By Kathleen Flinn
For most people, the word “gumbo” traditionally inspires the image of the classic New Orleans version studded with spicy sausage and shrimp. But Chuck Taggart of the GumboPages notes, “There are as many variations on gumbo as there are Louisianians.”
If you master the basic formula, you can customize gumbo to your liking or to the contents of your fridge. After Thanksgiving, I make stock out of the leftover turkey carcass and use the leftover meat in the gumbo. I’ve made shrimp-less gumbo for friends with allergies, and Ive even used leftover bratwurst in place of spicy andouille and kicked up the seasonings. My niece makes a terrific vegetarian gumbo by replacing the meat and seafood with kale and black-eyed peas. I’ve had gumbo with oysters, duck, rabbit, roast pork, crabs, clams, squash, corn, salmon, mussels, leftover meatloaf and eel. (Note: the latter two were just plain wrong.) Gumbo is a post-Thanksgiving tradition at our house; we use the turkey carcass as the base for the stock, and I’ve been known to toss in leftover carrots, green beans and a few brussel sprouts. My latest new trick: add a cup or two of your favorite Bloody Mary mix to add a flavor boost and some extra kick!
7) Be generous with seasonings. If it doesn’t have a kick, it’s not gumbo. Consider making your own Cajun seasoning; it’s great on chicken and pasta. Also, add in a cup of Bloody Mary mix for extra complexity and spice.
Master Recipe: Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo
This is a variation on a recipe that appeared in The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry. You can swap out the meats or seafood as desired, or add in additional vegetables, but take note of the tips above. If you can’t find fresh hot peppers, use extra cayenne, dried red chili flakes or hot sauce. When prepping hot peppers such as habanero, be sure to wear protective gloves to avoid “burning” your hands and, later, your eyes. As for Cajun seasoning, consider order ingmy favorite from World Spice or making your own.
- 1 cup (250 ml) canola or light olive oil
- 1 ½ cup (375 ml) all purpose flour
- ¾ pound (375 grams) raw shrimp, shells reserved
- 3 quarts (3 liters) brown chicken or turkey stock or vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or butter
- 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)|
- 4 ribs of celery, chopped (about 1½ cups)
- 1 green bell pepper, seeds removed, chopped
- 1 pound (750 grams) cooked Andouille or other sausage, sliced into bite-sized pieces
- 1 (28 ounce) can peeled, seeded tomatoes (about 800 g)
- 2 Habanero peppers, minced
- 2 cups Bloody Mary mix (optional)
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons Cajun spice blend
- 2 bay leaves
- ¾ pound (375 grams) okra, thawed if frozen, sliced in bite-sized pieces
- 1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 lemons juiced
- Additional cayenne pepper or hot sauce, to taste
- 4 cups hot cooked white rice
- Preheat oven to 315°F / 160°C degrees.
- For the roux, combine oil and flour in an ovenproof sauté pan or a small cast-iron skillet over medium heat. (By ovenproof, this means it doesn't have a wooden or plastic handle.) Stir constantly until the roux is light brown with a nutty smell and turns an almond color, about 10 minutes. You can stop at this point and continue with the recipe. For a dark roux, put into the oven and let cook undisturbed for the first hour. Then carefullystir every half hour afterward until it’s a dark, almost chocolate brown. This will take from 3 to 4 hours. You can do it while doing something riveting, such as watching TV or doing some laundry. Set aside and let cool.
- Meanwhile, shell and devein the shrimp. Put the shrimp in the fridge. Combine the shells with the stock and simmer while you prep the vegetables, about 20 minutes.
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in an 8- to 12-quart pot. Cook the onions over medium heat until translucent, then add the celery and green pepper and cook until softened and starting to brown, about 8 to 12 minutes. Then, add the sausage, tomatoes with their juice, bloody mary mix, hot peppers, garlic, seasonings and bay leave. Strain the stock, tossing the shrimp and add the liquid to the gumbo. Let simmer for about 30 minutes. This would be a good time to start cooking your rice.
- Taste. If it needs salt or more seasoning, add it. Stir in one-third of the roux until it’s absorbed in the liquid. Keep adding roux a tablespoon at a time until the gumbo reaches the thickness you're after. Bring to a simmer and add the okra, parsley and shrimp. Cook until the shrimp are bright pink and the gumbo thickens. Finally, stir in the lemon juice, taste and add more salt or seasonings if needed. Serve over hot rice.