Monday, October 12, 2009

Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo with Okra

A traditional roux based gumbo made with shrimp, spicy andouille sausage and okra. Pass hot sauce at the table, add some hot, buttered French bread and a side salad to round it out.
A traditional roux-based gumbo made with shrimp, spicy andouille sausage and okra. Pass hot sauce at the table, add some hot, buttered French bread and a side salad to round it out.

Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo with Okra

Delish. But, admittedly, homemade gumbo can take a bit of time between planning and preparing, though there are ways that you can save some time and make it an easier process when you get in the mood for gumbo.

Next time you are chopping an onion, go ahead and chop an extra one or two and bag it in a zipper freezer bag. When you make rice for one dinner, double up on it and then bag and freeze half. All it needs is a sprinkle of water, cover and microwave to freshen it up. For okra, pre-sliced frozen okra works fantastic.

If you don't have shell on shrimp or just don't feel up to making a stock from the shrimp shells, next time you bake a whole chicken, save the carcass and make homemade chicken stock, cool it and bag it in freezer bags by 1 or 2 cup measurements. Chicken stock or broth works great for gumbo, as does plain ole water, or even a combination of the two.

One of the biggest time savers I use now for making gumbo is a homemade, pre-made and refrigerated dark roux - yes, just like you see on the grocery store shelf - and you can certainly use those here too. But I'm talking about making your own dark roux ahead, at a cost savings, right in your own kitchen, and then storing it in your fridge. And, get this. You make it in your oven.

Yes! It really does work.

The oven method works fantastic, you don't have to keep standing over a pot of hot oil and stir your arm off, and you can make up a big batch and store it in your fridge. If you like to make up a pot of gumbo frequently, whether it be seafood or chicken, try the oven method sometime to put up your own roux, you will love it!

Other than The Trinity, I use bay leaves, a little thyme and Creole or Cajun seasoning for seasoning this gumbo, and generally not much else. My favorite brand is Slap Ya Mama {affil link} which comes in regular, white pepper and hot, and if you live locally, is available at Winn Dixie, Walmart and Rouse's market, among others.

The white pepper blend, which I love using in gumbo, is a blend of salt, white and red pepper and garlic. If you don't have access to that brand, just substitute Zatarain's, Justin Wilson or Tony's, or whatever your favorite blend is.

By the way, I'm not super endeared to any one gumbo recipe, so if you try one of mine that you like, save it, because I'm more likely than not to mess with it on down the line.

Look at that gorgeous roux! This one was made in the oven, taking away that stand-over, stirring time and producing a wonderful roux. If using a roux made ahead, simply warm it over medium high heat in a large, heavy bottomed Dutch oven or stockpot, stirring constantly. I used my cast iron Dutch oven. You can, of course, just start a fresh roux right on the stovetop as well, which is how most folks do it.

Chop up the trinity. I keep onion, bell pepper and celery on hand, but you can actually purchase this already chopped up for you down here in the produce section! Of course, you pay for that convenience, but it's a definite time saver. 

Add the onion, bell pepper and celery to the hot roux; cook, stirring constantly until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Reduce heat to low.

Southern Style Hissy Fit Warning No. 1: Now... for some reason, tomatoes added to a gumbo seems a bit controversial, particularly from those raised in a Cajun home. Granted, the inclusion of tomatoes is probably more related to a Creole influenced gumbo, and I was raised with a Mama who used them, so I also use them. Here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, we probably picked that up from being in such close proximity to New Orleans because a lot of folks here use some tomato in their gumbo.

All of that to say, if you want to include tomatoes, that's your business, just as it is if you don't! It's your kitchen after all, so don't ever allow someone to try and tell you that you're doing something wrong. I find most of us do what we grew up with. Perfect example is combining chicken and seafood in a gumbo. A lot of families do combine the two, but my Mama never did. It was either one, or the other - never the two shall meet. Anyway, my Mama used some tomato in her seafood gumbo, so I also use tomatoes in my seafood gumbo. {retrieving the soapbox}

Chop the tomatoes, reserving all the liquid. I use a pair of kitchen shears to chop them up right in the can. Add the tomatoes with their liquid to roux mixture. 

Add Creole or Cajun seasoning, bay leaves and thyme. Stir in the stock/broth or water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to just under medium, and let simmer covered for 30 minutes.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to just under medium, and let simmer covered for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the cooking oil to a separate skillet, and heat over medium heat to brown the sausage. I like to use andouille sausage, which is a highly spiced smoked sausage that is blended with Cajun spices, adding a spicy kick and great flavor to these dishes. If you substitute kielbasa or other smoked sausages in recipes where it calls for Andouille, it will affect the outcome of your dish and you’ll need to make adjustments in the other seasonings you use to make up for that flavor. Add the sausage and cook until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to the gumbo pot.

 To that same skillet, add the okra; cook and stir until slightly browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the okra to the gumbo pot; continue simmering.

Add the raw shrimp to the pot and allow it to simmer a few minutes until the shrimp are pink and cooked through. Taste, add salt and pepper, only if needed, and adjust Cajun seasoning to taste.

Serve over hot cooked rice and pass a bottle of Tabasco for some extra kick. Add some hot, buttered French bread or rolls and some creamy gumbo potato salad, or a side salad to round out the meal.

A delicious shrimp and okra gumbo made in a good ole cast iron Dutch oven.

Southern Style Hissy Fit Warning No. 2: I do want to say one thing about roux, that I've repeated on all of my gumbo posts. Roux can be brought anywhere from very blonde, to light tan for gravies, to peanut butter colored, or more ruddy, like a copper penny, to chocolaty brown, to deep brown, to nearly black - or anywhere in between for gumbo. Bottom line is that it's really a personal preference and don't let anybody tell you that a gumbo roux has to be nearly black. That's just simply not true. While some chefs may do that, I don't know anybody who does that in a home kitchen.
For one, it weakens the thickening power of your roux substantially and makes for a very thin gumbo.

For another, it's very robust and very strong flavored.

For another, it can take a very long time and is easy to burn if you try to rush it with high heat.
If you like that kind of bold (or if you're cooking something like wild duck), by all means, take it super dark. Most folks I know don't want that flavor for a simple chicken or seafood gumbo and take the roux from peanut butter colored to a slightly darker brown. While we are here, let me add, if you're gonna put crab in your seafood gumbo, and you want to call it authentic to the Gulf Coast region, it's blue crab. Not snow crab. {retrieving the soapbox}

As always with any gumbo, as delicious as it is day 1, it's even better the next day, so make it ahead whenever you can.

For more of my gumbo recipes, check out my page on Pinterest!

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Posted by on October 12, 2009
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