Gumbo is absolutely a type of food that fall into category of 'labor of love.' Not only it is such a comfort food, very earthy flavor and hit you on right spot type of dish. It also puts your patience to the test. I am talking about making the roux. Oh my. The first time I made this about 5 years ago and with all these horror stories about burnt roux, it took me 1.5 hour to get it to amber color. I was so worried for having to redo the entire thing so I started it with low-medium heat and stir until my arm was so sore!
It has to be at least medium brown and all the way to dark reddish brown. Nowadays, I stir while reading a magazine or a book. Just perk a magazine on the counter and keep stirring. It is one of those dishes that takes pretty much equal labor, whether cooking for 2 or for 50.
Gumbo is such a dish that everybody can add their own little signature to it. Lots of people love file powder on it. Thicker stew. Or some prefer it stew-soupy like. Eaten with both rice and bread. I just like mine with crusty french baguette. Creole and Cajun version share some similarities as well as differences. Cajun's is the darker version of the two, a personal favorite but instead of magazine, I may have to grab encyclopedia to read while stirring.
My first true gumbo recipe came from client. The husband grew up in Louisiana, and with his wife, they'd throw a mean Cajun/Creole party over Labor Day weekend. I have had gumbo prior to that but never attempted making it on my own. I still remember when I visited their home to do some final check two days before Labor day weekend kick off. They were both in the kitchen and chopping away peppers, onions, celery, sausages, etc. Pounds and pounds of crawfish. For about 150 people feast. The rest of menu was handled by caterer, EXCEPT for the gumbo. So I knew I got to stay and watch (and take notes).
- Combination of any of these; andouille sausages (or any spicy sausages will be good), seafood (crawfish, shrimp, crabmeat/claws, clams), chicken, ham.
My usual is 2 link of andouille sausage, 1 cup of crabmeat (picked through and make sure it's nice firm lump crab meat, not tiny shred of flakes ), 1 cup of shrimp. I'd add some clams, if I have any.
- 1 1/2 cup of celery
- 1 1/2 cup bell peppers (I like to use red, but any combination is fine)
- 1 1/2 cup onions
The holy trinity of Creole cooking, celery, peppers, and onions. I like to chop 1/2 amount of it very finely. 1 cup of celery = 1/2 cup coarsely chopped and 1/2 cup finely chopped. I love the colorful small specks they create in the gumbo. The combo also adds some extra weight/thickness to this stew.
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I like to use 1/4 oil and 1/4 butter combination. However, with its low smoking point, butter burns easily, that said, it really depends on personal comfort zone whether to mix the two or not. Burnt butter or roux automatically means a start over)
- 1 cup flour
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp paprika powder
- 2 tsp hot chili powder (optional)
- 1/2 cup okra, pan-fry until crispy to remove all that slimy stuff it has. Set aside.
- 5-6 cups seafood broth (or vegetable/chicken broth)
- 1 sprig of tyhme
- handful of parsley, chopped coarsely
- few dash of tabasco (optional)
- Heat a little bit of oil in a pan. Toss in sausages and just let it brown up. Take out from pan and put aside.
- Toss in garlic and onion to the same pan. Fry for a little bit. Add in peppers and celery, scrape all the brown bits from the pan. Just quickly stir them for couple minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Come the roux! Make sure you are all relaxed and have good thoughts. :)
- Add oil/butter to heavy pot. Gradually sprinkle in flour. Stir stir stir. Read magazine, sing, meditate, but you got to keep stirring. If there is a burning smell or any brown specks, got to toss it and start all over. Keep stirring!!
- Once it's nice and brown. Toss in finely chopped onion, pepper and celery. Stir, mix thoroughly. It will look very thick, but it's okay.
- Toss in the rest of chopped onion, pepper, celery and parsley.
- Add in bayleaf, paprika powder, chili powder, thyme. Stir.
- Pour broth to pot. Keep stirring to mix the roux and vegetables to broth thoroughly. Let it come to quick boil and turn heat medium-low, let it simmer for about another 40 minutes.
- Add sausages. Cook for about 10 minutes.
- Add cooked okra to the pot, crab meat and shrimps. Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve over a bowl of rice or just with a piece (or entire loaf) of crusty french baguette.