Saturday, February 18, 2012

Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo

Fat Tuesday is coming up next week, and while I don't usually do much to celebrate (other than pigging out on more pączki than I care to reveal), I can't think of a better time to post a recipe for a mouthwatering Louisiana favorite--gumbo.

I tried this recipe for the first time tonight, and I'm not going to lie--it took me two hours, from chopping vegetables to cooking the roux to simmering the whole vat of tastiness.  It was completely worth every minute.  I don't know that much about Creole or Cajun cooking, but I do know the more time spent on a roux, the better.  (Some people will cook it for an hour or more, but I'm just not that ambitious.)  I did decide to cook it a little longer than the recipe specified, resulting in a beautiful dark roux and a nice, deep flavor.

Don't be intimidated by the ingredient list.  After tasting the finished product, I decided it needed some extra flavor, so I added a dash of several ingredients that are common in Cajun spice blends.  You could just add a tablespoon of Cajun spice instead.  The original recipe called for andouille sausage, but I substituted a package of smoked pork sausage from the co-op.  If you're going for authenticity, use the andouille, or even chorizo, but I thought the smoked sausage worked fine.  I found the okra on clearance at Meijer.  Try to use fresh okra if you can.  It's included as a thickening agent, so don't leave it out unless you hate okra (in which case you shouldn't be making gumbo in the first place).  For tips on finding a decent deal on shrimp, see my scampi post.  The remaining ingredients (including the Cajun "holy trinity" of onion, bell pepper, and celery) are all regularly available at the co-op.

You'll want to prepare all your ingredients in advance, so you can add them quickly as needed.  Most of the time is actively spent cooking, so call up a friend or turn on some music once you get the roux going.  (I called my dad while he was working on some equally labor-intensive homemade pizza--he probably got sick of hearing about how good my gumbo was smelling.)

Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo (based on this recipe)
Time:  1 1/2 to 2 hours
Serves 4

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup onion, minced (about 1 small)
1/2 cup green bell pepper, minced (about 1 small)
1/2 cup celery, minced (about 2 stalks)
4 cups (1 quart) chicken broth or stock
2 bay leaves
1/2 pound andouille sausage or chorizo (or substitute 1 pkg. smoked pork sausage), cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1/2 pound fresh okra, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1/2 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
dash each of oregano, basil, thyme, garlic powder, and paprika
3 cups cooked white rice
Tabasco or Frank's Red Hot sauce, optional

In large stock pot over medium-high heat, heat oil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and whisk in flour.  Cook, stirring frequently with wire whisk (don't use a spoon), until mixture becomes dark brown and has intensely nutty aroma, about 25-30 minutes.  (Take your time on this.  Don't try to brown the roux too quickly or it will burn.  You'll need to whisk the roux almost continuously, especially as it darkens, so this is where you turn on your House reruns.)

Stir in onion, pepper, and celery and cook, whisking frequently, until vegetables soften, about 2 minutes.  Gradually whisk in broth.  Raise heat to medium and bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered, stirring frequently (you can switch to a spoon), until mixture has thickened, 15-20 minutes.

Add bay leaves, sausage, and okra and simmer, uncovered, until okra is tender, about 15 minutes.  Add shrimp, salt, cayenne, black pepper, and herbs; simmer until shrimp is just cooked through, 4-5 minutes.

Serve gumbo over rice (about 1/2-1/3 cup per person) in large bowls.  Add hot sauce to taste, if desired.

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