17. October 2013 · Comments Off on A Not-so-brief Exploration of Gumbo · Categories: Cooking, Food · Tags: , , ,

Fresh Okra by Flickr user Jenny Hones, Creative Commons licenseSo, a while back I got a burr under my saddle to make up some gumbo. What ensued was an unsuccessful quest for file powder and a lot of messing with the Googles to find a recipe that I liked. What I ended up with was a combination of a couple different versions, so thanks to Alton Brown, Emeril Lagasse, and some random dude with a blog whose URL I can’t even remember.

Instead of the elusive file powder, I used okra to thicken this version. I like okra as a vegetable in general, and think that it has a place in any southern stew. Purists will argue that the gumbo without file is not the true gumbo. And some might object, reasonably so, that okra’s thickening powers tend to leave the resultant liquids a bit… ropey instead of merely thickened. Valid points, all, but I think this is a pretty serviceable preparation anyway.

You will notice that this recipe requires some commitment as far as time. There are a lot of steps. I have tried to make it as simple as possible, but gumbo is not a dish to be hurried. If you want to use peel-and-eat style shrimp and store-bought seafood stock instead of removing and cooking shrimp heads, I totally understand. But I encourage you to take the extra time. Likewise, I suggest that you used the oven method for making your brown roux instead of on the stovetop. Yes, it takes longer, but a) you don’t have to babysit it constantly, b) there’s a much lower chance of burning it since it’s a slow, controlled temperature, and c) you can go do other stuff while it’s cooking.

Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo

Ingredients:
4 oz (by weight) all-purpose flour
4 oz (by weight) vegetable or canola oil
3 lb. 26/30 count shrimp, heads on
1 lb Andouille sausage
2 quarts water
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins preferred)
1 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup green pepper, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 bay leaves, whole
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 cups fresh okra, cut into 1/4″ pieces
2 tbsp cayenne pepper sauce (optional)

Prep Time: 30 minutes. Cook time: 2 1/2 hours.

Heat oven to 350F.

In a large, heavy pot or cast-iron dutch oven (5-6 qt), whisk together flour and oil. Place in oven, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours, whisking 3-4 times during cooking. Roux should be medium-brown when done.

Meanwhile, peel, de-head, and de-vein (if desired) shrimp, saving the heads and shells. Set aside shrimp meats in the refrigerator until needed. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a stockpot, then add shells/heads. Return to a boil, then reduce heat to a steady simmer. Cook for one hour, stirring occasionally. Strain liquid into a heat-safe container and discard shells and heads. Mix in Worcestershire sauce.

Remove roux from oven, and place over medium-high heat. Add onion, pepper, celery, and garlic and cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring constantly, until onions are translucent and begin to soften. Roux will become a dark brown.

Add bay leaf, garlic powder, paprika, thyme, oregano, onion powder, black pepper, cayenne, and salt. Cook for about a minute, stirring constantly, until aromatic. Add tomatoes and stir.

Whisk shrimp stock into pot a cup or two at a time to prevent lumps, until all stock is incorporated. Add okra, stir, increase heat to high until liquid begins to bubble, then lower heat to maintain a constant simmer. Cover, and cook for another 30 minutes.

While gumbo is cooking, slice sausage into 1/4″ pieces and brown off in a large, hot skillet. Drain and set aside. Add to pot in remaining 5 minutes of cook time. Stir in hot sauce. If you’re not going to use hot sauce, I recommend adding a tablespoon of cider or white wine vinegar for acidity instead.

When half-hour simmer time is complete, add shrimp to the pot, stir, turn off the burner and let stand for 10 minutes. Let the shrimp cook solely from the heat of the liquid.

Serve over plenty of rice with hot sauce on the side. Serves 6.