Gumbo

Just a few weeks ago, I took my first trip to New Orleans. I had taken a few days off to spend exploring and chose to visit somewhere new, a place known for both fun and food. I'll post about my trip soon, but in the days before leaving I was anxious to get into the creole spirit and decided to make my first gumbo.

Being that I was not knowledgeable in the field of Cajun cooking, I hopped on google and did some research. According to one site, the only difference between Cajun and creole dishes like gumbo and jambalaya is the use of tomatoes. The site is filled with some interesting history on the difference in the two styles.

I decided I would tomatoes them in my gumbo, so you could say I went for the creole style. I did choose not to add chicken or sausage to mine, and rather went with all shrimp. Traditionally, this recipe has all 3. I also did not use okra, only because I did not have the opportunity to pick some up as this was a 100% last minute idea (I'm good at those!).

One interesting fact is that there are 3 ways to make a gumbo sauce thickener. The first (which I used) calls for cooking flour in oil to make a thick paste, then adding water to dilute it. The second is to use okra, and the third is to use gumbo file, which is ground sassafras. 

To be honest, I'd never even tried gumbo. I know! That's crazy! It wasn't something I grew up with, and frankly Florida doesn't have many Cajun restaurants that I am aware of. So, I had to try.

I made the roux by heating some vegetable and avocado oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. I added the flour and whisked it in, then let it cook about 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. I had read that the best gumbo has the darkest roux, so I let it go a while.


I then added the garlic, onions and peppers to the pan, and stirred them to coat them in the roux. I let the veggies cook right about 10 minutes before adding water and seasonings. Wait! I know already if you are a gumbo fan you have noticed I am lacking celery here. Yes, it's true. I had none on hand and was already mid-cooking when I realized this. Celery, onions, and peppers make up the nicely named Holy Trinity of Cajun cooking, and are a base for many dishes. But Meatloaf taught me that 2 out of 3 ain't bad so keep on chuggin'.


I added in water, parsley, salt, pepper, thyme, chili powder, crushed red pepper, cayenne, and bay leaves and let the mixture begin to boil. I lowered the heat and let it cook for about 25 minutes. I then took out the bay leaves and added the raw shirmp, letting it cook an additional 10 minutes until they were a well-done pink color.

After the shirmp turned pink, the gumbo was ready to go and I served it up.


I am officially a gumbo fan. Let me tell you, I am not a big soup person. I can never really consider it a meal, though chunky soups come close. This was more stew like than soup, but it made the perfect main course. I did something different than the traditional side of gumbo and made mashed potatoes with it. That worked out great! The sauce reminded me of the Chicken with JalapeƱo Onion Gravy one I made some time ago. I proved that a little bit of cayenne and chili powder can go a long way, as this sauce was a good amount of spicy--just enough to make your lips tingle. I was so excited for lunch the next day at work because I knew I had these leftovers to eat. I cannot wait to make this again! I mean, I have to make it at least twice more to try out the other methods and include celery... :)

Shrimp Gumbo Recipe

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespons avocado oil
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cubanelle peppers, sliced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3/4 teaspoon powdered thyme
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
4 cups water
1 can crushed tomatoes (14.5 ounces)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 pound shrimp (shells removed but tails on)

Instructions:

Heat vegetable oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook for up to 45 minutes, until a medium to dark brown color is reached. Add the garlic, onions and peppers and stir to coat; cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Mix in water, parsley, salt, pepper, thyme, chili powder, crushed red pepper, cayenne, and bay leaves and let the mixture begin to boil. Allow mixture to simmer for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaves and add shrimp, tomato paste, and crushed tomatoes. Cook an additional 10 minutes until shrimp is pink.

adapted from merwin's shrimp gumbo

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