By no means am I the type of person who eats their feelings when feeling sad or depressed; however, there are certain dishes I crave when I’m feeling homesick. Dishes that make me feel a sense of comfort and fulfillment. Being from the south, most of these dishes are staples or renditions of southern cuisine. I often modify the recipes in ways to fit my liking. One of the major perks of being an adult, and there are few perks to the trap that is adulthood.
So, with colder days here, I turn to many of my favorite comfort foods. One of my favorites is gumbo. “Top 5, Top 5, Top 5!” All gumbos are not created equal; know this. There are lots of restaurants that feature a gumbo option under soups on their menus, but they usually disappoint. The disappointment usually comes from a lack of meat; quality of the meat; and/or a less than stellar base (roux). If you know anyone from the Louisiana, Texas, or even South Carolina areas, then you know there are real life gumbo snobs out here. It’s that serious. But, also, know there are many ways to approach a gumbo according to what you like and still create a delicious meal.
Below, I share a fairly simple approach to making a gumbo that only includes andouille sausage and shrimp. You can easily sub the shrimp with chicken; add crab legs, crawfish, etc; or use a different sausage altogether. Also: this recipe doesn’t call for you to make your own stock, which can be a little more advanced & require more ingredients. Again, make this recipe fit your desires. Though, if nothing else, keep to the base; keep it sacred.
Total Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Cook Time: 2 hours
1. Cajun seasoning (2 tbsp)
2. Salt and black pepper (to taste)
3. Worcestershire sauce (2 tsp)
4. Filé powder* (1-2 tsp)
5. Flour (1/2 cup)
6. Peanut Oil (or any other vegetable oil) (1/2 cup)
1. One white/sweet onion, chopped
2. One green pepper, chopped
3. Three celery stalks, chopped (I omit this sometimes)
4. Four garlic cloves, minced
5. Three to five green onions, white + green parts, chopped
1. Eight to twelve ounces smoked Andouille sausage*, cut into 1/4 inch rounds
2. Two pounds of shrimp, peeled + deveined (1- 1.5 lbs is plenty as well)
3. One quart chicken stock + one cup of water
*These items may be found at your local farmer’s market. However, I’ve discovered some good brands from grocery stores such as Publix as well. Aidells has a pretty good andouille sausage I like to use, and Zatarain’s makes a filé powder. The reason I use filé at all is because I forgo the okras (Yuck!), which many gumbos call for. The filé is used in its stead at the end to thicken the sauce.
Your first step is to make the roux (pronounced “roo”), which is the base for the gumbo. It is a mixture of white wheat flour and a cooking fat (oil or animal fat) that has been browned. Roux are used to thicken sauces, stews, and gravies.
In a deep, thick-bottomed pot, heat your oil on medium heat for about 2 minutes. I flash a little water to check to see if it’s hot enough. Then, using a whisker, whisk in the flour, lowering the heat to medium. Stir this mix constantly. Make sure you mix in all stray clumps of flour throughout the pot. It should look similar to this at first:
As you continue stirring, you will notice the roux turn a peanut brown. To avoid burning, lower the heat to medium low.
Continue this for about 25-30 minutes until the roux turns to the color of an older penny: a rich, dark brown. Then you are ready for the next step.
Now mix in the three vegetables (often called “the holy trinity”), increasing the heat to medium high. Cook for five minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another few minutes. Stir in the Cajun seasoning.
**In between adding the vegetables, heat the stock + water until it is steamy. You will use this later. Feel free to lower heat if it begins to bubble. It does not have to be steaming hot (works best), but it cannot be lower than room temperature, or the oils will congeal.
After the vegetables have cooked for a while, slowly add the stock + water to the roux. Add the Worcestershire sauce and salt. Let simmer for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, add in andouille sausage and cook for 5 minutes (they are technically already done). Add the shrimp and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Once the shrimps are done cooking, turn off the heat. After a couple minutes, add 1 – 2 tsps of filé powder.
Serve with white rice and/or southern style cornbread. However, this works as a stand alone dish as well. It’s sure to bring comfort and tons of flavor either way its served. Enjoy!