Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Special Request: Copia Goes through Gumbo Faster Than Chef Can Make It

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Special Request: Copia Goes through Gumbo Faster Than Chef Can Make It

Article excerpt

COPIA RESTAURANT AND WINE GARDEN

1122 Washington Avenue

314-241.9463; copiastl.com

Q * I love the gumbo at Copia on Washington Avenue. Marcia Quigless, Central West End

A * Amer Hawatmeh is proud of his place among St. Louis restaurateurs. His family emigrated from Jordan 45 years ago and owned Garavelli's and Nantucket Cove. Hawatmeh opened Copia Restaurant & Wine Garden in 2005 in a historic building that once housed a shoe factory, a firehouse, even an upstairs bordello. "I care about downtown," Hawatmeh says.

He describes Copia's menu as "American cuisine with a Southern twist." Fresh fish is flown in from Hawaii, and he calls the French- cut pork chop "the very best."

Hawatmeh curates Copia's "living" wine list of 11,000 bottles priced to sell. During warm weather, the open-air wine garden is a popular hangout. "Who needs a dome?" Hawatmeh says with a laugh. "We already have a retractable roof." Inside, Hawatmeh calls Copia "elegant yet comfortable" and "upscale but casual."

Still, Hawatmeh says that Copia, named for the Roman goddess of abundance, is not about place or food or even wine. "We want people to love Copia's European-style experience."

Executive chef Zack Fiordimondo has made gumbo for 30 years. Twice a week, he makes a huge pot for Copia but still can't always keep up. "Customers go through it faster than I can make it." He's happy when someone orders a bowl, not a cup, because Copia's gumbo is "as good as anywhere in the South."

Even when so packed with seafood that it's almost a seafood stew, great gumbo starts with great roux, Fiordimondo says. He babies roux in one pot while cooking the gumbo in another. Watch the roux closely, he advises.

"When it turns color, it can turn on you, fast. Don't leave the stove, if you have to, turn the heat off."

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COPIA RESTAURANT & WINE GARDEN GUMBO

Yield: 16 cups

For roux

Scant 5 tablespoons bacon drippings

Generous 9 tablespoons all-purpose flour

For gumbo

Vegetable oil

Generous cup diced yellow onion

Generous cup diced red bell pepper

1 pound andouille sausage, diced

2/3 of 15-ounce can diced tomatoes

Scant 1 teaspoons ground fennel

Scant 1 teaspoons ground dried oregano

Scant 1 teaspoons ground granulated garlic

Scant 1 teaspoons ground dried thyme

Scant 1 teaspoons ground gumbo file

Scant 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Scant 2 teaspoons Tabasco

Generous 1 ounces Minor's Clam Base

Scant 6 cups water

1 pound frozen cooked crawfish tails, thawed

1 pound frozen shrimp, thawed

pound frozen scallops, thawed

Generous 6 ounces frozen sliced okra

Cooked white rice and saltines, for serving

Note: Scaling restaurant recipes for home kitchens is some times more art than science. …

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