When I hear the name Louisiana, the first thing that comes to mind is New Orleans. I can’t help but think of the soulful jazz music played on street corners and night clubs throughout the city. When I think of Louisiana, I also think of all the wonderful food. Cajun or Creole…the food has its origins from the French and Spanish settlers and the Africans slaves brought to the area. The most famous dish from this gulf coast state is gumbo…what I think of as Louisiana soul food.
Louisiana Soul Food…Call It Gumbo
A bowl of hot, steaming gumbo will put a smile on anyone’s face. As far as gumbo recipes, there are as many as there was cooks in the region. It can be made with seafood, chicken, sausage or a combination of all three. It can be prepared with alligator from the swamps and served on the front porch of a house on a bayou or in an elegant restaurant with exotic ingredients.
My version is a recipe that I have adapted over the years. I usually prepare my gumbo with shrimp, andouille sausage and okra but you can prepare it with whatever you enjoy.
The most important step to making a good gumbo is to start by making a roux. Now, you may be very familiar with roux as a way of making a gravy, etc. but the roux for gumbo is a different process. You take equal parts of oil and flour, whisk over medium heat until combined and then turn the heat lower and cook stirring constantly…not letting it burn until it has reached a color similar to a copper penny or peanut butter. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. This rich colored roux is what is going to make a successful gumbo. If you go on the internet, you can find a technique that does this step in an oven but I prepare mine the conventional way.
For this recipe, I use 3 Tbsp. of oil and 3 Tbsp. of flour. My recipe is for two very generous portions. If you are preparing this recipe for more, just increase the amounts but keep the same ratio.
- 3 Tbsp. oil
- 3 Tbsp. flour
- 3 jumbo shrimp (8 – 12 per lb.) per person
- 6 oz. andouille sausage, cut into bite size pieces
- 1 c. frozen sliced okra
- 1 c. chopped onion
- 2 stalks of celery, diced
- 1/3 c. red bell pepper, diced
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 2 – 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 c. canned diced tomatoes, preferably fire roasted
- 1/2 tsp. salt or to taste
- 1/2 tsp. pepper or to taste
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne or to taste
- 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
- 1 or 2 bay leaves
- 1 bottle clam juice
- 1/2 c. white wine
- 1 c. shrimp stock (shrimp shells cooked in water can be used)
- 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire or to taste
- 1 tsp. Tabasco or to taste
In a saucepan, heat the oil. Add the flour, whisk to make the roux. Cook, stirring constantly until the flour turns a dark brown, then set aside.
In another saucepan, sauté the andouille sausage, onions, celery and red pepper in the butter for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, and all the spices. Stir to combine, then add white wine and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the clam juice and stock, the Worcestershire sauce and the tabasco. Bring to a boil and add the roux. Let simmer for 10 minutes. If the mixture becomes too thick then add a little more stock or water. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Add the okra and cook until tender. Add the shrimp and cook until just cooked through, about 3 or 4 minutes if using jumbo less for smaller shrimp. Do not overcook the shrimp.
If you have some jazz music, play it while you serve this gumbo over a bowl of rice. Place a bottle of Tabasco on the table to pass around, seasoning to your heat tolerance. Close your eyes, take a whiff of the steam rising from the gumbo and you will be in New Orleans. Enjoy your bowl of Louisiana soul food.