Once again, my work has taken me to New Orleans, a city I absolutely love to eat in. But as good as the seafood gumbo was last night, it could have been improved by one simple omission: the crab shell.
The crab shell, with one leg attached, was resting in the middle of my bowl of gumbo when it was delivered to my table. It took some care to lift it out and set it aside without splashing some of the broth on the table or myself. There were also a few smaller pieces of shell that I had to remove from the bowl.
This was a high-quality restaurant with excellent, fresh ingredients. So what's the point of adding a crab shell to the gumbo? First, the shell takes up room, which leaves less gumbo in the bowl to enjoy. Second, the shell creates an unnecessary obstacle for a diner.
(BTW, the photo above is not of my gumbo, but it's an example of what I'm talking about.)
Authenticity should show from the flavors and aromas in a dish. Placing a shell in there is superfluous and unnecessary. If it's fresh, I will know -- believe me. So will any diner. I don't need a crab shell to tell me that.
If some chefs think the shell looks cool, then they can put it on the plate on which the bowl rests, but not in the bowl.