No ‘bam,’ but Emeril entertains Aspen crowd | AspenTimes.com

No ‘bam,’ but Emeril entertains Aspen crowd

Andre SalvailThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO, Colorado

Emiril Lagasse offers up a sample to a member of the audience during his seminar on Saturday at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic.

ASPEN – A slightly subdued Emeril Lagasse took a Food & Wine crowd through the many steps of a New Orleans-style shrimp gumbo Saturday afternoon at the St. Regis Aspen Resort.Lagasse might not have brought his “A” game with regard to the ubiquitous TV personality for which he is known, but the cooking expertise was obvious as he showed the audience how to make a dark roux and spice up the shrimp properly to make the popular Louisiana dish.After his demonstration, Lagasse fielded questions from the audience. One foodie pointed out that the master chef “used to be a lot more bammy.” On his Emmy-nominated “Emeril Live” show that aired on the Food Network from 1997 to 2007, the master chef would excitedly exclaim “Bam!” when adding cayenne pepper to many of his dishes.”It happens to all of us, my friend,” the 52-year-old Lagasse quipped.Despite lacking the zest for which he is known, the Massachusetts-born celebrity chef – who has made New Orleans the headquarters for his restaurant empire – entertained the packed St. Regis room. In addition to the gumbo, he also made a special remoulade dipping sauce on the side. For those lucky enough to grab a seat near the front, the smells from his makeshift kitchen were outstanding.He told the audience that in addition to the cooking oil and flour to make a dark roux, the base for the gumbo, they would need a “holy trinity” of chopped vegetables: green bell pepper, celery and onion. Stirring the roux to a dark chocolate color is most important, he said, and it takes low heat, time and patience.”Your house will smell like it for a good day,” Lagasse said, drawing laughter.How long does it take to make the perfect roux?”My answer generally isn’t an amount of time,” he said. “My answer generally is two beers. By the time it takes to drink two beers or a good glass of wine – not from those sissy glasses.”With the roux ready for the “holy trinity,” Lagasse then worked on flavoring the shrimp with a boiling mixture of salt, bay leaf, garlic and thyme. He would later add fish, oysters and shrimp stock to his gumbo mix, along with the Gulf of Mexico shrimp.He wanted to add gumbo crabs to the mix, but they were unavailable in Aspen, so he used some soft-shell crabs he was able to find locally.Lagasse noted that if the roux is burned or ruined, it’s OK – it provides an opportunity to drink more beer.”Some Sundays I really get very lazy. What I do is begin this early in the morning, and if it’s really early, I start with coffee before moving on to beer. But then I start to liking the taste of the beer while I have the smells of the gumbo. So I purposely ruin the roux so I can have two more beers,” he said.Lagasse then went through the process of making the remoulade and commented on the obvious commotion from the room next door, where celebrity chef Bobby Flay was in action.”They’re having a nice time over there,” he said.He added water to the roux mixture to keep it from getting too thick, drank more wine and worked to spice up the shrimp.The shrimp were added to a pot with water, onion, salt and Creole spices. Once they had cooked and changed color, he put some in the roux mixture and others in a container with cold water, ice, crab boil and salt. Those shrimp would be used for the remoulade appetizer.Some people in the audience were surprised when he lifted the steaming shrimp out of a colander with his bare hands. “Don’t worry – I have no feeling in my fingers. The feeling left 20 years ago,” he said.Once the gumbo was ready, he added rice on top and garnished it with parsley and green onion.Someone in the crowd asked him who gave him his big break in the cooking world. Lagasse said his big breaks continue to evolve and that he has had more than a few mentors.Lagasse has more than a dozen restaurants, including three in New Orleans. A reporter asked him which one was the best.”Do you have children? They’re kind of like kids. Which kid do you like the best? I love them all, and they all bring a different property, a different experience, with the same principles, and passion and understanding.”asalvail@aspentimes.com