March 1, 2011

Mardi Gras Gumbo

I usually don't think much about gumbo, but lately it's been on my mind. Mark and I happened upon a little jazz bar/restaurant last week and on a whim we decided to stop in. It was happy hour, so we each ordered a pint of a Washington state unfiltered pale ale and some food. I got half of a turkey sandwich (it was mediocre) and a cup of soup. Except instead of soup, I asked if I could have the gumbo. Our waitress didn't see why not, and soon enough she sat it down in front of me.

Maybe it's because I didn't have much by the way of expectations, but this gumbo took me by surprise. As soon as I had a bite, I regretted not ordering a huge bowl of the stuff. It was thick and hearty, with big chunks of tender chicken and spicy andouille sausage. Softened okra, onions and bell peppers mingled with rice to form a perfect savory creole stew. By the time I had a few bites and shared some with Mark, it was almost gone! I lingered over the remaining spoonfuls, savoring the flavors for as long as I could.

I immediately decided to make some gumbo, so I could get my fix. I scoured my cookbooks and googled away. I found a few different versions and took what I liked from each one. Traditionally, gumbo starts with a roux. One recipe called for a cup of oil, into which you stirred a cup of flour and then let it brown. I decided to skip this step (and the calories), though I did not want to sacrifice flavor.

I was not disappointed. This version combines the best ingredients from the various recipes I came across. If I were to do it again, I would include chicken--either instead of, or in addition to, the shrimp. I used some flour to thicken the broth, but it wasn't quite as thick as I wanted it, so I added a little cornstarch, too. You could use either one, both, or neither, depending on how you like it.

Mardi Gras is March 8th, so you might as well put some beads on and whip up a pot of gumbo to celebrate! Mmmm, my favorite kind of celebration.

Sausage and Shrimp Gumbo
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 pound andouille cooked sausage (or other spicy sausage)
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 3-4 stalks of celery, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme, or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun/creole seasoning, or more to taste
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can of diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (10 or 12 oz) package frozen okra
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 pound cooked shrimp
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with a little water (optional)
  1.  Heat oil in a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned. Remove sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  2. Add onion, bell pepper and celery and spices to pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender. add chicken broth and rice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer 20-25 minutes, until rice is cooked. 
  3. Turn heat back up to medium. Add can of tomatoes, okra and the sausage and stir to combine. In a small bowl, mix flour and water. Stir in 1/4 cup of broth, then add to the gumbo. Cook, stirring occasionally until okra is hot. (You can turn the heat down at this point and let it simmer for awhile to let the flavors meld if you want.)
  4. About 5-10 minutes prior to serving, stir in green onions, parsley and shrimp. If the gumbo is not thick enough, add cornstarch mixed with water at this point. 
  5. Serve with a crusty rustic bread and a cold beer.

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