Mardi Gras is tomorrow and since I couldn’t be there to join the festivities, I thought I’d bring some of the strong New Orleans flavors into my own kitchen. I chose my favorite dish that didn’t include crayfish (I just love those little mudbugs, but it’s near impossible to get them fresh here): gumbo with shrimp and andouille sausage.
A great one-pot dish, gumbo is easy to make yet fairly labor intensive. And be forewarned: because of the long-cooking dark roux, you and your home will smell like the fry station at McDonald’s for at least 24 hours. Here are the various stages of roux (the thickener made from flour and oil):
This gumbo has a bit of a kick which will intensify if you reheat it the next day. Serve it with rice and you’ve got a great balanced meal.
I had the great opportunity of visiting New Orleans last April for the IACP convention (see: Eating my way through New Orleans). As I was with a couple hundred foodies, the city really rolled out the red carpet with samples of many classic hometown dishes, everything from jambalaya to calas to po’boys. I was truly smitten with the warmth and soul of the food as well as the people who were truly inspiring.
Eating my gumbo with the popcorn long grain rice I picked up during that trip brought back those wonderful memories, and will have to be enough until I can visit New Orleans again.
Shrimp & Andouille Gumbo – serves 8
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Shells from 1 1/2 pounds shrimp
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 celery stalk, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
Pinch dried thyme
7 cups water
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 large onions, diced
4 celery stalks, diced
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
6 cups cold shrimp stock
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced into large pieces
7 pieces okra, sliced
1 1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined (use peels for shrimp stock)
Begin by making the shrimp stock. Combine all the ingredients in a large pot on the stove over medium heat. Sweat the ingredients in the oil until fragrant and the vegetables have begun to soften. Cover with the water and increase the heat to high. Simmer for 1 hour, then drain the stock and chill.
Prep all the ingredients for the gumbo while the stock is chilling.
To make the gumbo, begin by heating the vegetable oil in a dutch oven or very large pot. Stir in the flour to make the roux. You’ll need to stir almost constantly until the roux becomes dark brown, about 1 hour. And be careful not to touch the roux as it will be very hot.
Once you’ve achieved a dark brown roux, stir in the onion, celery, green pepper and garlic. Cook for two minutes, then add the bay leaves, salt, pepper, cayenne and thyme. Cook for an additional two minutes, then very slowly stir in the cold shrimp stock. Bring the liquid to a simmer then add the andouille sausage and okra; simmer for 30 minutes.
Turn off the heat and stir in the shrimp. Let the gumbo sit for 5 minutes, then serve with rice and file powder if you like.