Remember the king cake from last Mardi Gras? Due to a bit of laziness and a lack of cream cheese, I decided to go a different way with Mardi Gras this year. I decided to try my hand at a traditional gumbo recipe and impose a significant amount of frostbite on my hands trying to peel 2 pounds of semi-frozen shrimp. Note to self: thaw for a few HOURS, not a few MINUTES!
I LOVE having people over for dinner. This is so early-20s of me, but I was getting really excited the other day for beginning to form a collection of my own go-to entertaining recipes that I can trust on for each season. I’ve starting writing down my versions of recipes on notepads that I’ve stored on a cloud of dreams for my future cookbook. Here’s a GREAT one if you’ve got some time.
There’s a lot of talk about the essential roux for gumbo on the internet. If you’re like me, and you’re absolutely not going to buy another one-time-use spice for one darn recipe, you’re not going to make a gumbo requiring file powder. Although now that I’m reading its description, I’m sad I didn’t get to use the word “sassafras” in a sentence :(. After throwing out the recipes with file powder. I used one from America’s Test Kitchen The New Best Recipe book. And I paid a LOT of attention to roux-making.
You cook the flour and oil until you absolutely can’t stand to think anyone would want to eat something so brown that isn’t chocolate. Some people suggest baking the flour and oil for 2 hours to let it form a roux on its own. I followed the Cook’s Illustrated example and heated the oil first so the flour doesn’t burn as if you were to start heating them at the same time. I gently stirred them together for about 20 minutes and really had no smoking, burned bits, or clumps. As long as you are conscious of this fragile mixture, I honestly believe you can do it too. Stir constantly, heat gently, and watch carefully.
And then, you cook a whole bunch of yummy veggies, stock, shrimp, and sausage and everything comes together QUITE smoothly.
Make your seafood stock in advance, please. It’s a mess. I was going to show you a picture, but I’m positive you’re not interested in my picture of shrimp shells.
Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo, adapted from The New Best Recipe ( I doubled it for a dinner party)
1 1/2 lbs frozen shrimp with shell on
4 1/2 cups water
1 cup bottled clam juice
3 1/2 cups ice water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 medium onions, chopped fine
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped fine with all the seeds and ribs removed
1 medium celery rib, chopped fine
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 large bay leaves
1/2 lb andouille sausage, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds on a bias
1/2 lb turkey kielbasa, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds on a bias
1 big ole handful of fresh parsley leaves chopped fine
4 scallions, both white and green parts, sliced thin
8 oz. frozen okra
White rice to serve
1. Thaw your shrimp in a large colander. You can speed up this process by rinsing the shrimp with colder water. I say colder because if its too cold it might just make more ice on the shrimp but if it’s too warm it will cook them. Peel the shrimp over a large pot with a top with the 4 1/2 cups water in it and drop the shells into the pot. Boil the water and watch for the bubbles that will run up over the top! Once boiling, reduce heat so that only little bubbles are forming (a simmer) and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the liquid through a sieve/colander into a bowl with the ice water and claim juice and stir mixture (throw the shells away). If you’re making this in advance, let cool and store in the refrigerator in a tupperware. Then store the raw shrimp in a plastic gallon bag in the refrigerator as well until the next day.
2. In a cast iron skillet, Dutch oven or wide pan with a thick bottom, heat your oil for 2 minutes. Gradually stir in the flour at a medium heat with a wooden spoon. Like I said, watch carefully and continue to stir until the roux turns a deep coffee ish color but redder (see picture). This takes about 20 minutes.
3. In a stockpot or large pot, transfer the roux and add in the onion, okra, bell pepper, celery, garlic, thyme salt and cayenne. Saute until fragrant and all the veggies are soft, about 10 minutes.
4. If you made the stock the day before, warm it up to room temperature before you add to the mixture. Once at room temp, slowly add in about half the stock, stirring the mixture constantly. Then add in the rest of the stock and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and skim foam from the surface (a lot of this is fat). Add in the bay leaves and simmer for about 30 minutes.
5. In the meantime, make your rice to have ready when the gumbo is done.
6. After the 30 minutes, add in your sausage (I used two kinds just bc I couldn’t decide at the store). Cook for another 30 minutes at a simmer. After that, place the top on top of your pot, turn off the heat and wait for guests to arrive. Take out your raw shrimp from the refrigerator if you made the stock yesterday.
7. Once you’re almost ready to serve, have a friend slice up the scallions and parsley, and heat back up the soup. Once hot, drop in your thawed shrimp and cook for just a few minutes until just pink. Drop in the scallions and parsley and serve over rice!
Laissez les bon temps rouler!