size of the palm of your hand. (OK, my hand). When you buy them they will probably be frozen or live. Either way will work. If you get live crabs, put them on ice so they are docile, and clean them (alive -- sorry!). Fresh is best. An already boiled crabs (which will, of course,  be red) will be spiced up with a commercial crab boil which will dominate the flavor of your gumbo. Don't use 'em. If you can't get fresh, use frozen (the practical choice most of the time.) Thaw them out first slowly in ice in the icebox.